While I don’t claim to be any kind of expert, I have been using this platform for a number of years, and I hope that what follows will reassure newcomers that this a friendly site, help you over the initial fears you will almost certainly have, and encourage you to get the most value from your participation.
Let’s say (no Leslie Nielsen jokes, please) that you’ve just decided to become a LinkedIn Member. Maybe your friends have been recommending it, so you’ve bitten the bullet and signed up.
Your account is open, and you’ve probably had a welcome message.
Depending on what your friends may have told you, you may be aware that this is a social media platform (like Facebook, Twitter, etc.), but with a professional business focus.
It started out as a headhunter meets jobseeker site, but it has evolved into something much bigger than that.
Nowadays, it is a forum for professionals to interact with each other around the world. Recruitment and job searching are still a big part of it, but it is also eminently suitable for building a customer base for your products or services.
OK, let’s back up a bit.
When you sign up, you’ll be given a profile. Scary, huh? This is your personal shop window, where you can tell people who you are and what you do. You need a picture of yourself – quite a number of members overlook this, and LI will give you a generic silhouette, but most agree that having a blank grey picture is a bad idea. A professional, head and shoulders photo is recommended, but with today’s technology, you can probably get away with a decent selfie.
The aim is to build a credible picture of yourself, so a photo is almost mandatory.
Next, you need to fill out your profile with sufficient detail to complete the picture others will get of you. Your profile starts with your name, but underneath that is what some call a headline. Others call it a tagline, but either way, it’s a brief description of what you do, whether you are a Director at Acme Manufacturing or offer Professional Dog Sitting Services.
My advice would be to keep it short, and keep it relevant to what you do. A lot of people put too much information in here, so you end up with the dreaded three dots …
Then you need to fill out your profile with some facts about yourself:
Location, interests, employment history, achievements, a description of where you want to be in future, that kind of thing.
A word of caution – be honest. The last thing you want is to be seen as a liar/impostor/fake. People will run away.
So, whatever your main reason for joining LinkedIn might be, you will get what you want from this platform by telling the truth.
LinkedIn is a great place to be. You will meet a lot of nice people, start or join in conversations, learn a lot, share your views, and have a good laugh at the same time. There are a lot of very funny people on here.
Coming back to your profile, you will be presented with a wide range of options. I’m not talking about the content of your profile, I’m talking about the options you will be presented with. It may seem a little daunting at first, but it really isn’t.
The top menu bar offers you six options:
1) Home – this is your ‘feed’ as it is generally known. Here, you’ll see posts from other people, together with any comments.
2) My Network – this is a list of your first degree connections
3) Jobs – click to see current job listings
4) Messaging – here you’ll find a record of messages sent and received
5) Notifications – LI will send you an email every time someone mentions you in a post or comment. If you find this annoying, you can turn it off in Settings
6) Me – this takes you straight to your own profile, where you can add stuff or edit existing content.
Below the top menu, you’ll see several buttons. You needn’t be afraid of them: LinkedIn wants to help you, not scare you.
Top left, you’ll find your profile pic (if you have one, and I strongly recommend you do, but it’s not essential at this point), plus a couple of stats – Who viewed your profile, and Views of your post. As a newcomer, you don’t need to think about too much about those just yet.
Top centre is your input panel. This is where you’re invited to Start a post, add a picture, a video or a document, or Write an Article.
Daunting, I know. The important thing to recognise is that if you don’t post something, nobody is going to know anything about you.
If you have no idea where to start, may I suggest something like:
My name is Anne/Jonathan. I’m completely new to LinkedIn, but I’m looking forward to getting to know you all.”
That’s all it takes. You’ll get a bunch of replies saying welcome, and probably find several people looking at your profile. That’s why it’s important to have some substance to your profile for them to digest.
Top right, you’ll see some current news stories and an ad box. Unless you are immediately attracted to one or more of the news headlines, you can safely ignore both of these.
But here’s the absolute key word: Engagement. I’ll come back to what that actually means in a moment.
In purely commercial terms, LI makes money principally from advertising. So the Ad box I mentioned earlier is important to them. They get paid to put ads in front of their members (currently around 700 million worldwide, and growing). So they want their users to stay on the platform and be exposed to the ads.
[Psst: I have never clicked on an ad in nine years, but don’t tell them I said that.]
So – coming back to the magic word ‘engagement’, perhaps you can understand where this is going.
Engagement covers a range of activities – posting, commenting on others’ posts, or replying to other people’s comments on posts. Plus adding pics or video, or writing a document or an article.
The basic premise is keeping you on the platform for as long as possible. They record it. If you post a link to an external site (a YouTube video, for example), it takes viewers off-site, and you’ll be penalised for it. There are tricks for getting round things like that, but that’s the advanced course.
LinkedIn is free to use. They do offer some paid ‘premium’ services, like Sales Navigator, but as a newcomer, you don’t need to worry about that yet.
To sum up, LinkedIn is free, it’s fun, and it’s very powerful. Don’t be scared – I’ve seen many newcomers saying “I’m new here”, and they are invariably greeted with welcome messages. It’s a very friendly place. People are polite, respectful, welcoming and helpful.
I’ll end by adding my own (polite and respectful) welcome, and I know you will enjoy your experience on LinkedIn.
Until next week, my very best wishes to you and yours.
You can find me at https://regispublishing.co.uk