If you’re using LinkedIn exclusively to apply for new positions and occasionally invite someone to connect, you’re probably missing out on some of the ways this social networking platform can help you to network more efficiently. Here are 6 little or lesser known features of LinkedIn that can streamline and simplify your networking:
- Expand Your Network with People You May Know: You are probably already familiar with LinkedIn’s People You May Know feature as it is usually front and center so it’s easy for you to invite new connections on a whim. LinkedIn’s algorithm suggests people who have something in common from your background or people who are connected to one or more of your current connections. The net result is that their suggestions are usually (though not always) good ideas. This feature is one of the quickest and easiest ways to build up your network and to extend your network into new industries.
- Segment & Tag Your Network: As your LinkedIn network grows, it becomes a bit unruly to try to message your connections regularly. After all, the LinkedIn messaging system is pretty basic and doesn’t function as well or offer as many features and options as other email systems do. Nonetheless, one helpful option is tagging, which allows you to segment your network. You can tag, or label, specific connections according to any category you choose. You may want to segment your network according to key influencers, connections associated with your target companies, the people who are most likely to be strong brand advocates for you, or those you know the best. The beauty of this LinkedIn feature is that you get to decide what works best for you. To segment your network, login to LinkedIn and My Network > Connections from the navigation ribbon. Hover over any connection and select Tag. A pop-up window will appear giving you the option to choose one of LinkedIn’s pre-selected tags or create one of your own. Once you create a tag it will appear in that same window when you choose to label additional contacts in the same way.
- Message Group Connections: One of the major advantages to joining as many LinkedIn Groups as you can is that doing so enables you to message the connections you make in those Groups without having to use InMail. This in turn allows you to reach out to many more contacts than you would be able to do even with a premium LinkedIn membership. In other words, by joining Groups you can not only network personally with each individual in a Group, but you can also use this feature to help you connect with people with whom you have no other connections in common. For example, let’s say you’re targeting a specific company in your search, yet you either have no connections who know anyone at that firm, or the connections you have aren’t responding to your requests for help. In either case you can message the hiring manager directly if you’re both a member of the same LinkedIn Group. I recommend conducting an advanced search on LinkedIn for the hiring executive in your target company and then examining their profile to determine which Groups they have joined. If relevant and appropriate, join one and message away.
- Download Your LinkedIn Data: At times you may find it helpful to store your LinkedIn messages, activity, and account history, connections, and contacts locally rather than buried within the LinkedIn interface. To download this information, hover your cursor over your photo or icon in the upper right side of your screen when logged in; click on Privacy & Settings. Select the Account tab at the top of the next page, then under Basics click Change next to Getting an Archive of Your Data. You’ll probably have to sign in at this point, but you will then be taken to the Request Your Data Archive LinkedIn will email you the options you can archive based on how well populated your profile is.
- Export LinkedIn Connections: How do you manage your entire network? While some executives prefer to use one or more spreadsheets, others use a relationship management tool especially created for job seekers such as JibberJobber. Regardless of your choice, you may find it helpful to have one location in which to store all of your networking connections, not just your LinkedIn connections. In this case, it’s nice to know you can export your LinkedIn connections for this purpose. To do so, go to My Network > Connections and click on the gear image on the upper right . On the next page, choose Export LinkedIn Connections from the Advanced Settings panel and follow the instructions to import your connections.
- Synch Your Contacts: You may not realize it, but LinkedIn allows you to synch your contacts with Gmail, Google Contacts, and Google Calendar to unify and update all of your contacts from your address books, emails, calendars, and your LinkedIn network. By synching your email, for example, you can reference your mail history with your contacts chronologically. If you’re actively conducting face-to-face or phone networking meetings, synching your Google calendar will enable you to see your meeting history with people, upcoming meetings, and prompts to connect with those in upcoming meetings that you aren’t yet connected with. To initiate a synch, go to your Contacts Settings page using the gear link as described above.
Which of these techniques have you already used? What return on your time did you receive? Which would you most like to try next?