Social networking for business
Being well connected does ensure career success. We’ll show you how to network with LinkedIn and other social business social networking sites.
Career Success. It’s what everyone wants. Heard about terms like ‘connections’ and ‘networking?’ It’s all about building ‘business contacts’ or meeting people in the corporate world, especially those in your industry. With contacts or connections it becomes far easier to do business, plan an event, or get a job. Try to meet influential people like decision makers, business influencers and key people in government. One must ‘network’ to ‘connect’. This means attending public events or doing relationship meetings and presentations. One can network at a party or press conference too.
People introduce themselves and exchange business cards. Then they keep in touch over e-mail or through follow-up calls. Business executives usually maintain a business card holder (Rolodex) or an e-mail address book. Some use a card scanner to copy details from business cards into their e-mail address books. Following a new trend, people in the corporate world now use Social Networking sites to connect with colleagues, business partners, and friends.
Social networking is a platform for socializing. But instead of meeting people at public events, you socialize online. Of course, you need to know some people to begin with. Social networking sites let you share your profile, interests, photos, videos and other trivia with friends, relatives and business peers. People use business social networking sites for various reasons. If one is looking for a job, then he could post his profile (resume) online. Others use it to plan events or just to keep in touch with peers.
Social networking sites are more exciting than job portals, which are static or fl at. On a job portal, one could just post one’s resume and hope that a head hunting firm or HR department picks it up through a search query, on that site. In contrast, social networking is more interactive and offers effective tools like ‘recommendations,’ as seen on LinkedIn.com.
Human Resources departments are now using social networking as a tool to scout for talent. And they find it highly effective since it works on a global platform. It is difficult to find the right candidates at the mid and senior levels, on employment portals. But one is more likely to find such professionals on a social networking site.
Business persons can use social networks to stay in touch with their customers, partners and suppliers.
They can also use this tool to sell products and services, or look for new business opportunities.
The unique selling point for social networks is interconnections. These sites allow you to connect to a friend of a friend. In other words, one establishes a chain of links. Each person has a network of friends (connections) and networks can be interlinked. For instance, if you know an executive working in a bank and connect to him through a social network, then you can also see his friends (connections). By coincidence you may know one of his friends. We’ll explain how to make connections later in the article.
You could also join a Group of people that share similar interests, or work in a particular industry or company. It’s highly possible that your old batch mates may have formed a group at one of the social networking sites. More on this later.
All this makes social networking special, and it is the very reason why so many register at sites like Orkut, Facebook, LinkedIn, Ryze and others.
Elsewhere in this booklet there are articles that show how friends, family, and old batch mates keep in touch through social networking sites. In this article, we limit the discussion to business networking. Because its features are suited to business networking, we’ll take LinkedIn.com as a model. I’ll briefly discuss what other sites have to offer, and their unique selling points.
Get on to LinkedIn.com
One may first encounter LinkedIn. com on receiving an e-mail invitation to view a friend’s profile. Look closely and you’ll find a link in that message which leads to your friend’s profile page on LinkedIn.com. If you attempt to click the “Connect” button on that site, LinkedIn will prompt you to register for an account (or log on if you already have one). And that’s usually how one gets an account on LinkedIn. Otherwise, one can log in to www.LinkedIn.com and click the “Join Today” link at the top of the page.
Perhaps the best part about LinkedIn is that it makes it easy to find people you are associated with—right on the home page itself. Here you’ll see two search boxes for finding a group of people from your company or school. It’s most likely that people from your company (or school) have already got LinkedIn profiles, and these will be grouped.
While signing up for a new account, you’ll fill in your personal details, e-mail address, and also specify the name of your company and industry. Even as you do that, LinkedIn searches its database and helpfully lists already defined company groups, which are likely to match what you have typed. LinkedIn then asks you to fill a form where you select check boxes and specify how you want to use this service. Some of the things you can do on LinkedIn are: find a job, reconnect with colleagues you’ve lost touch with, hire employees or contractors, explore business opportunities or seek information about products and services of interest. Specify the options you want and click “Save Settings.”
Once through with the registration, a confirmation e-mail is sent to the e-mail address that you specified. Log in to check your mail, open the message from LinkedIn and simply click on the confirmation link within it to start using this service.
When logging in for the first time LinkedIn will prompt you to import e-mail addresses from one of your Web mail accounts (Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, AOL) or from your Microsoft Outlook address book on your PC. And that’s how the first few connections are made for you. After the e-mail addresses are imported, LinkedIn lists these out. You can then select e-mail addresses and send invitations to contacts (to view your profile and connect to you on LinkedIn). LinkedIn helpfully offers a predefined message for those who are lazy to type out the invitation.
