In her latest PR Tactics article “5 Questions Executives Ask About LinkedIn,” Keri Toomey answers five of the most common questions executives have about this professional tool. Since the social media site is now widely accepted, and actively used by professionals for everything from a digital “Rolodex” to a sales lead generator to a headhunter, various questions have arisen concerning best profile completion practices and connection techniques. The obvious objective is to get the most out of it, investing the least amount of time.
The number one question asked is: does LinkedIn allow me to keep my contacts private? Some people are concerned that their competitors will use their network connections to poach clients or hire away their employees. LinkedIn settings can be set to keep connections private, but it is strongly advised to keep them public. It’s a social network that increases in usefulness as you make more connections and share them. Business, of course, is all about relationships, especially in public relations. One of the big arguments for using LinkedIn is the second-degree connections that do dramatically expand your professional network. These are those new connections made through mutual connections. If you have a first degree connection, and if your personal connections are not public you can’t make these second degree connections. Unfortunately, LinkedIn does not allow users to pick and choose. Contacts should be made public or benefits of the site will be very limited.
The second frequently asked question is: do I need to connect with everyone who asks? The answer is a straight forward “no.” Connections should only be made with those you know personally, indirectly or have worked with, or may do so, in some capacity. It’s not a competition to have the MOST contacts, but to have the most contacts that will in some way serve you well professionally.
The third most often asked question: what content is appropriate to share on LinkedIn? Personal profiles should be actively maintained. It’s also important to keep your presence dynamic. That means be proactive: share blog posts, company news, and information about relevant events you are attending. This way you are marketing yourself and actively reminding others of your presence. Not doing so and being inactive is essentially the same as hiding, which again, dramatically limits the benefits of the platform. That said, don’t make the mistake of confusing LinkedIn with other social web platforms. LinkedIn is about business – don’t make it all about you.
Another question commonly asked is: how do ”endorsements” differ from ”recommendations?” According to LinkedIn, endorsements are a one-click option to validate skills and expertise, similar to a Facebook “Like.” Recommendations are detailed, written statements from personal LinkedIn contacts. Both are great credibility builders and skilled users have many of both. As in offline, everyday life, the best way to get them is to give them, but again, do so thoughtfully to make sure these tools remain valuable.
The last but not least interesting question in Toomey’s article is: when should I add contacts as LinkedIn connections? Her short answer is that there is no perfect timing. Of course, one should always connect with someone very soon after a personal meeting. Beyond that, it’s user preference. Long time colleagues or former associates can be added at any time as their connections could help you professionally going forward. It’s easy, though, to get into a habit of one-click connecting and then forgetting connections. Take the time occasionally to personally connect with contacts with a simple thank you note for a connection or endorsement.
Again, the greatest benefits are realized when your presence is actively managed and the personal touch is not forgotten. Like most things, the more quality input is given, the greater the reward. Always remember to keep your profile data updated and keep a personal connection with your contacts. Use LinkedIn in a mindful way and receive all the advantages out of it.