Friday, December 02, 2005

Growing LinkedIn Groups for Alumni

Lately I’ve taken a little time to increase the number of people in one of my alma mater’s LinkedIn Groups for alumni. My motivation to do so is to:

  1. Increase the number of people already in LinkedIn that can have the option to contact directly.
  2. Increase the number of people joining LinkedIn.
  3. Increase the reputation and value of being an alumnus of this university.

The last is little fuzzy, I admit, but basically what I’m trying to say is that if alumni are able to be more successful as a result of being in LinkedIn, then that will help the reputation of the university (which in turn will help me as an alumnus of the university).

This school has about 30,000 students enrolled at any given time, has been around for over a hundred years, yet has a LinkedIn Group for alumni which only has less than 400 members. That means that there are a LOT of alumni who could benefit from joining the group.

So how did I go about recruiting alumni? I searched Yahoo! Groups and MySpace to find every group related to my university that I could possibly join (without misrepresenting myself), and joined (well, I did skip a number of them which had less than 20 members). I then posted a message about the LinkedIn Group for alumni.

What’s important to note is how I wrote the messages. Some of my first messages got pegged as spam by the moderator. To avoid being labeled as a spammer by the hosting service, moderator, and/or group members, I found that I had to tone down my enthusiasm for LinkedIn to avoid the appearance of just being a person trying to sell something. Also, for all groups I tweaked the message to fit the group.

For MySpace, I tweaked forum postinggs quite a bit for each group , to ensure I wouldn’t get targeted by the hosting service for posting the same message to multiple groups.

In my message, I don’t explain much about LinkedIn or how it could be used. Again, I don’t want to be pegged as a spammer by being too enthusiastic, and all of the information could be overwhelming. I think if I can get a good number of people to just join as a group member with 0 connections and a basic profile, then that’s a great start. As these newbies hear about LinkedIn from other sources and get invitations to connect from their trusted contacts who find them already registered, then they’ll start to realize more of the potential of LinkedIn. I’ve noticed that a lot of people won’t send invitations to connect to their trusted contacts unless their trusted contacts are already in LinkedIn. Getting someone registered in LinkedIn via a group gets passed that first obstacle for people connecting.

One last comment before I show you the latest iteration of my message template: Please don’t try to join a LinkedIn Group for a university alumni group to which you don’t belong. If you do so, you’re just adding more work for the person who has to research and reject your request.

Here is some advice for job hunting. When considering any job, it can be helpful to have informational interviews with people who work at your target organization to find out what it is like to work there, and what it takes to get through the hiring process.

LinkedIn is a service which allows you to search through the profiles of over 4.2 million professionals worldwide. With a basic free account, you can contact many of these people to get an inside connection at organizations in which you are interested. Anyone can join at LinkedIn:

On top of the basic free service available to everyone, XXXX sponsors a LinkedIn Group for XXXX alumni, which appears to be open to those nearing graduation as well. This LinkedIn Group enables you to directly access almost 400 alumni. To sign up, go to XXXX

LinkedIn is a great tool for strengthening student and alumni connections to help each other out, whether you use it for job hunting, finding business contacts, offering your services, etc.

If you would like to learn more about how to grow your professional contact network using LinkedIn, see [UPDATE April 27, 2015: I disabled the hyperlink to my site because my LinkedIn Tips were mostly obsolete, so I deleted them. There are now plenty of resources on the Internet for advice about using LinkedIn.]

Best regards,

Rick Upton XXXX University Class of '##

Friday, November 18, 2005

New OpenLink Messages and OpenLink Network

Today, LinkedIn rolled out two new features for premium service subscribers: OpenLink Messages and OpenLink Network.

OpenMessages offers a way to pay to receive messages from anyone in the LinkedIn network, without exposing personal contact information such as email address. Contrast this feature with InMails, which enable paying customers to send messages to anyone in the LinkedIn network.

The OpenMessages feature is available to all premium members as an option. Those who would like to be available to contact from anyone can opt in, while those who would like to only receive InMails or introductions through shared connections can choose to not receive OpenMessages. Each OpenMessage sent counts towards the member's pending introduction limit.

Those that do opt for OpenMessages are given the opportunity to join the OpenLink Network. This network is like a special LinkedIn group: Members of the OpenLink network may select membership in this group as a search criteria.

While many people are attracted to LinkedIn due to the way it can be configured to only allow incoming messages from trusted contacts, some people don't want incoming messages being limited by trusted connections and InMail limitations.

