In the original article in this series the last three ways I noted to use LinkedIn were to share knowledge and expertise, introduce connections, and recommend worthy individuals. Each of these is a way to provide value to your network, so I thought I would cover them together.
While you might argue whether it’s better to give than receive, the two are equally important. In a perfect networking world you would receive equal to what you have given. In real life you often have to do a lot of giving to get the “receiving pump” primed.
Share Knowledge and Experience
The average LinkedIn member is 41 years old and has a household income of $109,703. 80.1% are a college grad or post grad (37%). Clearly there is a wealth of knowledge and experience available among its users. (Stats provided by Nathan Kieveman, of Linked Secrets).
One of the most important ways that you can provide value to your network and fellow members is by sharing your knowledge and experience. LinkedIn provides several ways to do this:
LinkedIn Answers is a great place to answer questions posted by other members. The most important part is to answer questions where you provide value. It’s not about answering as many questions as you can to try and obtain expert status. Well thought out answers add to your credibility, flippant or silly answers subtract from it.
Since online credibility doesn’t exist in a vacuum, a well thought out answer could provide value (from those who agree) and subtract value (from those who disagree with your point). My perspective is that if your answer is sincere, the positives will far outweigh the negatives.
Within groups there is a tremendous amount of information shared through discussions. Groups have the advantage of being somewhat more targeted, since membership is based around a common factor.
Finally, you can share information through applications. The statistics above were shared by Nathan using the Slideshare application. Incorporating your blog into your profile is another great way to share information. The Amazon application allows you to share what you are reading. Take a look at the available applications to see how you can share information with your fellow members.
Each of our networks is made up of people that are from different backgrounds, industries, experience levels, etc. Each network is unique and you are at the center of your network. You likely have people in your network that you know very well, people that you know of, and possibly people you don’t know very well.
For those you know well you probably have an idea of the people they are trying to network with. You can be of service by introducing them to those in your network that they are seeking out.
For those that you don’t know well you may be able to introduce them to people you would expect them to want to get to know. Real estate agents and Mortgage brokers are two types of people that would benefit from being introduced. Financial planners love introductions to CPA’s.
For those you don’t know you can still provide value by paying attention to what they ask for. It might be that in their profile they state who they are seeking. It might be a status update that states that they are “looking to connect with small business owner, or maybe attorneys.
LinkedIn makes it simple by including a “Forward this Profile” text link on each profile page. Clicking on it allows you to choose a recipient (actually up to 200 recipients) and to create your message to the recipient (like invitations avoid the sample text and create a personalized message).
The ability to give and receive recommendations is one of the most powerful features of LinkedIn. Most people are uncomfortable with tooting their own horn. In most businesses, though, what set them apart are the people doing the work. You can have the best system in place, but if it’s not backed by quality people its success will be limited.
As you look through your connections try to find those in your direct network who have provided a product or service. If the value received was great don’t keep them a secret. If someone has gone out of their way to help you, let others know.
A good rule of thumb is that if someone asked you about a particular person would you say they’re a “Good Person” or a “Great Person”. If the answer is “Great”, there’s likely a recommendation waiting to happen.
There will be times when another person asks you for a recommendation and you do not feel comfortable providing one. The service may not have been that great. You may not know the person well enough. In these cases a good rule of thumb is to respond with a quick message detailing why you’re not comfortable providing one at this point.
Receiving a recommendation is something that should be earned.
As you go about providing value to your network you will begin to receive value in return. It may simply be a link back to your profile (such as when asking / answering a question or providing a recommendation), it may result in a visit to your profile (added exposure), and it may be returned in the form of a new client or connection.
Most people share value because they simply want to help others. Any value received is simply gravy.
This is the last part in this 10 part series. Next week I’ll post a link to all 10 parts. Since things change fairly quick around LinkedIn I will review each article to make updates.