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How To Effectively Use Linkedin For Professional Networking: 30 DOs and DON’Ts

Once in a while a technology feature/product really appeals to you, and you have that ‘Aha! Experience’. “Why didn’t I think of this before? This makes perfect sense!”  I felt the same way when I first signed up on Linkedin in 2004. Linkedin was a fairly small, unknown networking portal back then. It surely has come a long way!


My first reaction was, here I have a way to maintain a ‘dynamic address book’. Other address books maintained in email programs are ‘static’. They have to be manually updated, and get out of synch when your contact changes jobs/schools/location/etc. I gradually started building my network in 2004. Over the past 4 years, I have been able to grow my network significantly through Linkedin. Various new features have been added over this period those greatly enhance networking capabilities. Features focused on tracking former colleagues and classmates were very helpful in finding these old friends.


Today, I have a large contact base of over 500 contacts. I extensively use Linkedin to keep track of my network (changes/updates/etc.) as well as for finding new connections. The recently introduced ‘connections update’ feature is extremely useful. You can get daily alerts about changes in your network (profile changes, network changes, etc.)


I think of a Linkedin profile as a summarized background with specific emphasis on specialties and areas of interest. The Linkedin framework if leveraged effectively can help you build an excellent network. [Note -To me ‘recruitment aid/job hunting’ is a tactical objective for using Linkedin; ‘networking’ is a more strategic objective in my view.]


In this article, I will discuss ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ of effective Linkedin usage, based on my experience. These points are specifically written for a new linkedin user or someone who doesn’t use it extensively, but wants to learn more. I have benefited greatly from following these simple guidelines in building my network and staying in touch with it.


Dos & Don’ts


0. Maintain brief, accurate and current profile information about yourself. Clearly list your specialties and provide a brief summary.


1. Update the correct geographic location. For users in India, there is a known issue/bug regarding Indian zip codes and how linkedin interprets it. E.g. Entering Pune area zip codes will end up displaying ‘Satara Area’ as your location. Similar issues are also there with a few other major cities in India. Until this is fixed, I would not populate anything in the zip code field (just put ‘111111’). That way, the location will show up as ‘India’.


2. Update a non-work email address on your profile.


3. I personally am not a big fan of recommendations. If you really have a good recommendation from someone senior, then put it up, otherwise don’t put them just for the sake of it. Do restrict the number of recommendations.


4. Ensure that education experience is correctly updated. This is very important.


5. As far as possible, avoid chronological gaps in your profile.


6. Do ensure that you have correct names and tenure for your companies and educational institutes. Typos here will prevent you from effectively using the class-mates and colleagues feature.


7. Avoid writing a long winding description of your experience. Remember, a linkedin profile is a ‘profile’ and not a detailed resume.


8. Use the ‘My Company’, ‘My Website’ links to add information about your company websites, your blog, websites that you are involved with, etc.


9. Remember, Linkedin is a professional networking tool, and not a social networking tool. Hence keep the profile/language/messages professional.


10. After you have finished all updates, do view your profile once, to check for any obvious typos or formatting errors.


11. Send invites to all key professional contacts from your address book. Use some discretion here. Sending invites to people who may not recognize you (people with whom you have had limited interactions) could result in rejections.


12. First send invites to those contacts that are already signed up on Linkedin. Probability of them connecting with you is higher than someone who is not already on Linkedin.


13. Leverage the class-mates and colleagues feature to find and link with former co-workers and school & college friends. This feature lets you send invites without having the email address. However, if you send invites to too many folks who don’t recognize you, and who end up rejecting your invite – you might end up in some linkedin trouble! Linkedin can temporarily put a hold of sending any further invites if you accumulate too many rejections.


14. While leveraging your contacts list to connect with someone in your 2nd or 3rd degree separated network, make sure you write a brief and clear note (to your contact, as well as the end recipient).


15. Avoid sending ‘Spam Invites’. In general, maintain some guidelines regarding who are trying to connect with. There are no hard and fast rules, but I usually try to restrict this to people I have met with in context of some business meeting/seminar/conference/networking event. I hate invitations that come from people who I haven’t even met or exchanged any emails!