As a premium service subscriber, I have opted in for both of these new services. It will be interesting to see if I receive any addition introductions as a result.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Avoiding Discrimination in LinkedIn

Are you missing out on employment opportunities because of your name? Studies in the United States and France have shown a remarkable difference in being contacted due to name alone.

In the U.S., the study Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination found that resumes submitted with "White sounding names" are 50% more likely to receive a callback for an interview than "African-American ones".

In France, a study conducted by the Observatoire des Discriminations found that a resume with a "standard French name" produced 140 responses, while the same resume with a North African-sounding name yielded 14 responses.

What can you do to avoid discrimination by name? In LinkedIn, one thing you can do is to choose to only show the first letter of your last name to those who are not directly connected to you. To do this:
  1. Click "My Profile" tab.
  2. To the right of your name, click "Edit Basics".
  3. Under "Privacy" header in the middle of the page, select your first name and last initial from the pull down menu labeled "Display my name as".
  4. Click "Update Information" at the bottom of the page.
Of course, there is a downside to only showing your last initial. People browsing though the site that know your name may not recognize your profile when they see it during a search or browsing other people's connections, so you may miss out on being contacted by someone who might otherwise notice your profile and contact you.

Once you accept an invitation or connection from someone, they'll be able to see your full last name. At this point, the person may decide to discriminate against you based on your name. On the other hand, whatever they saw in your profile to motivate them to contact you may outweigh an inclination to discriminate based on name. Contrast that to the person who sees a last name and then never reads the profile.

Some will argue that they have pride in their name and wouldn't want to hide it, and shouldn't have to hide it. Others will argue that they wouldn't want to work for an employer that employs someone who discriminates. I respect those that feel either way.

In a related posting on my Santa Clara MBA blog, I propose that LinkedIn can be used by hiring managers to increase the diversity of candidates for a position.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Build Your Business with Liz Ryan's Ten LinkedIn Tips

Liz Ryan of WorldWit recently shared with the Yahoo! Group MyLinkedInPowerForum the following ten ways to build your business, to which I've added bracketed introductory sentences for some of the tips.

