Recently I had the pleasure of sitting down with a fellow colleague here in central Ohio, Jeff Young. Jeff is a retired Project Manager from OCLC who has truly been investing his golden years in helping others. One of his greatest interests is the business social networking platform, LinkedIn. In recent years Jeff has helped groups and individuals all over the region gain a better understanding of how to make the most of this powerful, professional social media channel (all as a volunteer!).
I asked Jeff his opinion on what might be the top three mistakes people most often make when using LinkedIn. His response: “Typically it comes down to three Ps: Profile, People and Participation.” This is what he had to say regarding each:
Profile. “Obviously, success on LinkedIn starts with the user profile, so it’s no surprise that this is where many users first drop the ball. There are still too many profiles out there that have no picture. They are incomplete with little or no detail about what the person does in their work, or the value they bring to their employers, customers or clients. Without those elements, one really can’t utilize LinkedIn to build any personal brand, let alone give or receive recommendations.”
People. “One of the most common mistakes people make on LinkedIn is the thinking that more connections is better—it’s the classic mistake of putting quantity over quality. For example, I know a job seeker with well over 10,000 connections…and he is still looking for a job. It doesn’t always benefit you to build up the largest online network possible if you are unable to make the best use of it.” Editor’s note: Jeff only has a little more than 500 connections on LinkedIn.
Participation. “LinkedIn is a community that functions best when people are engaged and supporting one another in their business. As members of that community, we are all invited to participate by contributing to group discussions, answering questions and when appropriate, pointing other members in the right direction to help them achieve their goals (even if we are pointing to ourselves).” Participating on LinkedIn is the key element of building your brand.
“All three of these Ps actually point to a fourth P: POWER,” Jeff continues. “When you really master these three Ps, you really start to unlock the full power of LinkedIn. It’s an amazing resource that other people have used to build their businesses or open up new career opportunities.”
While powerful, Jeff also points out that LinkedIn is also widely misunderstood. “In my opinion, much of this misunderstanding about how to use it is LinkedIn’s fault!” Two examples he discusses are how the official mantra of LinkedIn is to have first tier connections only with people whom you personally know, yet the infrastructure of the web application in many ways encourages the opposite behavior. Another is in how skills and endorsements are presented… people are often encouraged to endorse others with a simple click. Since it is too easy and unqualified, it lessens the value.
Nothing is perfect, I guess. And as are other channels and networks, LinkedIn is always changing and (hopefully) improving. Yet it remains a powerful business connecting resource that can make all of us global players. If you are struggling to make the most of LinkedIn, I suggest you first consider Jeff’s points.
As for my advice: in the same spirit of what Jeff Young says about LinkedIn, and in how he has chosen to devote his retirement years: be a giver first. What goes around, will come around.