LinkedIn—which reports 13 million registered users worldwide—allows users to create profiles that detail their professional backgrounds and personal interests. Users can then invite other people to become part of their list of connections. (Or they also can be invited to join someone else’s list.)
If you want to join someone’s network of connections, and you don’t know them but you know one of their connection’s connections, you can ask your contact to set up a virtual introduction. It’s very much like a networking cocktail party, where you build on your relationships by getting friends to introduce you around.
Patrick Rafter, principal of Rafter Communications in Boston, says he’s on LinkedIn about an hour every day. “Its principal value to PR pros is that it offers a free, Web-based way to research people you want to know more about,” says Rafter. “Being able to read the profiles of individual freelancers, writers, editors, analysts, pundits and conference organizers is enormously valuable. The more I know about someone before I pitch them, the more succinct and effective my pitch will be.”