I attended a great local networking event last night in my local Orange County, California. There were many people who I had communicated with on Twitter and finally had the chance to meet…the feeling was almost like seeing long lost friends! I will save Tweetups for another blog post, because what interested me last night were how many people I met last night that were active on Twitter but not at all on LinkedIn. Many saw the latter as just being a site for “professionals” or really didn’t know what to do with it. In order to really explain what is the value of spending time on LinkedIn to those that are new to it or do not fully understand it, I think it is best to ask what it is in the first place and elaborate some reasons why everyone (and I mean everyone from Gen Y and Millenial college students to Baby Boomers) should be utilizing it.
What is LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is really a huge database of professionals. Twitter lacks profile depth, Facebook is all over the place demographically and is also hard to find people. LI standardizes information entered by users into predefined “Profile Headline”, “Summary”, “Education”, “Company”, etc. categories. In addition to this huge database of information, the platform also provides an awesome search tool to allow you to pinpoint the person you are looking for depending on a number of very specific factors.
On the other hand, the more connections you have, the closer you will appear to more people – and the closer others that you might want to contact will appear to you.
So What is LinkedIn? Here’s how LinkedIn defines itself:
And this is how I define LinkedIn:
LinkedIn is the place to find other professionals and be found by other professionals.
Why Should You Join LinkedIn?
I wrote a blog post on 7 reasons why every professional should join LinkedIn, but I wanted to follow up with an updated recap of the 3 biggest reasons for those who are still not sure as to how much time they want to spend on the networking platform.
1) Getting Back in Touch (Finding & Being Found)
Yes, Classmates.com and Facebook also allow you to get back in touch. But because of the search functionality that LinkedIn has, I am finding people there that I can’t find on the other social networking sites. And because it is easier to be found on LI, many are finding me too! You can find people primarily from where you both went to school as well as where you worked.
2) Acquire & Share Expertise
There are almost 2,000,000 Groups (see screenshot below) that you can join. Each group has its own Discussions Board, News Board, and Jobs postings. The subject matter in Groups covers a wide enough of topics that there is value for everyone to be participating. Furthermore, with LinkedIn Pulse, you can now read the news curated for you and your industry and keep tabs on what news you need to know from a professional perspective.
3) Career Management
Social Networking is a Career Insurance that you can never have enough of. The advice is the same whether you are looking for a job or are happily employed: a network should be your insurance for your future career growth. Companies are organic entities whose needs change and do not and cannot promise you a guarantee that your job will be there 10 years from now, next year, or even next month. That is why you need to be on LinkedIn so that you can both find potential companies and recruiters as well as be found by them. Even if you are happy in your job, it can’t hurt to have a minimal profile on LinkedIn and receive contacts from recruiters in your industry or specialty who may be able to help you out in the future, can it? LinkedIn is free career insurance! BUY INTO IT!
Note that it is also important for college students to dig their well before they get thirsty as well for the same career management reason, so if you are a college student or know of one, please check out my post in LinkedIn profile tips for college students.
If I was to list one more reason to be on LinkedIn, it would be to establish and maintain a robust professional brand, but some might consider this a subset of Career Management.
You will notice that I didn’t even mention the reasons you should join if you are looking for business benefits from social networking. Of course there is lots of business and other advantages to being on LinkedIn. Read my LinkedIn book as well as new LinkedIn book for business for all the details!
If you still don’t understand what is LI and its value and why you should join and leverage LinkedIn, I have not done my job as a blogger and LI advocate. If you are still confused please comment and let me know how I can help you see the light!