LinkedIn is the largest social networking site dedicated to businesses and business professionals. It has become so popular that in May 2011, LinkedIn went public with a stock offering of $45 per share and closed the same day at $94.25. This increasingly popular networking site can be a great business tool and is more similar to traditional forms of B2B networking.
Individual users should complete a profile including a photo when using this site. Completing career details and having a professional image makes for a more legitimate presence on LinkedIn. As with all social networking sites, LinkedIn is about building relationships and maintaining a positive brand identity.
LinkedIn offers some ways for professionals to create business opportunities without advertising on the site. One way users can position themselves as a trusted source or industry expert is with Discussion Groups. There are groups for just about any niche profession out there and also for local discussions.
A user can join the discussion with people with similar interests and propose intriguing and relevant thoughts to the group. In turn, they can also respond and join in the conversation. This is a great way to network and connect with people who could potentially be clients or who just share useful information.
Another way to leverage LinkedIn for business is with LinkedIn Answers (Read also “Use Q&A Sites to Market Your Business“). This is a Q&A forum where users propose a question related to a specific field or niche. Other LinkedIn users answer the questions and can become “Experts” by providing the best answers to several questions. The site features the “Experts” each week, which is great way to gain attention and credibility within a networking circle. If a user is not familiar with the subject matter in a question, they can recommend one of their connections to answer. This mirrors traditional networking that has worked in the business for years — I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine! Who doesn’t like to think that their sphere of influence would recommend them to others?
Building a professional profile and getting involved in the free tools available through LinkedIn can help build a brand and a reputation for an individual or business. The best way to get started is just to go for it – ask a question or join a discussion.