As outlined previously on this blog, I’m running a Social Summer program for SAP employees who want to learn more about social networking and how to get the best out of it. At the same time I’m introducing them to some of the SAP social channels and our policies around participation. This weeks session was about LinkedIn – the starting place for your professional brand. However, very few people use LinkedIn to its full potential. My view is simple. Your network is a treasure trove – highly valuable. It’s a source of advice, support and sometimes your next career move. The power of networking should never be underestimated.

Here I’ll share with you just some of the tips I covered during the session.

Your Current Network: Okay, this is more for fun but try it. InMaps from LinkedIn labs allows you to visualize your network. It’s very interesting and allows you to identify clusters of connections and help you identify areas where you might want to focus on going forward.

Create Your Profile: The least you can do to optimize your professional brand is to spend a little time tweaking your profile. Copying and pasting your CV is not enough. If you intend to actively build a network spend time on stage 1 (thinking about your brand) and at the very least complete the following sections:

  • Photo: It’s social media so let people see who you are…keep it professional.
  • Summary: Add a couple of paragraphs to summarise what makes you different
  • Specialities: Use lots of keywords to describe your skills – be searchable on Google
  • Vanity URL: By default LinkedIn will give you numbers and letters. Personalise it!
  • Add Apps: If you have a blog then be sure to integrate it using Applications
  • Twitter Link: Update your status automatically but use #in so you don’t spam your network
  • Get Recommended: It will help to complete your profile to 100%

Build Your Network: Most folks stop at stage 2 but successful networkers will take time to build and nurture networks. You know more people than you think. Start with your colleagues, then add your ex-colleagues, then connect to your customers and partners (if you’re in sales). Get your network to an established state and then make it a habit every Friday to update it with new contacts:

  • Social Connector: Use tools like LinkedIn for Outlook to invite people from your inbox
  • Mobile Invitations: Download LinkedIn for mobiles and iPhones – invite after your meeting
  • Groups: Grow your network outside of your ‘immediate circle’ – join groups & contribute

Engage Your Network: The trick here is not to connect and forget. It’s like those people you know who only ring you when you want something. Take time to engage your network and stay front of mind. I don’t mean spam them but just be helpful. If you read something that you think might be of value to your network or part of your network, take the time to send it on with a note saying “saw this and thought of you!” It’s highly appreciated.

  • Status Updates: Be valuable…share a blog post, news article, report, research
  • Targeted Email: If you have something specific, compose a message and target it

Derive Value From Your Network: It takes time to get to this stage because you need to have built a good network, nurtured strong relationships and established credibility but once you have done this, you can start to ask for favours. Only do this if you have a strong connection.

  • Referral: Ask for an introduction but don’t forget to add value – not just a sales introduction
  • Recommendation: Don’t be shy – your future network will be interested in you as a person!
  • Advanced Search: Great if you’re in sales – dig deeper into your network and connections

Any other tips to share?