16. Do monitor the ‘Just Joined Linkedin’ tab. Often times one of your friends/colleagues would show up on this list. You can directly send an invite to this person, if you already have their email id and add them to your contacts list.


17. Avoid participating in too many irrelevant groups. A few relevant groups can help you in two ways. 1) I like to look at linkedin group as an ‘electronic T Shirt’. It’s a way to proclaim to the world that you belong to a specific alumni or professional association. 2) A way to exchange discussions and establish contacts with other members of the groups. I am a big fan of #1 and don’t think linkedin is doing great with #2. Probability of getting connected to someone, whom you send an invite just because you are on the same group, is pretty low. Also, the quality of discussions on linkedin groups today leaves a lot to be desired compared to Google or Yahoo groups.


18. I personally prefer to not to hide the contacts list from my connections. This is subjective, and I know some people who keep the list private. However, I think this creates a negative (anti-networking) perception in the mind of their contacts.


19. If you are really adding some confidential person (e.g. competitor, etc.) to your connections list, then keep the network private. However, the best solution would be not to add such people to your network in the first place!


20. If you actively use multiple email addresses, do enter them into your linkedin profile. This way, if you receive an invitation on any of these email ids, it will automatically show up on your linkedin homepage. This will also prevent linkedin from accidentally creating two different accounts for you. If this happens, send a note to linkedin support and I believe they can merge the two accounts.


21. Linkedin recently started providing a way to update a one-line status about your activity. Use it, where it makes sense. I know some people who abuse it by changing the tag line literally everyday. This can be counterproductive. Remember, this is not like a tag line on your instant messaging device.


22. Try to maintain some communication with your contacts (in some cases, even once a year is sufficient). I know many people who absolutely forget about some of their contacts for years, after adding them.


23. However DO NOT SPAM your network. If you want to forward or send messages that you think are relevant, do so very carefully and make sure you send it to that subset of your network that will find it ‘relevant’!


24. Recently, linkedin started supporting ‘linkedin apps’. I have used the wordpress plugin thus far and it is a very good way to selectively display articles summary from your blog on your profile. Applications like Trip It also look interesting.


25. Create a personalized name (like a login name) for your linkedin profile. This way, your linkedin profile will display in the www.linkedin.com/in/YOUR_USER_NAME format (e.g. www.linkedin.com/in/aparanjape) instead of some complicated alpha numerical id.


26. Make your profile ‘public’ for search engines. This way, it will show up on web searches.


27. Once in a while, it’s a good idea to backup your contacts. This can be done by exporting your contacts list into Outlook or into an Excel File.


29. Do you use the new analytics feature ‘People who looked at this profile also viewed…’ This can sometimes come with terrific suggestions!


29. ‘Who has viewed my profile’ can also provide some interesting insights from time to time.


30. ‘People you name know’ is another new powerful feature that can suggest some good potential connections.


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Use Google Insights to find a niche market for your (non-web) product

Image representing Google Labs as depicted in ...Image via CrunchBase, source unknown

(In this interesting article, Trevas of Druvaa uses keyword search trending data from Google Insights and Google Labs Experimental Search to fine-tune his idea of what exactly is the market niche into which his products are most likely to have a demand.

While search term analysis is a very common technique used by web-based companies for search engine optimization and finding long-tail customers, what is surprising in this case is that the products Trevas wants to sell have nothing to do with the web. He is using the keyword analysis to simply get a feel for which needs of users seem to have been met in the last few years, and which needs seem to be increasingly unmet. That gives him ideas for potential niche markets in which to position his products. Even if you have no interest in laptop backup and disaster recovery and the other terms used in this article, you should still read the article to get a hang of the technique, which can be applied in other fields. This article first appeared at Druvaa’s blog and is reproduced with permission. For more information about Druvaa and its technology, see this in-depth punetech article.)

While doing some keyword research for Druvaa it began to become clear how interesting search engine statistic can be when you look closely at the data. From simple keyword suggestion tools, and graphs you can ascertain information that you never thought possible.

