Linked In is a bit different than Facebook and MySpace in two significant ways:
- It’s geared more toward professionals.
- You can’t “connect” with someone unless you have some connection to them already. (Previous work experience, friend of a friend, did business together.) The reason: Linked In aims for meaningful connections, not just a popularity contest of who has the most connections. I don’t find this limits Linked In; in fact, I think it frees you up from distraction.
So how do you use it? Here are some ways. Feel free to add to this list and post a comment. I’m learning, too.
- List your blog on Linked In: It’s simple, but it’s one of many ways you should use to get your blog out there. One tip that will help your blog get more visibility on Linked In is to put it on your profile but list it under “other” rather than “blog” or “web site.” Why? Well, as a Linked In employee taught me when I first joined, if you pick “other,” you can fill in what other means with the name of your blog. That gets your blog’s name out there, making it more likely someone might click on it.
- Tell what you’re working on: This works similarly to Facebook’s “status update.” Use it to briefly describe your latest blog post and link to it.
- Use the answers function: At the top of your profile page, toward the left, is the word “answers.” Click on it, and you can ask a question. You can use this to find experts or sources on a very specific subject. The questions don’t just go to your connections but your entire “network,” which includes connections of connections. The beauty of Linked In is you get a profile of the person answering with enough information that you can pretty easily independently verify the person to see if you’d want to interview him or her. (I wouldn’t just use answers from Linked In in a story as is, though.)
- Search answers and people: This is on the top right-hand corner of your profile. You can search for people you know or want to connect with on Linked In or search questions people have already asked to see what topics are hot or what people are talking about.
- Use advanced search: This is to the right of the “search” field. It allows you to search for people in particular fields or geographic areas using keywords or a person’s name. It helps you narrow your search significantly. You can search just in the “Help a Reporter Group” or just among a specific field, such as accounting or alternative medicine.
These tips just scratch the surface of what Linked In can do for journalists. The site offers lots of opportunities for job-hunting, but, fortunately, I haven’t had to use it for that, so that’s probably a post better left to someone who has.
Here are some resources to get your started:
- Form a network first: Columbia University’s Journalism School offers a Web cast on how journalists can use Linked In. One key point it makes among many is to form a network on Linked In before you start expecting results. You can’t just connect to the five people who sit near you at work and expect Linked In to do miracles. You need at least 20 connections, the Web cast says and I’d say even more, to reach full benefits. Each connection expands your network exponentially.
- Chase a rumor: Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist blog has a very comprehensive list of 10 Ways Journalists Can Use Linked In that’s definitely worth reading. Best takeaway: You’re chasing a rumor about a company, so use Linked In’s advanced search to find former employees who might be more loose-lipped than current ones.
- Improve your Google page rank: Guy Kawasaki’s How to Change the World blog offers Linked In tips for anyone, not just journalists. He points out that Linked In makes your profile available for search engines to index. Linked In has a fairly high page rank, so it’s a good way to improve your blog’s rank. He tells you just how to maximize this feature.
Next up: Using “niche” social networks.