LinkedIn Diaries: Answering the Really Tough Questions
While LinkedIn is without a doubt the social media tool of choice for business leaders across North America, many have confided in me that there a number of questions about the tool that they struggle with. In this entry of the LinkedIn Diaries, I answer the five most thorny questions that executives face when optimizing their LinkedIn strategies.
1. Who should I accept LinkedIn invitations from?
The decision to accept invitations to your list of connections should be driven by your goals for using LinkedIn. But, if you haven’t defined specific goals, an invitation is worth accepting when one or more of the following is true:
- You would recommend the person requesting an invitation to another of your LinkedIn connections
- You would call the person requesting an invitation and ask them for advice or for an introduction to someone in their network
- By including them in your LinkedIn connections, they provide you with a window into a specific company or industry that is of interest to you
2. Should I always strive to increase the number of my connections?
The reality is that online or offline, we consistently draw on a relatively narrow list of individuals to enrich our personal and professional lives. In fact, Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist at Oxford University, recently found that the human brain — our ultimate limiting factor — can comfortably maintain a stable social network of about 150 people. While that may seem like a small number, consider that if each of your 150 LinkedIn first order connections also have 150 connections, you are actually closely connected to 22,500 people. The conclusion: focus on strengthening your bond with your closest connections.
3. Do I make my list of connections public?
At its core, LinkedIn is the ultimate connecting tool — built to enable you to establish or share relevant connections. You can accomplish this without openly sharing your list of connections. But, if you aren’t actively doing so, making your connections public can enable your connections to spark you into action — e.g. by requesting introductions from you. Before opening your list of connections, ask yourself one key question: Are you linked to any people who you would not want to connect with one another?
4. What should I post and how frequently should I do it?
While some LinkedIn members update several times a day, others do so far less frequently. Before posting any update, you must be confident that:
- You have something that you believe is truly relevant or of interest to your connections;
- Your update helps to reinforce your professional brand; and
- LinkedIn is an appropriate venue for posting the information.
5. What are the most important parts of my LinkedIn profile?
While those business professionals who use LinkedIn most successfully continuously experiment with the tool’s newly developed functions and features, research consistently finds that there are a few elements that are absolutely essential to get right:
- Your picture. If you are going to participate on a professional social networking site, you must present yourself professionally and offer some degree of transparency — i.e. a willingness to share some information about you. In a social networking setting, not having a picture is very often interpreted as having something to hide.
- Your descriptor. This is the phrase that succinctly describes who you are. For example, my descriptor is Senior Marketing and Communications Professional. Often leaders default their descriptor to their formal title. But, as professionals, we are all more than our current title. The descriptor should sum up your core strengths and/or passion.
In the next issue of the LinkedIn Diaries, I will share insights from senior executives who limit their use of the tool to 15 minutes a day.
Andrew Brown is president of Write on the Money. He helps senior executives harness the power of digital and traditional business communication tools (such as LinkedIn) and strategies.
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