Most people see LinkedIn as a robust, fully featured professional networking site that allows you to connect with colleagues and other professionals and expand your career.
They have no idea how robust it really is.
While LinkedIn’s basic features are probably well-known to anybody who’s built a profile on the site – the ability to list your work experience, find contacts you know and add them as connections, search for additional connections through their connections, etc. – you may not be aware of some of the more advanced site features available even to those with a free membership. Once you throw in the premium member features, free applications, and LinkedIn tools, you find yourself with a site that makes you wonder if you even need a presence anywhere else on the Internet (but since many of its applications and tools are integrated with blogs, Twitter, and other user accounts across the Web, the answer is yes – you do need a presence elsewhere, as well).
Let’s get started, then, by looking at some of the more advanced profile features. And remember, LinkedIn is always rolling out new ideas and beta features, so be sure to check the “New Features” section of the LinkedIn blog to learn more about how the professional networking site can work for you.
To add any of these features, simply go to “Edit Profile” from the top menu on LinkedIn’s home page (under “Profile), then click on “Add sections” to see a total list of the profile sections. These new sections include:
- Publications: Add your published work to your profile
- Languages: If you speak multiple languages, you can indicate that expertise with the languages section, showing your level of proficiency – especially useful to producers working in diverse or multicultural markets
- Skills: List your skills, areas of expertise, and proficiencies on your profile with the skills section
- Certifications: List the certifications, licensure, and clearances you have attained
- Patents: Show off your inventions with the patents section, which lets you list both granted and pending patents
LinkedIn also has several site features that are well-established on the site, but which even regular users may be aware of.
Find companies that are of interest to you and follow them to receive updates on company news, new hires, and more. This can be especially useful for companies you service with insurance products, allowing you to stay updated right on LinkedIn. There are three ways to follow a company: From any member’s LinkedIn profile (mouse-over any of the companies listed and click the “Follow Company” icon from the hover bar that pops up); from the company’s profile; or from the company profiles homepage, by clicking on “More” on the LinkedIn homepage top menu.
One of the best ways to leverage your social network is by giving and receiving recommendations. This is all under “Profile” on the top menu; click on “Recommendations.” From this page, you can manage recommendations you’ve already received, see recommendations you’ve sent and recommend others, and request recommendations from your connections. Remember: Don’t just blindly send a recommendation request. Try recommending somebody first – often, they’ll return the favor. Or, make it more personal by giving them a call or shooting them an email requesting the recommendation yourself, and ask if they’d mind.
Gain recognition as an expert in your field by answering questions here, or find answers to your own quandaries by posing them to your network. To get started, visit the Answers page under “more” in the top toolbar. Type in your question and click “Next.”
- Indicate whether you want to share the question only with connections you select
- Be able to add details that will help connections and experts answer your question
- Be asked to categorize your question by an industry and subindustry
- Be able to select whether your question is focused around a specific geographical location
- Check whether your question is related to recruiting, promoting your services, or job seeking.
Once your question is posted, you have the option of emailing up to 200 of your connections.
Want to answer a question? New questions from your network are displayed right on the Answers page, as well as each week’s top experts, ranked by the number of answers given each week.
Profile as resume
Use your profile page as a printed CV. To print your profile page as a PDF, click “Profile” from the homepage, and look on the righthand side. You’ll see a little PDF icon – click on it, and you’ll have a PDF version of your profile, minus your groups information.
Other features include…
In addition to searching for connections by their name, you can filter by their location, your relationship with them – whether they’re a 1st or 2nd connection or a group member – industry, current and past company, school, and profile language. For those with a premium LinkedIn account, you can also filter by the groups to which they belong, years of experience, job function, seniority level, their interests, company size, whether they work for a Fortune 1000 company, and how long ago they joined LinkedIn.
Once you conduct a people search and narrow down your search criteria to what you want (by ZIP code, title, industry, etc.), you’ll see “save this search” near the results number above your list of results. With a free account, you can save up to three searches – different premium accounts allow you to save more searches get to save three different searches. Anytime the search results change, you’ll receive get an email notifying you of the change, and you’re able to select the frequency of those emails, as well.
Export your connections
Back up your connections by logging in, hovering over “Contacts” on the LinkedIn home page, and clicking on “My Connections.” At the bottom of your connections box, you’ll see a link that says “Export Connections.” Click on this link, and you can export your connections list into the address book of your preferred email program.