  1. When you have significant news in your business - for instance, a big product launch or a joint venture - use LinkedIn to notify your contacts by way of a profile update. And in your accompanying email message to the network, say "I would love to catch up with you - want to make time for a phone call?" It's that keeping-up process that sparks conversations about opportunities both for you and your contacts. It's in these conversations (which could be done by email, although probably not as well) that ideas will arise about prospective clients, partnerships, and other revenue-generating projects.
  2. Use LinkedIn to understand the relationships between people you know and people you want to know. For me, this is the heart of LinkedIn's value - the ability to see at a glance how people you don't know, but would like to, are connected to people who are closer to you. So when you find Mr. Lofty Dude in the LI network and realize that he used to work with your former admin assistant - a data point you almost certainly wouldn't have acquired on your own - you can reach out to the admin and get, not only an introduction, but some intelligence about Mr. Dude's current dealings, needs, and hot buttons.
  3. Connect, by all means, with your former colleagues from every company that has ever employed you. There is something about old-workmate ties (unless you, er, aren't the sort that former teammates think of fondly) that can't be duplicated in most relationships of shorter duration. Seek out these old workmates, tell them what you're up to and who you're most interested in meeting, and offer to help them out as well. One good lead would be worth the price of LI membership - oh wait, it's free - or anyway worth the price of your time doing LI searching and connecting.
  4. [Introduce yourself to people working at companies related to your target company.] Let's say that you would dearly like to work with General Motors, but you can't find anyone at GM who seems especially suitable for contact as you search the LinkedIn database. No problem. Find a current GM vendor or customer in the functional area you're interested in, and reach out to him or her. Is there something of value that you could offer in exchange for the introduction you want? In an ideal world, your sterling qualities and dazzling personality should convince this new acquaintance that introducing her client to you is something of value all by itself. But don't bank on that. Offer to extend an invitation of your own, or design his or her new database, or something.
  5. Use the LI database to understand more about your prospects. This is the beauty of LI - what other source will tell you where many or all of the senior execs of your prospect organizations used to work (given that only half a dozen of them have profiles on the company's website)? Let's say that you want to do some work for ABC Company. And lo and behold, half the ABC execs worked for PayPal back in the day and the other half worked for FedEx. Great intelligence! You see that they have a strong Notre Dame alum thing going on, and some connection to Stanford as well. Now you can use your FedEx and PayPal alum contacts, your Notre Dame folks and your Stanford fellows to help you get 'over the wall.'
  6. [Reach out with a targeted and tailored introduction.] You wouldn't email a complete stranger, even if you obtained his business card (say, by stealing the win-a-free-lunch goldfish bowl of business cards at P.F. Chang's) to say "Hey, why not buy some stuff from me?" So please don't reach out to new LI contacts by saying "Maybe you could help me make a new-business contact." I wouldn't recommend that. Instead, read this intended contact's profile. Let's say you are reaching out to me, who runs an online community. Two seconds of reading my profile would give you some ideas of things that might interest me. I guarantee that a typical working person could offer me something I'd be interested in. So, when you make your LI outreach, mention that thing that you could offer! Write "I would love to connect by phone, both because I'm interested in your relationship with [my most-desirable prospect company] and because I have great friends in the social networking community whom you should know." Bingo.
  7. [Consider the value of your contacts for others.] Many people in the business community, especially avid networkers, have numerous connections that don't do any (short-term, revenue-generating) good for them personally but that could be invaluable to their new networking contacts. Think about these valuable contacts as you reach out to people whom you hope might help you. For instance, I know lots of headhunters who have great media contacts - contacts I would drool over - journalists who regularly call them up for insights on the job market. Unfortunately, apart from occasionally mentioning in her stories that Joe Recruiter says that the job market is looking up, the journalist can't do much for Joe - she isn't going to write a profile on him any time soon, for instance. But she might write a profile on someone that Joe has just met through LI. Of course, Joe wouldn't throw around her name carelessly - but he might say, "You know, I can't guarantee anything, but for your kindness today I'd be happy to introduce you to my friend, an editor at the San Jose Mercury News, who might be interested to talk with you." Rock on.
  8. [Tap into the "mother lode of shared knowledge" for your area of interest.] When you spot a cluster of people on LI who all know one another and are all accomplished in the same arena, that's a really special thing. It means that a group of folks who perhaps worked together, or met online, or are part of a group together, represent a kind of mother lode of shared knowledge around a particular area - say, SEO or CRM or German opera. That's huge, because jointly, these folks may comprise the lion's share of the current thinking on the topic. You can reach out via LinkedIn to one of them, and say, "You know, I'm trying to get up to speed on the operas of Handel. Might I sent you an email message with some of my key questions, and ask whether you wouldn't mind sharing your thoughts with me and also forwarding my message to your friend Jack Sprat, who could undoubtedly add a valuable perspective?" With luck, in the case of an inquiry like this, you are able to repay these experts' valuable time with a gift of some kind (perhaps tickets to the opera). But many such people would refuse any compensation at all. It makes a huge difference how you present your situation and how graciously you pose your request. So much depends on good manners, doesn't it?
  9. Leverage Google News Alerts. LinkedIn in combination with Google News Alerts makes a great business tool. Let's say you are looking to talk to folks at Fidelity who work in one product area. Use LI to find a name (or two or three names) of people at Fidelity who seem relevant to your situation, and whom you'd like to reach. Set up a Google News Alert on Fidelity, and set one up with the target person's name (or a few names) so that you can learn when he or she has been quoted, is speaking on a panel, etc. This kind of intelligence will tell you what's currently on the plate of this person, the issues he or she cares about, etc. What's more flattering than an LI outreach message that says "I was so sorry to miss your speech at the Financial Muckety-Mucks Summit, but I was fortunate enough to read your thoughts on petro-dollars on and to catch your NPR interview last week." Dang! Be diligent, but be careful that you don't sound like a business stalker.
  10. [Make reconnecting to former clients smooth.] Vendors like to reach out to former clients, and that's good, but it can be awkward when you haven't kept up and have no idea what the former client is now up to. But of course, if you've got the contact info, thanks (let's say) to Plaxo, you're going to use it! LinkedIn solves the problem. Presto, you can track what your former client has been doing since you last saw him - no awkwardness. On top of that, instead of an open-ended "let's catch up" message, you can say "Wow! You're at Fidelity! You know, I see that you've only been in the job a few months, so we should definitely talk. It so happens that I've become something of an expert on Fidelity lately......" Now, that's power networking!
Thank you Liz for sharing!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Motivating People to Use LinkedIn

If you're trying to motivate other to use LinkedIn, you may find as I have that different people require different pitches to get them interested.

I find that people seeking jobs are the easiest to motivate. I show them how they can use LinkedIn to connect to people in the industries, companies, fields, and/or geographic areas that interest them. For example, a search on the keywords “Venture Capital” yields over 500 hits in LinkedIn for me.

