Why you must always be networking – and Linkedin is the key (part 2)

If you aren’t in full networking mode in this economy, let this week’s column be a call to action for you.

(For more about why, see last week’s column.)

These days, I’m always networking. I’m on MySpace and Facebook, and have just started to play around with Twitter and other less known networking sites.  Even Plaxo has gotten into the social and business networking game.

But I find LinkedIn to be the best networking tool to use by far. Most LinkedIn users already know how to link to other people in and out of their networks. I wrote about the beginner stuff about a year ago.

That said, there are LinkedIn users and then there are LinkedIn players.

Let’s talk more about how to go from being merely listed on LinkedIn to being a networking “player,” which has helped me get job inquiries, plus writing and consulting gigs.

Follow these steps to help grow your career:

1. Update your profile often. Every time you update your profile, that info gets sent to your connections. Also, update your “status” often, as this gets transmitted as well. You always want to be visible to other people in your network. Updates keep you in front of them.

2. Ask questions. Use the question function of LinkedIn, because it’s a great tool to get your name in front of other LinkedIn users. Some quick tips: Always try to ask thoughtful and relevant questions. Ask questions that’ll generate a lot of response, and give plenty of background info for why you’re asking the questions. When people respond to your questions, always send thank-you e-mails to them.

And, if appropriate, you may want to send them connection requests. When your questions close, go back and use the site’s rating system to pick the best answers. When you “best” people, they earn expertise. That shows up on their profiles and adds credibility, too.

3. Answer questions. Same as above. You can earn expert status, and your answers help other LinkedIn users solve their problems. And don’t forget to add a URL to your answer to help support your position.

4. Join groups. LinkedIn allows you to join up to 50 groups. Once you join a group, announce to it who you are; what you do; and provide a link to your profile, blog or Web site. You also can post and answer discussions within groups. Get involved, and watch your network and sphere of influence grow.

Stay tuned for part 3 next week, where I’ll provide some cool power-user tips. I’ll also reveal how to build a “super-profile.”

Jim Gilbert is president of Gilbert Direct Marketing, a full-service catalog and direct marketing agency. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at www.linkedin.com/in/jimwgilbert or you can post a comment here or e-mail him at jimdirect@aol.com.

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