With a premium account, you can send InMails – depending on the level of your account, between 3 and 25 – which allows you to reach anyone on LinkedIn without needing an introduction or contact information. LinkedIn markets that your chances of hearing back from an InMail contact are 30 times greater than with a cold call, and even offers an InMail credit if you don’t receive a response within seven days. For free account holders, the only way to contact somebody you’re not connected with is to know them as a colleague, business partner, or friend; have a group in common with them; know their contact information; or request an introduction from a mutual connection.
LinkedIn offers a pretty robust jobs board for those interested in new positions. To access it, log in and click on “Jobs” on your top menu bar. Here, you can search for jobs according to keywords and location, and have the option of clicking either on a job or on the people connected to this job in some way. This way, you can see whether your existing connections currently work at the company or know the hiring manager or some other decision-maker. You can either apply to the job online, or request a referral from one of your connections.
In addition to its built-in profile and site features, LinkedIn has a number of optional applications that can add even more functionality to your profile. Most of these are accessible from the “Add sections” part of your “Edit profile” page, except where noted. You can also access all of them from “More” on the top menu, then “Get more applications.” There are countless applications for all types of users – here are some that make the most sense for insurance producers.
- Company Buzz. This Twitter-integrated application allows you to watch brand keywords to see when people are tweeting about you, as well as trend the frequency with which your brand is mentioned and what other keywords are being associated with it. Company Buzz is only accessible from the homepage “More” menu – once you’re on “Get more applications,” click on the Company Buzz icon and, then “Add application.” Type in your search terms on the page that follows, then click on “Save search” above the results. All your companies from your profile work history should already be saved as searches.
- Box. net. If you already use Box.net, an online storage and sharing application, you can add its functionality to your LinkedIn profile by allowing anyone who visits your profile to download your documents. You can also create folders to organize your documents by project, and invite others to contribute documents to a shared folder.
- BlogLink. This offers blog syndication on your LinkedIn profile, allowing you to share your latest blog posts with your network; see what your network is blogging about; and syndicate blogs from Moveable Type, Typepad, and other platforms. LinkedIn also offers a WordPress blog integration app.
- Events. The Events application help you find industry events, discover who in your network will be attending any given event, and invite others. You can also list your own event and share it with the LinkedIn network for viral distribution.
- Google presentations. Embed your Google Docs presentations in your LinkedIn profile, add a YouTube video into your presentation, and invite your LinkedIn connections to view your presentation.
- JD Supra legal updates. This is especially useful for the financial community, allowing you to customize legal updates with subjects relevant to your business, connect to lawyers whose work you’ve read and insights you value, and research legal issues by browsing and searching JD Supra’s database on LinkedIn. This may also be a good way to meet other professionals with which to partner.
- Slideshare. Post your professional presentations from recent conferences or events on your LinkedIn profile; browse, comment on, and “favorite” the presentations of others in your network; and see the latest presentations from your network on your homepage. Just make sure, as with anything you post, that you’re following the compliance regulations of your industry and company.
- TripIt My Travel. Create an itinerary when you forward any travel email to firstname.lastname@example.org and find out which of your connections will be in the same city as you during your trip.
- Tweets. For those of you also on Twitter, this allows you to tweet right from your LinkedIn homepage; find your connections on Twitter, follow them, and create a dynamic list of them; and browse the tweets of people you’re following right from LinkedIn.
Finally, LinkedIn also offers several functional tools to help you make the most of your LinkedIn membership and use the platform even when you’re not on the site.
- Outlook toolbar. Here, you can interact with LinkedIn from your Outlook email program, building your network from people you email often, seeing suggestions of possible connections based on the frequency with which you email them, and inviting people with one click. You can also update your Outlook contacts with LinkedIn profile information, receive notifications when your contacts change their LinkedIn profiles, and more.
- Browser toolbar. Similar to the Outlook toolbar, LinkedIn’s browser toolbar allows you to use LinkedIn’s powerful features more quickly and easily. After installing the toolbar, you can look up people instantly from any website; search for names, titles, companies, and job postings; and save searches for the future. You’ll also be able to see the LinkedIn profiles of those sending messages to your Web-based email programs.
- Email signature. After filling out as much or as little information as you want, LinkedIn generates a customized email signatures, with supports for Outlook, Outlook Express, and Thunderbird.
- Mac search widget. If you’re a Mac lover, you can search LinkedIn anytime from your Mac Dashboard.
- Google toolbar assistant. If you already have the Google Toolbar installed, add LinkedIn search button to enhance functionality
- LinkedIn Mobile. LinkedIn also offers mobile app versions of its site for iPhones, BlackBerries, and Palm smartphones.
Christina Pellett is the editor of the Agent’s Sales Journal. She can be reached at 800-933-9449 ext. 226 or ASJeditor@AgentMedia.com.