Share Professional Advice and Ideas on LinkedIn

Even if you’re not familiar with all of the new developments in the social networking arena, chances are you’ve used LinkedIn to connect with people professionally. What you may not know is that LinkedIn lets you do a lot more than just connect yourself to friends and coworkers. Its Groups feature lets you join groups associated with everything from employers to alumni associations to fields of interest. And its Answers feature lets you pose a question that anybody can answer. You can also respond to questions and become an Expert if you provide one of the best answers.

Here are a few key rules to follow when you’re using LinkedIn:

  1. The more complete your profile, the more you’re going to get out of the experience. That said, if you’re concerned about privacy, LinkedIn doesn’t give you the huge menu of options that a service like Facebook does. You can keep your profile from showing up in general Web searches, and you can alter what people who look for you on LinkedIn see, but even the most basic setting requires that you disclose your location.
  2. Try to perform some sort of activity on LinkedIn at least once a week. Make a new connection, post a recommendation, or update your Status (that’s the box that asks “What are you working on?”).
  3. Don’t join more Groups than you can realistically participate in – say, a half-dozen or so. And make sure they’re Groups that can help enrich your work experience or ones to which you feel you can make a meaningful contribution.
  4. For the first month or two that you’re part of a Group, stick to answering rather than asking questions. That lets people know who you are and establish you as a credible expert. After that, feel free to start asking questions.
  5. LinkedIn may lack a lot of the immediacy and pizzazz of newer social media tools, but this “big ol’ MS Outlook in the sky”  is one of the few social networking resources out there specifically for professionals. Unlike Facebook, you don’t have to worry about walling off your professional life from your public life – it’s purely business. And unlike Twitter, you don’t have to boil down your thoughts into 140-character snippets.

One word of caution: Do not accept invitations from people you don’t know, and be careful about what information you reveal to people who aren’t in your network. Hackers and identity thieves are getting sneakier about researching their targets online, and it’s in both your personal and professional interest to make sure that information about your work life doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. One new form of phishing, called “spear phishing” due to its targeted nature, involves the hacker finding executives on LinkedIn or similar services, identifying the executive’s coworkers and reports, and then sending out bogus emails as the executive demanding information such as user names and passwords. People who would otherwise smell a phishing attempt are more likely to respond because they believe the request is coming from a higher-up in the company. Pretty sneaky, and one more reason to be vigilant about who you connect to – and how much your connections see – on LinkedIn.


The Right (and Wrong) Way to Use Twitter to Market Your Business

When Twitter first came out, a lot of skeptics wondered how a microblogging service could possibly be of any use to small business. After all, a whole lot of people used Twitter to talk about incredibly dull and personal topics like where they ate for lunch, or what movies were coming up in their Netflix queue. But as time has gone on, the utility of Twitter has become clear. It’s an easy way for small businesses to build relationships with their customers – at a very appealing price point (free). Twitter
Don’t think of Twitter as a branding device. It’s not the digital equivalent of a Super Bowl ad. It’s a way to be helpful to your customers by offering free advice or relevant news about your business. So, for example, a sushi restaurant in San Francisco uses Twitter to spread the word about its fresh fish of the day. A day spa in Cincinnati uses it to promote featured discounts on manicures and pedicures. In essence, Twitter does exactly what a sandwich board propped outside your physical office does.

Now, maybe you’re in a field where discounts or specials are difficult or even impossible to promote. Not to worry! You can still make Twitter work for you by using it to talk directly to your customers. Tell them what you’ve been reading (as long as it’s relevant to their interests!), an answer to a frequently asked question, whatever you think they need to know that only you can tell them. If you’re an accountant, point them to a site that has good tax tips. If you’re a doctor, tell them how they can increase their odds of staying healthy through flu season. In other words, be on Twitter as the same helpful, friendly community resource you are in person.

To recap, get started on Twitter by doing the following:

  1. Post about a time-sensitive promotion or event. This could be a “deal of the day” or an announcement that your mobile business will be in a particular area.
  2. Post a factoid or statistic that people might find useful.
  3. Post a link to a blog or a Web article that you found interesting.

And last, two areas of caution. First: you can promote yourself on Twitter, but be sparing and specific when providing relevant information about your industry or service.  Cite an item in the news or a relevant survey that backs up the value of what you offer.  Second: if you don’t have the time or the interest to really participate in Twitter – which means posting something fresh at least once a day – then just don’t promote it.  It’s worse to have a “dead” Twitter account that never gets updated than to have no account at all.

Find out more about how your small business can use Twitter and other popular social networking tools like LinkedIn and Facebook at our free Webinar, “Social Networking: Uncovering the Hype.” It will be held on Thursday, April 29 at 12pm Central Daylight Time.  Click here to register.