Social Media’s Redheaded Stepchild

This is a guest post from Larry Jones.

“Yeah I’ve got a LinkedIn account, but I hardly go on it. I’m not looking for a job.”

It’s a response that all of us who engage in the social media space have probably heard at one time or another when we ask someone if they are on LinkedIn. And whenever I hear this statement, I typically counter with something along the lines of, “that’s too bad, you’re really missing out on some opportunities.”

Image: Wikipedia

Of all the social media platforms and/or networking sites that have enjoyed some semblance of longevity, LinkedIn is probably the most misunderstood and the most underutilized. When you bring up the topic of LinkedIn to social media enthusiast and neophytes, it usually conjures up thoughts of resumes, job seekers, headhunters and employment recruiters.

This is easy to understand given the fact that the HR community as well as PR people were among the dominant early adopters of the platform going back to its 2003 launch. They found a way for LinkedIn to make their jobs easier (think Pinterest and women). But LinkedIn has come a long way since its early days as a pseudo “hiring site.” The latest version of LinkedIn is – dare I say it – social.

Despite the earliest iterations of the site seeming to focus on job seeking and hiring, that was never the original intent for LinkedIn. In many of the interviews given by the founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman, it is explained that the site was intended as means to help people connect with people. Even LinkedIn’s first publicly recognized tagline was “Relationships Matter.”

LinkedIn, much like Facebook, was born during a time of blossoming internet transparency, when people began to come from behind the ambiguous screen names and revealed their real selves and in some cases their professional selves, online. That embrace of honesty and transparency was to be the catalyst for forging new relationships that could benefit the individual personally and professionally.

“So if LinkedIn isn’t just about jobs and hiring, what else does it do? What makes it ‘social?’”

There’s a lot that LinkedIn can do for individuals or an organization in terms of sharing, highlighting, promoting and engaging. For the individual employee, LinkedIn provides an opportunity to share professional experiences; work endorsements; upcoming events or travel destinations; accolades; projects and insights. Individuals can post and promote presentations, videos, white papers and news releases or links to relevant news stories. There are also a number of groups and associations that can be joined and used for interaction with others within industries of interest.

LinkedIn allows organizations/companies to create a branded page where people can learn more about an organization, its staff, products and services for sale, or “follow” the organization so that they can receive timely updates on new happenings or staff changes. Additionally, the “company page” pulls in a feed from an organization’s blog, and also it aggregates, from across the web, various news items mentioning an organization and/or brand. Participating organizations can also advertise within the LinkedIn ecosystem or create ad campaigns focused on core objectives such as sales.

From a social media standpoint LinkedIn allows users to connect with real life acquaintances, network with others that share similar interests or to share ideas and information. LinkedIn allows users to provide status updates (much like Facebook and Twitter) or integrate other social media profiles. Lastly, LinkedIn allows its members to digitally congregate and engage within online professional groups or according to professional/academic association. There’s even an iPhone/Android app that allows user friendly mobile participation.

Additionally, with all of LinkedIn’s investment into all of the site’s new bells and whistles, social connectivity cannot help but occur. Whether you are commenting on an interesting status post, answering a question of the day, or interacting with others in one of the many available professional or social groups housed within the platform.

In the end, you only get out of LinkedIn what you put into it. Just because you created a profile page magic doesn’t happen and you immediately burst into spontaneous engagement. You have to start by investing in the platform. Complete your profile to 100 percent completeness (adding some interesting things about yourself and your interests), join some groups, add your blog or Twitter account (however, be mindful of the tweets you share), update your status, and most importantly of all, visit the damn site with some level of frequency.

Just look at it this way, if you bought an annual membership to that cool new gym in your neighborhood, you can’t rightfully complain about your lack of physical fitness if you only go there once a month {author’s note: this is actually a true example from my own life}.

So what is the next step? Go log-in and get to networking and socializing.

Larry Jones is a public relations and social media strategist with more than 12 years of comprehensive communications experience. He currently serves as Communications Director for a DC-based trade association. Feel free to connect with him on Twitter at @OffThe_Record.  

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