When I speak with people, I learn that they are using LinkedIn primarily to connect and network with their contacts, but there are many more ways you can use the social network.
You can build your profile, gain valuable industry insights that can make you look sharp in front of clients, or get access to industry experts/third-party commentators.
Here are some quick tips on how to make the most of LinkedIn:
1. Claim your URL
It’s a no-brainer that people are finding you through search engines. These days, your LinkedIn profile is often one of the first ways people find and learn about you. Claiming your own URL (such as http://www.linkedin.com/in/yourname) increases your chances of appearing on top search engine rankings. You can do this by editing your profile settings and customizing your public profile URL. If you have a popular name that’s already taken, you can do lastnamefirstname.
2. Build your contacts
By importing your existing contact list from Microsoft Outlook (client), Gmail or other email providers on LinkedIn, you can find those in your contact database who are already on LinkedIn. You should also scour through your current connections to see if there are any additional people you want to connect with. LinkedIn automatically recommends people you may know, and you can leverage this feature to grow your contacts. Also, whenever I meet someone, I immediately send them a connection request. I suggest you do the same.
3. Connect with media
Journalists and freelancers are active on LinkedIn, so connect with them. This will help track their movements in case they are writing for a new outlet, writing on a new topic, or covering a new beat. Because they are sharing their stories through their LinkedIn status updates, you will always be on top of the stories they are filing.
4. Link your Twitter account
A lot of PR people are now on Twitter, so it makes sense to link your Twitter account to your LinkedIn profile. If you are posting through Twitter and want it to appear on your LinkedIn network, use “#in” at the end of your tweet.
5. Join relevant groups
By joining groups you not only connect with like-minded professionals, but you’ll gather insightful information through discussions taking place within the group. There are closed groups where the discussions remain private, as well as open groups where the discussions are public. There are lots of PR and social media groups that you can join.
6. Find experts
LinkedIn Answers is a great tool to find out what’s happening in your client’s industry, or to test ideas. You can find experts, as the week’s “Top Experts” are featured on the Answers page. You can also answer questions relevant to PR, and if your answers are consistently voted the best by the network, it is a great way to build your credibility and showcase your expertise. Also use LinkedIn advanced search functionality to do a targeted search and find people. (You must be a premium subscriber to do this.)
7. Seek recommendations
Use recommendations to boost your credibility. If your clients and media contacts are happy with your work, why not ask them for a recommendation? Also, don’t be shy in writing recommendations for others, as it inspires good will and strengthens your relationships.
8. List your events
You can use LinkedIn Events to promote client events, monitor what events your network is attending, and find events recommended to you based on your profile. You can also meet up with prospects at the next industry event or reconnect with old acquaintances.
9. Use applications
SlideShare and TripIt are some popular applications to install on your LinkedIn profile. If you are speaking at an industry event, share your slides with your network through SlideShare. If you are traveling, use TripIt to let your network know where you are going, because you might be able to meet up with contacts along the way.
10. Find relevant information
LinkedIn Signal is a new tool that can help you extract insights from the stream of information being shared by your network. Use Signal to find trending topics or market intelligence on who’s talking about your clients. You can filter information by network, company, industry, region, people or popular hashtags and topics.
Shiva Kumar is an Associate Director at Edelman in Sydney, Australia. He is a contributor to the agency’s blog, where this article originally ran. Disclaimer: LinkedIn is an Edelman client. The purpose of this post is to share opportunities for PR folks to leverage LinkedIn and make the most of the professional network. You can reach Shiva on Twitter, @shivakum.