LinkedIn is already the most popular social network for professional networking. And in fact, amongst small businesses that use social media tools, professional networking is the most popular activity, with 51 percent of them engaging in it according to a recent study.
But how do you stand out on a site that has millions of professionals competing for mindshare? One way is by using the company’s recently launched application platform, which allows you to add third-party software to your profile. These apps provide a variety of functions, from allowing you to share presentations to creating connections when you travel. Here’s a look at a few of them, with ideas on how you can use them to grow your presence on the site:
If your blog runs on WordPress, you can import your posts into LinkedIn, which lets anyone that comes across your profile click directly to your most recent articles. Assuming your blog content is professional and relevant to the type of people you’re trying to network with on LinkedIn, this is a great way to show your expertise, beyond the resume and recommendations in your profile. Setting this application up is incredibly simple – just enter in the URL for your blog and it takes care of the rest.
Chances are you’ve put together a lot of presentations during your career. Thanks to services like SlideShare, those can now be put online, and with the LinkedIn app platform, become part of your profile. SlideShare’s application lets you upload a variety of file types, including PowerPoint, PDFs, Word Docs, and Excel Spreadsheets. Uploading your best work – or even creating new presentations that your target audience will find useful – is a fantastic way to make your profile stand out.
Travel can of course be one of the greatest networking opportunities of all. TripIt’s My Travel app on LinkedIn looks to facilitate this networking by sharing your travel plans and those of your connections. In other words, if you’re traveling to New York, let My Travel know, and your other connections that use the application will be notified that you’re going. Likewise, you’ll be able to see who else will be in New York at the same time as you.
While LinkedIn’s primary purpose might be networking, it can also be a valuable research tool. LinkedIn Answers provides a great forum for free qualitative questions, but LinkedIn’s Polls application lets you obtain hard data, either from your connections or a targeted set of the LinkedIn community. The prior is free, while the latter will cost you a minimum of $50. However, with targeting options like industry, job function, and age, running one of these polls could get you exactly the data you need to help you make a sound business decision, at a fraction of the cost of more traditional market research.
Like other social media tools, LinkedIn applications will only give you what you put into them. Fortunately, most of them are relatively low maintenance, and simply compliment other activities you’re already doing, like writing a blog, creating marketing literature, and traveling to industry events. Give them a few minutes of your time and see what they can do to make LinkedIn a more valuable resource for your business.