For those not seeking a job, you can try other pitches, such as the ability to find contacts for business alliances, partnerships, sales pitches, recruiting, etc.

Finally, you can share the saying that it’s better to build your network before you need it rather than when you need it. People are much more likely to help you in your time of need if you were available for them before you needed help.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

A Potential Drawback to Connecting to Superconnectors

LinkedIn superconnectors are people who have connected to very many people, including people they don't know personally, to enable themselves and the people to whom they are connected to be able to reach a large number of people through "trusted connections".

With the introduction of LinkedIn's new InMail feature, anyone can reach anyone as long as they are willing to buy access to do so.

Since introductions via trusted connections are free, you may wonder, why not connect to as many superconnectors as possible? What's the downside?

Here's one drawback: If you have a very strong trusted network to a person three degrees out, and you connect to a superconnector who is directly connected to your target, then you've lost your strong connection path to the target. This is because LinkedIn will only give you the option to send an introduction to your target via the shortest path, in this case two degrees via the superconnector.

For example, say you want to connect with someone about a new business venture, and you find the perfect person to whom you'd like to make a pitch.

If your target is a third degree connection, then you'll send your introduction request to your first degree connection. Your first degree connection an add comments such as "I've known the person initiating this request for 20 years, and have known him to always work deals in that are fair, ethical, and profitable for all involved." Your first degree connection will then forward your introduction to his or her connection who is your second degree connection. Your second degree connection could add comments to the introduction such as "I've known the person who forwarded this introduction to me for five years, and trust her judgment that the person initiating the request is someone worth talking to."

Contrast the above scenario with an introduction from a superconnector. What could it say? Something like: "Please consider the attached introduction."

So a person receiving an introduction via a strong trusted network will probably be more likely to accept an introduction with favorable comments than an introduction with little or no comments.

If LinkedIn offered the option to choose among any path to a particular target regardless of whether the path required two or three degrees to get there, this would give you more flexibility to choose stronger connections. However, it may not be in LinkedIn's interest to offer such a feature. LinkedIn promotes connecting to only to people you know very well and trust. By removing a drawback of connecting to a superconnector, there is less incentive to not connect to people who you don't know well and trust.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Why Start a LinkedIn Group?

If you're a member of an organization of any type, and the organization does not yet have a LinkedIn group, here are some reasons why you may want to start such a group (as opposed to just trying to connect to people on an individual basis:
  1. To be able to see the complete profiles of fellow group members not within three degrees of your network.
  2. To more easily find people you already know and trust within LinkedIn, so that you may send an introduction to them to exchange email addresses so that you may then send an invitation to connect.
  3. To be able to send introductions directly to people within your group without having to use more costly and limited InMails.
  4. To offer newbies a way to quickly and easily realize value in LinkedIn. When a newbie joins a LinkedIn group and finds that they are immediately connected to hundreds of people in the group, that is more exciting and motivating than starting in LinkedIn with a single connection, especially if that single connection isn't very well connected themselves.
To find out more about LinkedIn groups, including how to set one up, go to the LinkedIn home page and click LinkedIn for Groups at the very bottom of the page.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Maximum Reach with Minimal LinkedIn Introductions

A little project I'm working on right now is raising awareness about a company alumni Yahoo! Group that I co-moderate. With great success, I'm using LinkedIn to inform former employees about the group.

I've figured out that I should first concentrate on contacting alumni that are three degrees away in LinkedIn by using introductions (Note: An "Introduction" was formerly known as a "Request to Contact").

Why three degrees away first? Because as the introduction to a third degree connection is being passed from my first to my second degree connections, both are being informed of the site as well. Assuming that my first and second degree connections are often alumni as well, I'm often getting my message out to two or three targets using one introduction.

By focusing on third degree introductions first, I should then be able to minimize the number of introductions to second degree connections and the number of emails to first degree contacts since many will already have seen information about the site while forwarding my introductions to third degree connections.

