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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Taking your LinkedIn Presence Up A Notch

Once you have created your basic profile on LinkedIn and connected to the people you know there are a number of extra steps you can take to build your credibility within the site. The LinkedIn site allows you to do a few key things that will help you gain followers, show off your expertise and, possibly, find a new job or investors.

Start a group: Linked in allows you to create groups which can be an extremely powerful assets for your personal brand. If you start a group in an area you want to establish yourself as an expert in you are automatically portraying yourself as a leader. Groups can take time to establish, but if you deliver news content, promote helpful articles and regularly start discussions on topics that will be of interest to group members you can greatly enhance perceptions of your expertise on those topics (see Dave Taylor's Secret of Linkedin Groups for more info).

Create a Company Profile: As an entrepreneur, one of  your primary focuses must be on promoting and enhancing the credibility of your company.  LinkedIn supports this by allowing you to create a company profile.  While LinkedIn company profiles are generally short, simply having one does make your company appear to be a real company in the eyes of people evaluating you online.

Use LinkedIn Applications: If you have a blog, then you should definitely use either the “WordPress” or “Blog Link”applications.  This will show two or three of your recent blog posts on your profile. This helps you keep your profile current and (again) allows you to show off your expertise to the LinkedIn community.  Other applications that can be used to demonstrate your expertise are “Slideshare Presentations” and "Box.net Files." 


Update your status: Make sure that your LinkedIn status message is extremely professional because the audience is more career minded people and hiring managers.

Ask and answer questions: If someone in your network asks a question pertaining to an area that you have knowledge in, you should answer it.  By participating in these types of discussions, whether you’re asking or answering them, you are perceived as a valuable contributor to your network and someone to go to if people need help.

Conclusion

LinkedIn can be a powerful tool to demonstrate your expertise to individuals and companies that you might want to have a professional relationship with. Adding additional information to profile can help you expand your networks awareness of the scope of your talents. However there are some things you should think of before adding to your profile:
  • When asking a question, make sure it is articulate, relevant and that it is note easily answered from other sources. Close you questions once you get a good response and be sure to rate responses you get so respondents know you value their input.
  • When answering questions make sure that you take the time to give a thoughtful andswer that highlights your expertise.
  • When contributing auxiliary informaiton (e.g. via Blog Link or SlideShare) make sure it is a professional blog that will be relevant to your connections.
As with creating you initial profile (see http://dawngregg.com/news/2009/09/enhancing-your-credibility-with-linkedin.html) it is important that all the auxiliary information you contribute to LinkedIn enhance your credibility (instead of detracting from it). 


References:

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Building a Strategic LinkedIn Network

LinkedIn is all about developing your professional network that you can potentially use to improve your career or the success of your start-up. Once you have created your profile (see my last post on creating a credible profile) you will want to start to build a network of contacts that can help you build your company.

In LinkeIn your network consists of first, second and third degree connections.  First degree connections are  people you know and they are the center of your network. Each person connected to your direct connection makes a second degree connection and those who are linked to your second degree connections, make up your third degree connections.  Your first, second and third degree contacts are visible to you and can help you with career opportunities, answer your questions or help you connect with potential employees.

Building your Network

There are a number of things you can do to start building your network of connections:
  • Import your contacts from  Windows Live, Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo! and AOL.  You can also search through lists of LinkenIn members that went to your college or had the same employer and invite those people to join your network.
  • Invite professional contacts, business partners and clients who are not LinkedIn members to set up accounts, this way your network broadens.
  • Get introduced. LinkedIn doesn’t allow you to contact somebody directly unless you have their email address or you hlist the same school or employer.  To connect with these people you have to find a mutual connection that could forward an Introduction on your behalf. There is a limit of five Introductions per month at the free basic account!
  • Use InMail (if you have a paid account) to send private messages to any LinkedIn user without showing your email addresses. You can see these messages only if they are accepted by the recipient. 
  • Promote your URL by taking your distinct LinkedIn profile URL and puting it  in your email signature, on your traditional resume, on your blog, your website, your presentations, and possibly on your business card.
When asking people to connect with you on  LinkedIn there are a number of best practices you should follow:
  • Always include a personal message that offers good reasons for making the connection. 
  • You can put value items, free reports, links, resources, tools, and even connections in this message.
  • You should make sure the language of th message is professional and that it does not contain any spelling or grammar mistakes.
  • You should never put anything in this message re selling your products or services.
  • Avoid being intrusive.
  • Don’t send invitations to people you don’t know and don’t accept invitations from people you really don’t know  (see LinkedIn Etiquette for best practices for connecting to people)
  • If you invite someone to LinkedIn, remember to remind that particular person under what circumstances you two have met and then you can choose to connect.
If someone decides to connect with you it is always a good idea to thank them for connecting.  Again in this message you want an offer of value - what you can do for them, not a sales pitch or description of all the great products and services you think you have.

