You can join LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com
LinkedIn is a social networking website specifically aimed at professionals. Users can add people as contacts and send them messages, update their personal profiles to notify contacts about their activities, and both recommend and be recommended by contacts for their professional skills. Additionally, users can join groups in order to communicate with other professionals within the same sector or industry. Users are also able to ask and answer questions related to the industry they work in.
LinkedIn works very much like Facebook in many ways, but sacrifices much of the additional functionality such as photos, videos, games, and applications for a more professional, networking-based ethos. LinkedIn is actually older than Facebook, having been founded in 2002.
Because of its emphasis on professional networking, LinkedIn's demographic is very different to many other social networks. For example, its 85 million users have an average age of 43.
Professional services staff at the University who deal directly with external clients and contacts may find it useful to be on LinkedIn. This may include staff in Research & Knowledge Transfer, Graduate Employability and Development, Development and Alumni Relations, The Business School, or any other department or academic College. It may also be useful for academics who wish to engage with business or with other academics at different institutions (although the academic demographic on LinkedIn is not especially large).
LinkedIn is no different from face-to-face networking and the same considerations can and should be applied, just with added awareness of the nature of online interaction.
University presences and ownership
Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn does not encourage 'official' pages. This is because of the emphasis on individual profiles and networks of contacts rather than representations of brands, companies, and institutions. The University's Alumni Relations team maintain a group for all current and past students and members of staff of the University though. There is also a 'company page', which lists people who identify as staff at the University.
Managing your own presence
Because of the emphasis on individual contacts and expertise, it is much more important that people on LinkedIn manage their own profiles in a professional manner. Using LinkedIn successfully is about selling yourself and your skills in the same way you would in a job application or interview.
Here are some tips for getting the most out of LinkedIn:
- Complete your profile – a % bar gauges how complete your profile is and offers suggestions to improve it
- Make sure you use a good-quality, recent picture to make yourself identifiable
- Join groups relevant to the people you need to network with, and participate in relevant discussions
- If the groups you need don’t already exist start them and invite people to join
- Answering questions related to your field of expertise is an excellent way to position yourself as an authority and build your reputation
- Recommend people you have worked with by writing testimonials for them
- When asking to connect with someone new, personalise the message to make it specific to them
- Integrate your email contacts to save searching for people
If you need further advice on using LinkedIn, please contact Nick Southall.
What to say and how to say it
What you want to do on LinkedIn will influence your activity on there. Consider what you want to achieve. LinkedIn is very much about people consolidating existing contacts and developing new ones by demonstrating their professional expertise. This can be done via groups, answers, status updates or individual messages.
Whichever method you use, your postings should always be of interest, be timely and demonstrate your professional knowledge. LinkedIn is a two-way medium and you should be ready and able to respond to any questions or direct messages.
The content that you post should be professional in tone and grammatically correct. Communicate with your contacts as you would communicate with them in any other professional context, be that by email, telephone, or in person.
- Although all activity you undertake on LinkedIn is in your own name, if you have the University listed as your current employer you are still effectively representing the institution.
- Likewise, your own professional reputation is the one most at risk from inappropriate behaviour.
- Ownership of contacts: if there are formalised systems for bringing contacts back to a central system with your department, these should be followed for LinkedIn contacts in exactly the same way as for those met at professional events or in the course of normal projects.