Minimizing the number of LinkedIn introductions is important for three reasons:
  1. LinkedIn has a limit on the number of active (in process) introductions, so less active introductions sent means more opportunities to contact people concurrently.
  2. Creating and processing introductions takes time, so less introductions sent means less time spent by me creating introductions, and less time spent by my first and second degree connections forwarding introductions.
One wrinkle in all of this is that I can't always tell by looking in the Yahoo! Group members list who is and who isn't already a member of the group. This is because some people have Yahoo! profiles which give no indication of who they are. So it is possible that I will accidentally invite someone to join the group who is already a member.
Another wrinkle is that my alumni group is geographically based. That is, it's only for people who worked in the San Jose area. So while I can search for people by zip code in LinkedIn, it is not always clear if former employees worked at another location before moving to the San Jose area to work for another company. And by searching by zip code, I could be missing out on people who have moved out of the area. So then I have to look for keywords related to particular divisions that are most likely related to San Jose.
Once I finish using LinkedIn to reach out to as many alumni as possible to join the Yahoo! Group, the next step will be to set up a LinkedIn Group for the alumni group. There's always something interesting to do with LinkedIn.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Which Network: LinkedIn, Ryze, Ecademy, Soflow, or openBC?

So you've heard about and maybe even registered for LinkedIn, Ryze, Ecademy, Soflow, or other networks. Why should you register for one and not another?

If you have unlimited time and the interest to do so, you could register for all of the services, then in each service you could create and maintain your profile, and maintain and grow your relationships. Doing so would be very time consuming.

So if your time is limited, you may want to register for each service and fill in minimal profile information for each service. This will enable people who know you to have a chance to search for you by name and find you in each service. With minimal profile information, people might not be able to find you by searching on keywords or other criteria besides your name. This would limit the value of each service, since people who you would want to contact you (such as a recruiter willing to give you a shot at your ideal job) might not be able to find you due to your minimal profile information.

So if you don't time to utilize each service to its maximum capabilities, but want to gain more value than minimal profiles alone can provide, then you'll probably want to pick one service as your primary network. In this primary network, you'll enter and maintain a complete profile and invite others to connect to you.

So which service should you pick as your primary service?

Well, obviously because this blog is about LinkedIn, you'll know my preference. Why do I chooose LinkedIn as my primary service? Here below are the major reasons. Please note that your circumstances and needs may vary wildly from mine, so these reasons may not be applicable or as important for you.

Contacts Already Registered in Service = Easier Connections

After joining a number of networks and filling in minimal profile information, I searched within each service to see who I could find was already registered in each network. Your experience may vary, but in my world of working in the high technology industry and going to both undergraduate and graduate school in Silicon Valley, I found that LinkedIn had by far the most people I knew registered already, more than all of the other networks combined (with the possible exception of, which is not suitable for professional purposes other than to find people you know by name).

For whatever network I chose, I wanted to connect to my trusted contacts in that network, so that they could give me introductions to their contacts that I didn't know. I figured that one factor for success in connecting to my trusted contacts would be if they were already registered for the service in which I was connecting to them. Since they were already registered with the service, I wasn't asking them to take the time to sign up for a new service, and they were already (at least a little bit) familiar with the service so it would take less effort for me to explain the benefits of connecting.

Who Do You Want to Meet?

Another factor in choosing LinkedIn was the quantity and quality of contacts there. When I search for various companies I admire, a search for high level titles such as CEO, VP, etc., or a search for people with skills and experience which intrigue me, I find more profiles of people whom I might like to contact in LinkedIn than in any other service.

So even if none of my trusted contacts were already in LinkedIn, I would have still picked LinkedIn as my primary network into which I would put a lot of effort because the opportunities for possible contacts are outstanding.

To take the point to an extreme, if most of my trusted contacts were using MySpace as opposed to LinkedIn, I don't think I would get more professional value out of MySpace because I had more trusted connections there. (Maybe this is because MySpace is a network in which vulgar language, images of scantily dressed people, and other non-professional content is shown prominently within many profiles. Not exactly a professional environment. I'm registered in MySpace, but have a minimal profile there.)

I don't pitch Soflow because there are so few people registered there compared to LinkedIn. As of today, LinkedIn has over three million users, while Soflow has 11,184. I don't get the impression that the quality of Soflow's users is so great that it overwhelms the quantity and quality of LinkedIn users.

openBC has less users and not as high of quality of users as LinkedIn (at least it appears that way to me). However, for those willing to register in more than network, I recommend openBC as a good secondary network because it appears to have many high-level professional contacts who are not available in LinkedIn. openBC has a global reach, but is particularly strong in its home country of Germany. While trying to find contacts at BMW's headquarters in Munich, I found many more relevant contacts within openBC than LinkedIn. But for all other projects, I have found LinkedIn to be useful and openBC to not be useful at all.

Ease of Use Important for Recruiting Trusted Contacts

When sending a request to someone within a network, it always helps to be introduced by a trusted contact. So it's important to recruit as many of your trusted contacts as you can into whatever network you choose as your primary network. It's easier to recruit a trusted contact when you can give them a demo of the service, and the demo doesn't turn them off.

