The professional social network could be the platform your business is looking for.
It may come as a surprise to learn that LinkedIn has been with us for 14 years, but this titan of social networking has remained relatively low-key for a service with over 400 million users across more than 200 countries. Last month, it claimed to have 20 million members in the UK alone – more than half the country’s workforce. That figure may be 15 million less than Facebook’s UK presence, but it’s impressive for a work-oriented network where you can’t post photos of your lunch or watch old Top Gear clips.
It took a long time for LinkedIn to gain traction among the UK’s business community; until 2009, it was mostly used by people whose jobs required regular networking. Today it has become an essential tool for any business person, providing a publicly-visible cv and offering a useful way to make new contacts in complementary industries. The single most represented industry among users is IT and services (with two thirds of a million profiles), and one of the five most searched for skills by recruiters is knowledge of Java.
LinkedIn clearly has great value and merit for IT professionals, but how can this be harnessed? The first step for refuseniks involves accepting that LinkedIn has become essential, and creating a profile. Unlike more personal social media platforms, it’s critically important to be honest – the workplace is no place for overblown self-promotion, as viewers of The Apprentice will acknowledge. On the other hand, brevity isn’t a virtue, either. The more information you add to your profile, the more scope there is for relevant networking. For instance, saying you work in tax will generate fewer useful connections than saying you’re a chartered tax advisor who specialises in VAT. More than 1.2 million LinkedIn profiles last year belonged to people who changed employers, so its potential for recruitment is clear.
As well as establishing channels of communication with current and former associates, networking on LinkedIn can involve unsolicited enquiries from other members seeking to connect with you. While the latter can be annoying or puzzling if the invitation comes from someone halfway around the world in an unrelated sphere of business, IT personnel could do worse than accept connection requests from anyone in their sector. Although you’re officially supposed to know the people you connect with, such etiquette has long since fallen by the wayside thanks to paid-for Premium accounts. It’s worth noting that multiple unsolicited enquiries can lead to accounts being closed, so there’s little risk of mass spamming.
LinkedIn provides a superb platform for free advertising and self-promotion, and The Pulse blog allows people to champion themselves, their expertise or their industries. The Jobs section enables members to discreetly search thousands of vacancies advertised on LinkedIn, with parameters including the size of their preferred future employer. As stated above, it’s also a handy tool for employers to recruit new staff. The acquisition of SlideShare in 2012 has made LinkedIn great for hosting audio-visual marketing materials, while the powerful Find Alumni tool partly explains why Friends Reunited recently closed down.
Ultimately, any social media network is only as good as the time you dedicate to it, and LinkedIn is no different. Creating and maintaining profiles can be time-consuming, particularly in terms of ensuring content is accurate and error-free. However, as a tool for establishing new contacts and showcasing completed projects, LinkedIn remains peerless.
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