The terms “backup” or “recovery”, for instance, get over 300,000 searches per month each with Google. In other words people are searching for good solutions to keep their data safe. That information by itself is useful (at least to us), but it’s when you begin to look at more specific search terms that things really get interesting. In fact, you can even begin to clearly see trends within the industry when you compare specific terms over any given length of time.

With a look at some simple charts, you can begin to see things like:

  • Interest in laptop backup solutions has greatly increased over the past 10 years.
  • Some users are finding solutions to their data backup needs and disaster recovery isn’t as much of a problem as it was 4 years ago (but it still is a problem).
  • Enterprise users who have laptops in the office are still seeking a suitable solution to their backup needs.
  • Enterprise users who have offsite backup needs are still seeking a solution to business continuity.

To demonstrate how I can get all of that from a few search terms, let’s take a closer look at some charts.

A Look at Trends Using Search Engine Statistics

Using Google Labs and their experimental search tool you come up with the following charts for the terms “data backup” and “laptop backup”.  This particular tool uses search volumes, online news statistics, number of websites, and more to show interest in any given topic. The charts clearly show that, while data backup has retained the same amount of interest over the past 10 years, interest in laptop backup has (and is) increasing.

Of course, this idea makes sense. Laptops have decreased greatly in price since 1998, and as such have become a more common tool both for enterprise users and at home. On the other hand, data integrity has been a problem for business users for a couple of decades now, so interest in the topic of “data backup” have remained relatively the same.

This information alone isn’t necessarily new. It’s the reason we created Druvaa InSync in the first place. The industry needed a reliable data backup solution, which is also fast enough to work well with computers that are on the go.  To further look at what’s needed let’s look at some more charts. This time based on search volumes alone.

Laptop Backup as Important as Ever

Search volumes for any given term are an easy way to see what is happening within an industry, to gauge interest for a product or service, or even to see how one product relates to another. In the developed world more than 73% of the population has internet access, and over 88% of internet users go online when they seek a solution to a problem.

With that in mind let’s briefly look at some search engine statistic.  In this case I have used Google Insights to compare related search terms. The charts are based on normalized data, over time. If you looked at the actual search volumes they would have increased with time (since Internet use has grown). To get a more accurate look, Insights uses normalized data displayed on a scale of 1 – 100.

Click Here to See the Chart for Yourself

The first chart compares the terms data backup and disaster recovery. There are two things that can be gained from this chart.

  • 1. Since search volumes for both terms have declined over the past few years, it shows that some users are finding solutions to their backup needs, and disaster recovery is less of a problem today than it was in 2004/2005.
  • 2. As the lines of the chart come together, they begin to show a direct correlation to each other. Very likely this is due to the fact that proper data backup is becoming the solution to disasters in the office. It really was only a few years ago that disaster recovery often meant taking that broken hard drive to have the data extracted. In the past couple of years, enterprise users have begun to see that simple backups are a cheaper (and more reliable) solution.

Since the term data backup may also relate to home users, with the next chart I used the term “enterprise backup” and compared it to “laptop backup”. Again we can see a couple of things from this chart. Once again we see a slight decline in the search volumes for enterprise backup. This confirms the idea that some enterprise users are finding a suitable solution to their backup needs.

Click Here to See the Chart for Yourself

By adding the term laptop backup though, something else begins to become clear. The term started the chart off at 61 and finished three years later at 62. There have been slight ups and downs in search volumes, but overall they have remained relatively the same. The two terms also begin to correspond closely with each other as the chart moves through 2007 and into 2008. To me this says that these terms are also beginning to become synonymous.  In other words, although some enterprise users are finding a backup solution, those with laptops in the office aren’t.

I could repeat these same results with terms like “offsite backup” or “remote backup”.

With a simple look at search engine statistics we begin to see that enterprise users have a need for a laptop backup solution that works. With our own product, which provides 10x faster laptop backup and a 90% reduction in storage and bandwidth, there is a solution to suit.

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