While this post is a beginner’s guide, I have tried to insert a few pearls that might enhance everyone’s experience, even sophisticated users of LinkedIn.
For those of you curious as to exactly what LinkedIn is I stole the following italicized text directly from the site:
LinkedIn is an interconnected network of experienced professionals from around the world, representing 150 industries and 200 countries. You can find, be introduced to, and collaborate with qualified professionals that you need to work with to accomplish your goals… in a global connected economy, your success as a professional and your competitiveness as a company depends upon faster access to insight and resources you can trust.
When you join, you create a profile that summarizes your professional expertise and accomplishments. You can then form enduring connections by inviting trusted contacts to join LinkedIn and connect to you. Your network consists of your connections, your connections’ connections, and the people they know, linking you to a vast number of qualified professionals and experts. Through your network you can:
• Manage the information that’s publicly available about you as professional
• Find and be introduced to potential clients, service providers, and subject experts who come recommended
• Create and collaborate on projects, gather data, share files and solve problems
• Be found for business opportunities and find potential partners
• Gain new insights from discussions with likeminded professionals in private group settings
• Discover inside connections that can help you land jobs and close deals
• Post and distribute job listings to find the best talent for your company
OK, I’m back.
When I spoke at the Vision Monday conference I addressed a room full of eye care professionals. Had I wanted to meet any of them, it would be easy to walk up and introduce myself. However, 99.9% of the time I am not in a room with 300 other eye care professionals. If I want to meet someone inside or outside of my industry I could contact them via email and hope the email doesn’t go into a junk mail folder or get deleted by accident or perhaps, on purpose. The ideal situation would be to have a trusted friend or business associate in common who can make the connection. In regular life, these connections are hidden. As a member of LinkedIn, these connections are revealed.
The following link takes you to an excellent, short video that further describes the value of LinkedIn. Please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzT3JVUGUzM  before you read on.
Now, let’s set up your LinkedIn profile.
On the LinkedIn Homepage http://www.linkedin.com/  go to the box titled “Join LinkedIn Today”. I recommend using your business email, not personal. Fill out your “professional profile” as you want it to appear to business contacts. Take advantage of the screen that asks you to “search email contacts” as it will help to populate your profile with people you know already using LinkedIn and allow you to determine interconnections immediately.
Login and click the “profile” button on top. On the left side of the screen you will see an “edit my profile” section. It is VERY important that you take the time to craft these sections carefully. This is the area where first impressions are made. Be sure to fill in areas of “position,”“education,”“websites” and leave “twitter” blank unless you already utilize twitter as that will be the subject matter for a follow up post. At the bottom is a link to your “public profile.” You can click this link to view how your LinkedIn profile appears to others, and how it will eventually appear when someone does a Google search for you. On the right side of the page is a box called “profile completion tips.”
This is a guide to show you how completely you have completed your LinkedIn profile. The more complete your profile, the more exposure you will get on LinkedIn. You can visit my profile as an example of how your profile should look and be sure to invite me as a contact when you do!
Go to the “contacts” tab next. If you use a standard email suffix such as @yahoo.com or @aol.com, LinkedIn will search your email accounts for contacts already on LinkedIn and populate your contact list. To connect with other people, type in their emails in the “enter email address” box on the right of the contacts page. Your invites will have to be accepted for them to become a contact. Populating your LinkedIn with contacts is important, the more direct contacts you have, the more connections you will be able to discover.
Next tab over is the “groups” tab. This is the area sophisticated users of LinkedIn use to network, find information and build the reputation of their business, and the area that you will link to from your social network the most. The profile is basically static, you can connect with thousands of people if you want, but your active communication occurs through the “groups” section. The first thing you want to do is join groups relevant to discussions you have an interest in being part of. We will go to the “search groups” box on the upper left hand side of the “groups directory” tab page and type in the keyword “eye care” to see what comes up. One of the top groups for this particular search is “Eye Care Executives.” Click “join group” on the right side of the page, choose your preference for receipt of group communications and you will receive a message of pending approval for group membership. Once you have been accepted you can enter the group and view tabs for “recent activities,”“recent discussions” and “most comments.” Tabs at the top publicize group-related news and job postings in the field.
You also have an opportunity to start a discussion within the group with the “start a discussion” tab. You will want to start your own discussions or participate in existing discussions when you start LinkedIn as it increases your profile within the site and within search engines, allows you to start networking and helps you familiarize yourself with how people interact with one another and how to navigate the site in general.
I encourage everyone to create their business “group” by going to the “groups” tab on the top, click “my groups” and then “create a group.” Be sure to invite your LinkedIn connections to participate in your group and, to keep it interesting and growing, update it regularly with new discussions such as eyecare topics, things that are happening at your practice etc.
An example of what will happen when your network is large enough is you will take an article you wrote, perhaps on your website or blog and recreate a teaser in your LinkedIn profile, including a link back to the original article. People who are intrigued by your teaser will click the link and end up at your website. When search engines recognize the connection between LinkedIn and your website it increases your relevance for that particular topic within its algorithms, moving you higher in internet searches for that particular topic – this is one example of what “optimization” means for those of you who have heard the term “Search Engine Optimization” (SEO). It is these types of connections we will be attempting to increase for you, thus increasing your visibility in searches so patients are more likely to find you. This is the major reason to participate in social media suites and will be the topic of a future blog post.
You now are set up on LinkedIn and can start familiarizing yourself. One of our future posts will describe how to use LinkedIn in conjunction with other social media suites to maximize your followers and establish you as a leader in your LinkedIn network; someone people networked to you think of when they need eye care and someone who is sought throughout the network for your expertise. There is much more functionality to the website than I can describe here, so please message me through SightNation with questions or comments.
Intellectually, LinkedIn is a major technological leap forward for society. Never in history were connections made visible via any other technology. LinkedIn brings tremendous value to any social network and is the most popular site that brings both B2B and B2C to the table in one network.
- Alan N. Glazier, OD, FAAO
Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care
Twitter Handle: @EyeInfo