By Kevin Gault
You know the value of networking. But if the same old methods have grown tiresome—and if they’re not as effective as they used to be—you might want to try a different way of getting the word out.
The social networking website LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) allows users to maintain a list of contacts—LinkedIn users call them “connections”—for people they know and trust in business. Users can invite anyone to become a connection.
You can use your list of connections to gain introductions to people you’d like to know, find jobs, get questions answered or to track down business opportunities.
People With Expertise
“LinkedIn is a networking tool that helps you find people with expertise and strong opinions,” explains Jason Alba, CEO of JibberJobber (www.JibberJobber.com), a relationship-management website that helps users manage job searches and optimize networking relationships.
“For example, if you’re working on a white paper for technology, food, apparel, or any other topic, you can go into LinkedIn, do a keyword search and find professionals who have the expertise to help you with your project,” Alba says.
Alba wrote the book on LinkedIn—literally. In addition to his comprehensive book, I’m On LinkedIn—Now What???, he created his popular blog http://www.ImOnLinkedInNowWhat.com to keep readers informed about the latest LinkedIn developments.
Alba gave us some tips on using LinkedIn. The first thing he recommends is using the “Company Views” function to do research on companies (there are more than 200,000 listed). This is ideal for white paper writers who need more information on a company they’re writing about.
“If you see a company name that is hyperlinked, you can click on it and find information about the company,” says Alba, “including people in your LinkedIn list of contacts who work there.”
Jason also recommends using the Answers function in LinkedIn to do your own research and market your products and services. According to Alba, “Answers is a brilliant way to put your messaging in front of hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of professionals who can contribute to your white paper projects or use your company’s services.”
These networking techniques sound great, but how does someone get established on LinkedIn? Alba advises to:
* Get a no-cost account on LinkedIn and make sure you flesh out your profile. If someone wants to learn about you or do business with you, your detailed profile is going to reassure them that you and your business are credible.
* Join LinkedIn groups that contain members of your target audience. You can search groups to find contacts you should have relationships with or participate in group discussions to gain visibility among LinkedIn members.
* Figure out your strategy for making connections so you can grow your network strategically. For example, if you specialize in white papers for the Fortune 100 audience, make a plan to connect with as many Fortune 100 people as possible.
Is there a typical mistake to avoid when using LinkedIn? “The most common mistake people make is not having a well-written, fleshed-out profile,” Alba adds. “It’s frustrating to come across a profile that hardly has any information—frustrating enough that many viewers just move on.”
Why not give LinkedIn a try? Once you’ve become linked in, the site can connect you with many people who are interested in your white paper and your company’s product or service. And you might be surprised how many people you know are already using the site.