Within the span of a couple of months, the membership grew by more than 300%. That was a couple of years ago. Then LinkedIn went ahead and introduced another integration -- that of applications. Now you could syndicate your blog posts, post your slides from SlideShare and share your reading list from Amazon and events you're attending all in one place.
More recently, it rolled out new features for groups. As you can see in the short video above [YouTube link, 2:23], you now have Facebook-like features. The site also integrates Twitter streams on the home page. My recommendation for those is: use with caution, use the hashtag #in to filter what you import there.
Today this network has more than 70MM members. Can you blog on LinkedIn? Absolutely. You can do that by:
- asking great questions
- being generous in answering questions
- fine tuning your profile, look at keywords, descriptions, recommendations
- giving recommendations
- joining or starting a group
- updating your status message, at a minimum
- following companies
If you're a consultant or are seeking new career opportunities these small steps might be the most important ones you can take.
Although there seems to be an important feature missing that would make the network more powerful in addressing keeping track of those you are not connected with* -- the ability to follow what industry leaders are saying, if they indeed are using the tool to do that.
Gathering intelligence through content
You probably thought if I meant for signs of intelligence. I know you'll believe me when I tell you that on more than one occasion I've been approached as if I were a head hunter because I was sharing job posts with my groups. One glance at my profile would have cured that misunderstanding.
Lesson #1 -- check out people's profiles. I don't mean just scanning them. Read between the lines and connect the dots. Are the keywords used demonstrating true knowledge of the industry or are they just marketing? If you've worked in it, you can tell.
Because I'm very interested in learning about the challenges people face and goodness we can share in advertising and promotion, public relations, and search marketing, I syndicate those questions to my Google Reader account. More about how I use Google Reader here.
Lesson #2 -- keep a pulse on your industry. I'm particularly interested in the questions. When people ask very good questions, I know they've done their homework, have a real problem, and are planning to invest time in culling the information. See how generous the community is in this example when I asked should you outsource social media? and, on the flip side, the top ten reasons why your LinkedIn question is getting (mostly) pitches to see the difference.
Partly thanks to the promiscuity of networks like Twitter, the number of invitations people receive to connect in LinkedIn has also gone up. One of the most curious -- and most telling -- things about those invitations, is that they are often quite casual. Check the "friend" option, and send the canned message.
Many approach social networks as if they were all the same or with the same philosophy. However, quite a few accept invitation only from people they have actually met.
Lesson #3 -- identify true professionals by how they present themselves at every interaction and opportunity. When you receive an invitation that provides context on how you met someone, and why they'd like to connect with you, it leaves a better impression. Now relate that to their business, and you can see how important this information is.
You can use LinkedIn as part of your content strategy to gain visibility. A better use of the tool may be to identify industry leaders and the company they keep by reading the content they present and share.
Advice for companies -- train your employees to understand how their personal presentation reflects on your business. When someone pulls up the company page, LinkedIn will include the profiles of employees with it.
These are some of the clues I look at for intelligence. I'm more interested in how you use LinkedIn. Have the new features made it easier to use it frequently? What would make it even more useful to you? What are the best LikedIn invitations you accepted? What can we learn from them?
*UPDATE: LinkedIn tells me that feature exists. From the site: you are automatically set to follow any connections' contributions within groups you share. However, you may also want to follow valued professional members in your groups who are not 1st degree connections.
This post is part of the series on blogging at work if you don't have a blog.