LinkedIn: Social Networking For Professionals
When it comes to doing business, it's not what you know, but who you know. Let's say that you're interested in working for Apple Computer. You could think about all the people you know and perhaps who they know, trying to figure out if any of them have "connections" at Apple. But in the age of social networking, it's far more effective to use an online service called LinkedIn.
Launched in May 2003, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman created the site with the realization that "[p]eople need to talk to people they don't already know in order to get the job done." Now with over 60 million members in over 200 countries, LinkedIn has become the top social networking website for professionals. While Facebook's membership is nearly six times that of LinkedIn's, it's very important to recognize the differences between the two.LinkedIn vs. Facebook
Facebook helps you connect to people from all walks of life; LinkedIn specializes in building and maintaining business and professional contacts. Once you join, you can connect with co-workers, reinforce business relationships, and look for job opportunities. The site also gives you the ability to grow your business connections, opening up new opportunities in the process.
For example, as a member of LinkedIn, you might discover that your friend John knows Amy Lopez, a programmer at Apple. You could ask John to introduce you to Amy with the intention of getting to know her better and perhaps pick up some inside information about employment opportunities.
Another reason why LinkedIn is popular is that it allows you to chronicle your complete work history into your résumé. In addition to past experience, you can detail your current employment and projects, update a user status, and even give and receive professional recommendations. If you need more advanced features, you can upgrade your account from the free "personal" level to one of three different paid levels.How LinkedIn Works
If you're familiar with Facebook, you'll find that LinkedIn has similarities and differences. Like Facebook, your LinkedIn home page shows updates from your connections, including their statuses, new connections, and newly-joined groups. Unlike Facebook, your LinkedIn user profile is a somewhat different animal, consisting of detailed information about your past and present work experience and educational background-essentially your resume. Because the site focuses on building and maintaining business connections, you must be over 18 years old to establish an account.
To create your account, start off by inputting your first and last name, your e-mail address, and a password. You'll then be asked to complete your employment information and enter your country and zip code. Next, you'll be given the option to import e-mail contacts from Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail, or your personal contact list. Then you'll be asked to confirm your e-mail address with LinkedIn. Afterwards, you'll be free to begin updating your profile.
LinkedIn provides four different account levels. When you first create your account, you start with the free personal account. This may be sufficient for you, and the management of LinkedIn recognizes this by not bombarding you with requests to upgrade to a paid account. On the other hand, if you're a sales professional, for example, who needs a constant flow of connections to increase sales opportunities, you might benefit from a paid account. A feature like InMail-a communication tool that allows you to directly contact professionals outside of your network without an introduction-may be valuable.
You can change your account type at any time by selecting the "Settings" link in the top-right navigation bar. This takes you to a page that allows you to adjust all of your profile, e-mail, and privacy settings. At the top right, you'll find a gold "Upgrade" button you can select to upgrade your account.
This is an example of the "Upgrade" button. Notice the "Settings" option in the section of navigation at the top, the "Add Connections" option, and the useful search box underneath.Adjusting Your Settings
While you're looking at the "Settings" page, it's a good time to adjust who can see what information. From the "Profile Settings" you can adjust what is seen by anyone when looking at your public profile as well as who sees your status updates and member feed. From the "Privacy Settings" tab, you can control who sees your connections and profile changes. Additionally, you have the option of turning off notifications to other users that tell them you've looked at their profile. There are other settings here, so take the time to review them all. We'll discuss these settings and your privacy in greater detail a little later.
If you didn't already import your contacts into your account, now is the time to either import them or use other means to build your personal and business connections. All this can be done by selecting the bolded "Add Connections" link in the top-right navigation bar. Additionally, you can search for connections by entering their names in the search box and pressing "Enter" on your keyboard. The search box is especially useful because you can search for more than just people. By selecting the "Search People" button, you can select the option to search for jobs, companies, and more.
It's important to note that many of LinkedIn's features are based on the idea of degrees of separation. Many search results will rank connections by group, first, second, third and greater. For example, you might input "Apple" into the search box, looking for people that are connected to the company. Your results may show that you don't have any direct connections to Apple, but you have 34 second connections and 166 group connections. Knowing these degrees of separation makes building your network easier.
Continuing on, from the top-left navigation bar, you can now review and edit your profile, assess your contacts, join and follow groups, look for jobs, read and send messages, and use LinkedIn's more advanced features.
One of the more powerful advanced features of LinkedIn is the ability to give and receive recommendations. Recommendations can enhance your reputation and add value to your networks. You can easily request or create them by selecting "Profile" from the top-left navigation and then selecting "Recommendations" from the drop-down menu.