October 2nd, 2012
by Ashley Billman
LinkedIn serves as the world’s largest professional network online with more than 175 million members. The opportunities the site offers its users is continually growing.
LinkedIn can be used and leveraged by everyone. Unfortunately, LinkedIn is often seen simply as a tool for those seeking employment. But the social network has become so much more than that – offering a platform for sales executives and entrepreneurs to connect with a variety of opportunities. So: If you or your company isn’t using LinkedIn yet, what are you waiting for?
LinkedIn’s benefits are known worldwide with two new members joining each second… and there are two more… and two more…
You get the point – LinkedIn is growing and expanding at breakneck speed, and its features are improving as well. Below is a top-10 glossary on “must know” LinkedIn features.
#1 – Profile
While a profile is one of LinkedIn’s most basic elements, users tend not to take full advantage of it. Simply adding your current and past positions isn’t enough: Your LinkedIn profile is essentially a digital resume that allows other users to view a snapshot of your professional history. Having a professional profile photo is a must. This not only allows people to quickly identify you, but it lets other users know that you are, in fact, a real person. Profiles with photos are seven times more interactive than those without a photo. So, take the time to enhance your personal brand via LinkedIn to achieve better results.
#2 – Connections
Connections are everything. LinkedIn views connections as someone you actually know or a trusted business contact. Unlike other social media sites, LinkedIn urges users to only connect with users they know and not complete strangers. This platform has policies set up to try to mediate users from “spamming” others on LinkedIn. If 14 or more users reject your invite to connect claiming they don’t know you, LinkedIn requires you to provide an email address for each new invite you attempt to send. The best thing about connections on LinkedIn is that one connection can link you to thousands of other users through 2nd or 3rd connections. Once you’re connected to someone, they can introduce you to others in their network. It’s very easy, if used correctly, to grow your LinkedIn network.
#3 – Groups
Groups offer an opportunity for like-minded users to share news, ask questions and post opportunities. They’re filled with people who share an interest in a certain industry or topic. Groups can also be used as a knowledge base; users can ask a question and, within minutes, have experts providing answers or suggestions.
#4 – Recommendations
Recommendations help build credibility for users. This is a useful feature that allows you to gather short excerpts from past or present colleagues and peers around your work. This feature offers recruiters the opportunity to “reference check” users without picking up the phone.
There’s a newer feature called “Endorsements,” which is a simpler way for users to recommend your work. Instead of writing a paragraph or two, a user can just click “endorse” to recommend a certain skill or expertise you have listed on your profile.
#5 – Company Page
LinkedIn recently rolled out a new company page layout. The page features are largely the same. The company page gives users an overview of a company, its services and its career opportunities. A LinkedIn page can serve as a condensed version of a company’s website, which allows users to learn about a company without having to leave LinkedIn. There are several advantages to a company page—like my personal favorite, the Careers page. It allows you to post jobs, showcase employee testimonials and view stats on the current staff of a company. Check out the Slingshot SEO LinkedIn company page to see one in action.
#6 – InMail
InMail is LinkedIn’s version of email. Users send InMails to all of their current connections, and can attempt to send InMails to users they’d like to connect with. It’s a great tool for following up with someone you met at a networking event; InMail can also be used as a stepping stone to sending an invite to connect. Users can reach out to prospective candidates, clients or connections with an InMail, explaining why they’re interested in connecting.
#7 – Advanced Search
Are you looking for a candidate with a specific skill set? Or, are you looking for a mentor in a specific industry? The advanced search tool allows you to go way beyond the normal search by entering in specific criteria for your search. A LinkedIn user can search for those who work at a specific company, live in a certain geographic location or hold a specific title.
#8 – Alumni Tool
The Alumni tool specifically showcases users who share an alma mater. If a user is trying to get an “in” with a certain company, the Alumni tool is a great way to find out if you have a connection with anyone who currently works at that company. It’s also just fun to check in on what your peers are doing after graduation.
#9 – News
We all have our preferred news outlets, but have you ever considered using LinkedIn? At the top of your LinkedIn newsfeed, you can find a variety of news stories from different sources. The News tool uses your profile, status updates and groups to determine what your interests are, and then targets news stories that fit into those categories.
#10 – Applications
The first nine features discussed are just a small list of the things you can do with LinkedIn. To receive more benefits as a LinkedIn user, check out the number of Applications available. These applications range from Tripit to Reading List from Amazon. No matter what your objective is on LinkedIn, there’s a host of applications that can enhance your experience. One of my favorite applications is SlideShare; it allows users to show off presentations they’ve given. This is an added bonus for those selling a service or looking for new career opportunities.
Bonus Tool: Cardmunch
Finally, a bonus tool for all of the iPhone users out there! CardMunch allows LinkedIn users to snap a picture of a business card and quickly connect with that person on LinkedIn. The application reads a business card and finds its owner on LinkedIn to connect. It also serves as a business card repository on your iPhone. It’s also a great tool to use for all of those networking events where you collect several business cards.
For job seekers and professionals, LinkedIn can offer the chance to network with people in your field. For recruiters, LinkedIn can help identify and contact the right candidates for job openings. It’s more than a social network—LinkedIn can be the most useful professional tool you have in your Internet arsenal.