Getting References

Once you have begun to develop your network of contacts you are going to want to ask some of them to provide recommendations for you.  Recommendations allow people on LinkedIn to describe why you are a good person to work with - and they appear right in your profile. You have control over what recommendations appear in your profile so if you don’t agree with the things written about you, you can reject the recommendation. The more good recommendations you can get the better you will look in the eyes of recruiters and potential investors or business partners.

Note: the ability to reject recommendations is a feature you need to be aware of when evaluating people on LinkedIn as well.  Since negative information can easily be blocked by LinkedIn users, LinkedIn recommendations are a good place to start evaluating a candidate - but they are by no means a substitute for traditional channels for obtaining references.

Provide Value to Your Network

One of the principles of effective networking is to provide value to you network connections.  When creating your network you likely are focusing on those connections that can potentially be of value to you - but equally important is to think of how you can be of value to them.

Once you have linked to someone try  to connect with them to see if there is anything you can do for them. One way to do this is to look at their profile to see if you have any connections  that they might be interested in knowing.  You might also be able to identify a resource such as a website or a blog that would be of use to them. You may find that if you contact them with something that they might find useful - they will be more likely to think of you when a pottential opportunity arises.


References:

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Blogging for Business

Many businesses now have one or more blogs associated with their company (I personally have been blogging for my small business for the past three years).  The questions entrepreneurs need to be asking is
  1. Should I blog?
  2. If I blog what should I blog about?
The answer to the "Should I blog" question is not entirely straightforward.  There are many reasons why an entrepreneur should blog. One of the challenges of starting a new venture is building credibility. If you blog regularly on a topic that demonstrates you understand your field and can contribute to it, you build your credibility.  Blogging regularly also continuously creates fresh content for your website, which increases you visibility with search engines and improves your ranking in search engine results.

However, there are also many reasons not to blog. Entrepreneurs are frequently strapped for time and simply cannot devote the amount of time necessary to regularly create substantive blog posts that will be useful to their target audience.  If you cannot blog an average of once a week then it is generally not a good idea to start a blog.  Nothing looks worse than starting a blog and putting up one or two posts then letting it slide.  I have been to many small company websites where the last blog entry was posted over a year ago. Leaving me (and their potential customers) wondering if the company is still in business.

Another reason not to blog is if you do not have much to say on topics that might be of interest to your potential customers. You can only build credibility if you posts offer insights that benefit the people that may buy your product or services.  Not having much to say is something that is difficult to fake.  Some bloggers do post references to what other people say on a topic of interest, which is OK on occasion, but without original content of your own you are offering little reason for people to visit your site. If you do reference information from someone's blog or website cite it. Nothing can hurt your credibility more than if you are perceived to be stealing another person's ideas and trying to pass them off as your own.

If you do decide to blog choosing the topic for your blog is important. Ideally you want offer information in your blog that people will find interesting and that is relevant to your product or service. You can blog about company news, product releases, special offers, tips or present information relevant to your domain. It is very important that whatever you blog is informative and interesting and that it is not just an advertisement for your company.  People read blogs for information and nothing will turn them off faster than flagrant self-promotion.

There are a number of very good how to articles on blogging.  I personally found these atrticles very helpful:


See http://news.developingmindssoftware.com for my company blog.

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