By Ethan Lyon, Senior Writer
LinkedIn is turning into a social media heavyweight — with just over 50 million users, the social networking site is turning into a must-have for professionals. Developing your social capital on LinkedIn is increasing in importance as more job-seekers flood the market. Getting a leg-up on your competition is crucial if you’re going to compete. We’ll discuss how to build your social capital by carrying on the conversation, building deeper relationships with prospective clients, increasing your visibility and being an active member in the community.
1. Increase your Visibility
When you add a company to your profile, it makes a connection between you and that company. Based on that connection, LinkedIn will recommend you to potential colleagues. These tags also serve as a valuable search referral tool. When a prospective employee or client searches the company, your name will show up in the search results. That prospective employee or client can then reach out to you for a conversation.
2. Identify Influencers
LinkedIn is full of helpful data. Use that data to get a leg-up at networking events or speaking engagements. Identify the key influencers at the event, then get some background. LinkedIn provides pictures and detailed resumes. Use these tools to find people that share the same interests or work history. If you already know what you have in common, you can easily start a conversation.
3. Carry on the Conversation
After you have attended a networking event or conference, you most likely walk away with a small deck of business cards. LinkedIn is a great way to discover what you might have in common with some of those in your business card deck. The networking site is a valuable tool that allows users to view a significant amount of data on a users’ professional life. Use this data to make new connections and develop a deeper relationship. Look-up those people that you thought were most interesting on LinkedIn to explore what further you might have in common. Then, you can reach out to them to continue the conversation you had the day before.
4. Contribute to the Community
LinkedIn strives to create a tight-knit community of professionals. In addition to colleague recommendations, LinkedIn recently added another community-building tool to their website, called LinkedIn answers. LinkedIn Answers allows users to ask and answer industry-specific questions. The quality of your answer is rated by the user that asked the question. If you rank #1, a badge will be placed on your profile–symbolizing your expertise in your industry. It is a valuable way to build your reputation, credibility and network. Answering a question can expose your profile to potentially dozens of users.
5. Promote Your Network
Reciprocity is a valuable currency in the digital world. LinkedIn offers many tools for users to endorse and / or promote colleagues. Recommendations is one useful feature you might want to consider. Just as you might have several recommendations for a new job, LinkedIn recommendations uses a similar concept. Simply write a comment about a colleague in the recommendation section and that comment will be posted to their profile. It is a great way to engender goodwill while keeping touch with your network.