I have been using LinkedIn for a year and a half now and find the site’s usefulness increases steadily. I actually signed up to LinkedIn before joining any other “social media-esque” sites and it is still a site I check on an almost daily basis.
As with many other social media sites, the effort you put into creating your profile and the way you use LinkedIn, determines what you get out of it. LinkedIn is an extremely powerful tool, covers a wide variety of industries and currently has over 40 million members – that’s a lot of potential guests, suppliers, mentors, etc.
So you’re an hotelier and are toying with the idea to sign up to LinkedIn or have recently joined the site but are still unsure how to use it effectively. Here are a few tips and tricks I collected over the past month that should help you to get the best out of LinkedIn – not all the points are particular to hoteliers, so non-hoteliers feel free to read on…
Signing up to LinkedIn:
Registering with LinkedIn is very quick and straightforward. Just go to www.linkedin.com and click on the “Join Today”, fill in your details and off you go.
As your LinkedIn profile, your name and, depending on your privacy settings, other details will be visible to an awful lot of people, I think it makes sense to spend a couple of seconds double-checking that the information you enter is spelling mistake free and properly presented.
You can, of course, correct most things later, but I think it’s worth getting it right at the first go. My main pet hates in other LinkedIn users’ profiles are:
- wEIrDo cAPTITAlIsAtIoN, e.g. names or job titles written entirely in CAPITALS
- Strange punc.tuation – surely your name is, for example, “Albert Dumbledore” and not “Albert. Dumbledore.” or “Albert Dumbledore..”
- Spelling mistakes in job titles – What does being seemingly unable to spell your job title correctly say about your work, I wonder?
Creating your profile and building your network – the basics:
Before you start completing your profile, I recommend having a quick read through LinkedIn’s own “Ten Tips on Building a Strong Profile“ page, which is full of useful information.
Don’t feel like you’ve got to do all of it at once – I suggest you start with the basics and focus on the following sections:
- Your profile picture: LinkedIn isn’t Facebook or MySpace, so your profile picture should reflect your professional persona. Don’t necessarily upload your CV picture, but make sure that the picture you use allows your connections to imagine you in your professional setting. People often compare online networking to attending a real life cocktail party – you wouldn’t walk into a cocktail party wearing pyjamas…
- Current & past positions: In chronological order, list your current and past positions. For the beginning, it’s absolutely fine just to list your job title, hotel/company name and the time you served for each position. I’ll be touching on ways to fine-tune your profile in one of my next LinkedIn-related posts.
- Education:Again in chronological order, list the universities and schools you attended.
- Additional Information: Here’s your chance to add links to your company, your own website, your blog or indeed any other website you feel you connections might be interested in. You can also add additional information regarding any training courses you took part in, awards you or your hotel has won or anything else related to your professional life and, of course, you can list your hobbies and details of memberships in professional organisations, clubs or societies.
You now have your basic profile in place and can start making connections. There are various ways of making connections and here are just a few I find work best:
- If you are using Outlook, either at work or at home, consider downloading the LinkedIn Outlook toolbar – a similar tool also exists for Lotus Notes users. Once installed, these handy widgets will tell you who in your address book is already a LinkedIn member and allow you to connect with them at the click of a button. You’ll also be able to access a variety of other useful LinkedIn services directly from your email client.
- You can also import connections from your webmail or other email clients’ address books and LinkedIn will show you who in your address book is already registered on LinkedIn, so you can send them an invitation to connect. Be careful when “mass importing” and inviting people from your email address book – if, for example, you have your friend’s name saved as “My old chum Brian” in your email address book and you invite him to join LinkedIn and he accepts the invitation then “My old friend Brian” is what Brian will turn up as in your LinkedIn connections list until you manually correct it. Occasionally, this leads to some amusingly (and some embarrassingly) named users being added to LinkedIn users’ connection lists.
- Personally, I do not like inviting people en masse and I prefer to send out individual invites, thus growing my network slowly and steadily. This approach should also avoid too many of the invited users clicking the dreaded “I don’t know”-button – at the bottom of every LinkedIn connection request a user receives are three buttons labelled “Accept”, “I don’t know this user” and “Archive”. The first one is obvious, but there’s some confusion in regards to the other two. Basically, clicking “Archive” will simply archive the invitation without telling the person who invited you that you have done so (there is no option to delete invitations or messages on LinkedIn, so archiving is the only way to get them out of your LinkedIn inbox) – clicking “I don’t know this user” will do the same, but the person who sent you the invitation will receive an invisible “black mark” and if too many people click “I don’t know this user” as a response to your invitations, you will temporarily lose the right to send out further invitations.
- When inviting other LinkedIn users to connect, it is generally good form to customize your invitations accordingly so that they know why you want to connect with them.
- Try and build your network strategically – just think of it as working towards achieving the optimum occupancy mix in a hotel. Start by maybe inviting some of your colleagues from your current job or previous companies you worked for, then add some business partners, suppliers and other people you are dealing with frequently – let your network evolve naturally and don’t feel like you need to achieve the world record for the highest number of connections in the shortest space of time.