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Taking LinkedIn to the Next Level

linkedinarticleLinkedIn is the world’s largest online professional network with more than 200 million members worldwide. It is not surprising that many proposal professionals are LinkedIn members and participate in LinkedIn discussion groups. What may be surprising is that many of us are still novice LinkedIn users who haven’t taken the time to navigate the network and tap its full potential.

Tips for LinkedIn Success

LinkedIn originally launched in 2003 and it took some time for the site to reach mainstream status. Like most users, I started slowly with a focus on improving my profile and expanding my network. Over the past seven years, I have made 1,600 connections (one invite at a time), participated in approximately 50 groups (some more than others), and have received over 350 unsolicited LinkedIn endorsements across 43 skill areas (more on endorsements later). Despite these LinkedIn credentials, I still feel like a novice when it comes to getting the most out of this premier professional network. If you are relatively new to LinkedIn, or have yet to explore all that the network has to offer, here are seven tips that will help you take LinkedIn to the next level.

  1. Explore the site. Like most things in life, the more time and effort you invest in something, the greater the potential reward. Take the time to explore LinkedIn. Look at the main features and functions and the related drop-down menus for each. Identify and explore the features and functions that are the most interesting or beneficial for your networking goals and objectives.
  2. Continually update your profile. The amount of information LinkedIn requires to become a Profile Strength “All-Star” can be daunting. Start simple and build your profile slowly over time. LinkedIn will provide prompts and suggestions to help along the way. Set goals for completing profile sections. Focus on accomplishments, not basic job descriptions. Everyone knows what a proposal manager or writer does. Your network and future connections want to know your claim to fame. They want to see the feathers in your cap. Help them by highlighting the achievements that set you apart from the rest.
  3. Make inviting connections automatic and easy. Every time I meet someone I want to connect with, I send a LinkedIn invitation within 24 hours of our meeting. The invitation includes a personalized note about why we should “Link” and sometimes even highlights the things we have in common. I also include a LinkedIn profile link in my eSignature to make it easy for people to access my profile and connect.
  4. Join LinkedIn groups. LinkedIn experts suggest joining a total of 40-50 discussion groups. Over the years, I have found some groups to be more valuable than others. These days I focus my effort and attention on 10-15 groups. Everyone reading this article should join the NCA and APMP groups at a minimum. In addition to other APMP chapter groups, I have also found the following groups types to be valuable: sales, business development, capture planning, Federal government contracting, proposal management, contractor/consulting, and proposal writing. Type these terms in the Groups search field or check out the groups that your connections have to get ideas. It’s easy to join, leave, and modify group settings (Your Settings) to set the visibility, contact, and update levels that work best for you.
  5. Know the rules. LinkedIn users have become increasingly sophisticated over time. Current and future connections can learn a lot about you from the people in your network, the recommendations/endorsements you write and receive, the discussions you post, and the comments you make. If you take the time to learn the rules and refine your social networking ‘netiquette’, you will make positive impressions on colleagues, clients, partners, and future employers.
  6. Recommend and endorse your connections. One of the easiest ways to help your network is to either recommend or endorse your connections. Either way, many people will return the favor and you will quickly build a stockpile of accolades and endorsements. Recommendations require more effort and have more impact than endorsements. Scroll down to the Recommendation section of your LinkedIn connection and follow the directions under “Would you like to recommend <connection name>?” Endorsing a connection is a relatively new LinkedIn feature. When you access the home page of a connection a blue pop-up box appears with the question” Does <connection name> have these skills or experience?” LinkedIn uses an algorithm to suggest skill/experience areas. Unfortunately, LinkedIn is not able to determine what your core skill and experience areas are, and skill profiles can easily become skewed. I am continually amazed at the endorsements people make by connections they hardly know, for skills and experience they have never directly experienced. This approach diminishes the overall value of endorsements in my opinion making them little more than glorified popularity contests. You need to develop your own recommendation and endorsement policies and stick to them.
  7. The most important rule for LinkedIn or any social media group is to participate. Make the time to generate discussions, polls, promotions, or job postings. “Like”, “Comment”, “Follow” , “Share”, “Flag”, or “Reply Privately” as appropriate to increase the value for you and other group members. These actions are also greatly appreciated by the site manager(s) and moderator(s)

Chris Simmons is the founder and principal member of Rainmakerz Consulting—a business development solutions company specializing in all aspects of proposal development.