LinkedIn also searches its database for any e-mail address matches (your friends who have already registered at LinkedIn).
There are two ways to know if people respond to your invitation. Log in to your LinkedIn account and view the pending invitations in your Inbox. Simply respond by selecting an invitation and clicking the “Accept” button. Alternatively, you will receive an e-mail informing you who has responded to your invitation.
Create a profile
At this point you may be tempted to connect to all the people you know (and perhaps some of their connections). It would be wise to resist the temptation! First spend some time setting up your own Profile. You want people to know all about you, your interests, your qualifications, experience, business services, and the products your business offers.
Click the “Profile” link and specify your name and current occupation (name of the company). Also specify the places where you worked at previously, and the time period. Specify other details like your industry, job title, and your personal websites or blogs (links). LinkedIn also lets you write a brief summary about yourself. You can Edit your profile and update it whenever you like. Don’t forget to update it as you advance in your career, adding details about new gained skills and knowledge, or updates on new places of employment. Remember, if you describe yourself well (more details) you improve the chances of more people being interested in you. That also improves your business or job prospects! LinkedIn shows the completeness of your profile, as a percentile.
Making more connections
Besides sending invitations to all those in your e-mail address book (as we earlier described), there are other ways to add connections. You can search for people through a search box at the bottom of the LinkedIn home page (or at the top of your profile page after you log in). There is also an alphabetical listing of people on the home page.
In the ‘Contacts’ section you’ll find lists of all your LinkedIn connections and also your imported contacts (imported from your address book). Just check the ‘Contacts’ section, select people and send out invitations.
When searching through the Search box (top of the page) you may not find people you know immediately. Try the ‘Advanced Search’ feature.
You can also search for people using ‘Advanced People Search,’ ‘Name Search,’ and ‘Reference Search’.
Within the ‘Advanced People Search’ tab you can specify some details about the person you seek. Specify a few keywords, like their job title or industry, location or company name.
‘Name Search’ is simpler. Here you specify the name of the person (who is possibly on LinkedIn) and his location.
Under ‘Reference Search’ you specify the name of the person, and his employment history (the companies he worked for and the relative durations).
As you search for people you will encounter terms (and icons) like ‘connection,’ ‘degrees,’ ‘network,’ and ‘recommendation’. See the ‘Glossary’ box for explanations. The number of connections in everyone’s network is also shown in the search results. Some people will also have a ‘thumbs up’ icon. This means they have one or more recommendations against their profile (see Glossary).
Using the various search tools that we just described can help you increase your connections. An easier way is to just check the connections of your first level connections (people you know). Browse through your friends’ profiles and check their connections. See someone you know? Click on that connection and send out an invitation !
Other features on LinkedIn
LinkedIn offers a couple of features to make it easier for users to track connections or find people on networks. While some of these features are not yet complete, others come at a premium.
The e-mail program within LinkedIn receives alerts when someone is trying to connect with you. It also informs you when someone asks for a recommendation or makes a recommendation against your profile. So when you log into LinkedIn check your Inbox first. Inbox also keeps a history of all your recommendations, invitations, job offers, received profiles, and received questions. This is useful for tracking how you responded to invitations and it also keeps a check of pending invitations.
In addition, there is a feature called InMail Feedback that checks for unsolicited mail. It’s a type of screening technology to ensure that you receive mail from only reputable senders. InMail Feedback has a ranking system for senders, based on based on recipients’ responses to senders InMail messages. You will normally be notified only of those InMails that come from senders whose rating is three stars or higher. If you prefer to be notified of every InMail, or to receive no notifications at all, then change your Contact Settings to reflect that preference.
LinkedIn claims InMail is 30 times more effective in getting a response, than using the email approach to make a connection. However, this is a paid service.
Join a Group
Groups are not a new feature in the online world. You see many types of groups online. In fact, there was once a site called eGroups (long acquired by Yahoo) that were very popular in their time. The Groups feature is now being integrated into social networking.
People with similar interests form and join Groups on LinkedIn. Presently LinkedIn just provides a listing of Groups. The Groups Directory lists groups under six categories: Alumni, Corporate, Conference, Networking, Non-Profit, and Professional. There is no search feature yet (though LinkedIn says it is working on such a feature). So locating the right group can be a time-consuming process. People join groups and post questions to others in a particular group. Others regard LinkedIn Groups as virtual clubs or associations that are formed for knowledge sharing. You can even keep in touch with your school or college batch mates through the Alumni group. Groups can also be used for sharing notes before/during conferences and events.