Strategize. Be thoughtful about how you network on the site. Sharing VIP connections exposes you to risk—good and bad. You want to know and trust the people you link to so that bad reputations or experiences don’t reflect on you.
Dig deeper. The site is easy to use but won’t be much of an asset if you do little more than accept invitations to “link in.” Like in-person memberships, the more you invest, the more you receive. With LinkedIn, that means uncovering many of the features and options that aren’t obvious at first glance, including Answers, where you can ask questions or share your knowledge with people in your network or from experts; Groups allows you to connect with professionals who share a common affiliation, interest, experience or goal; and Company Pages allows professionals to do research on firms they would like to do business with or be employed by.
You can also link your WordPress blog to LinkedIn for greater reach. Remember, though, it’s important to master the site’s basics before spending time on advanced features.
It’s Not About You
McClellan says that the most important thing to remember about social networking, and what makes it different from “traditional” networking, is that the emphasis is on helping others. “You have to go into it with the mind-set that you are going to help people, not help yourself,” says McClellan.
He admits that initially, that is not what he did. “The first several months, I spent trying to find people and beef up my profile, and that really wasn’t working for me,” he says of this approach. It was only when McClellan announced he was writing a book that “people came out of the woodwork,” to help with resources, advice, and recommendations.
“When people ask and I am able, I give without hesitation or expectation of a returned favor. This approach has led me to some valuable connections.”
This story originally appeared in the July 2009 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.