So to recruit my trusted contacts, I make a sales pitch. This pitch must relay as quickly as possible the functionality and benefits of the service. I don't want to annoy or confuse my trusted contacts by pitching any other networks. So I make only one pitch, and that is for LinkedIn.

LinkedIn's interface communicates a professional image. This avoids turning off people who have no interest in getting involved with a network to make friends, chat, etc. This is important because most of my trusted contacts are not big Internet enthusiasts. Sure, they are computer saavy, but most have no interest in spending a lot of their free time in Yahoo! Groups, writing blogs, using RSS, joining Friendster, making friends online, etc. When I pitch LinkedIn, I make a pitch about how it can help them professionally. LinkedIn's UI and features reinforce my message.

Comparing LinkedIn's UI to Ryze and Ecademy, Ryze and Ecademy have interfaces which are ugly and unprofessional, in my opinion. Ecademy has so many features on its cluttered home page that it's overwhemling; I can't imagine most of my contacts taking the time to figure out how to navigate the site. Ryze, with its home page listing of "friends" and pictures, gives the impression that it's to be used like friendster, which is focused on making friends and dating. This would be a turn off to most of my trusted contacs.

openBC and Soflow both have pleasing and professional interfaces.

Summary and Conclusion

Because many of my trusted contacts were already registered in LinkedIn, I was initially drawn towards using LinkedIn as my primary network service. The quantity and quality of users registered with LinkedIn, and the professionalism of the site sealed the decision for me.

Your experiences and needs may vary from mine, so you may very well find that another service is more beneficial for you. Also, there are other factors that were not discussed above that may have an influence on your decision, including the functionality, privacy protection, and costs of each service.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

How To Email All of Your Direct LinkedIn Contacts

LinkedIn provides an easy way to send an email to all of your contacts, even ones that are not registered in LinkedIn.
  1. Log into LinkedIn.
  2. Click "My Profile" tab.
  3. Click orange area which says "Recently updated your profile? Let your network know...".
  4. Follow the instructions on the "Send Your Updated Profile" page. Note that you can add email addresses for people to whom you are not directly connected.
The premise for this feature is to notify a number of people after you update your profile, but of course you could use it any time for any reason.

Personally, I have never felt comfortable with the idea of sending a mass mailing, be it a LinkedIn profile update or a Christmas card with a newsletter of what I did over the past year. I have always preferred person to person communication.

But I must admit I have used this LinkedIn feature once recently to announce that I had totally overhauled my LinkedIn profile, and to relay news about a lot changes in my life within in a few months period (promotion, graduated with an MBA, became a board member for a non-profit, etc.). I thought if I talked to each person individually about all of these major changes, it would be months before I got to tell some people, and those who I told later might be disappointed that I didn't tell them about all of these changes earlier. So I made an exception and sent my first mass email. I advise that you too only use this feature in exceptional cases. Otherwise, you might find your direct connection count decreasing as your direct connections sever their connection with you.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Finding "Hidden" Colleagues in LinkedIn

Travis K posted the following useful tip to the My LinkedIn Power Forum Yahoo! Group:
I couldn't find anything on this in the archives, but my apologies if someone has noted this before: 
Problem: The "Find Colleagues" function, located under "My Contacts" or on the home page, will only show 50 colleagues at most. Unfortunately it appears to only show the first 50 colleagues that signed up on LinkedIn. If you worked for a larger company, you may have a "window" of missed colleagues between the first 50 and "Find New". I always wondered why I could see former colleagues in my network but I could not find them in my list even if the company in our profiles matched word-for-word. 
Workaround: Select the "Find New" option. You will probably only have a few new LinkedIners in the list. You'll notice that the URL in your browser looks like this:
"lastAnalyzed" is a timestamp indicating a search for the date in which your contacts joined LinkedIn (or your network, not sure). If you modify the fifth digit from the left and slowly reduce the timestamp, you may end up finding colleagues that this tool would never have shown you otherwise. I ended up finding about 10 contacts that I otherwise would have had to initiate requests for. Try this with all the variations of your company names and you may dig up some useful contacts. 
If I missed something and there is a way to find these colleagues using the normal web interface, please let me know. 
Travis K
Thanks to Travis for letting me share this tip on this blog.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Use Viral Marketing to Market Yourself

Viral marketing is a powerful concept that is used by many companies with much success. Yahoo! uses viral marketing in emails sent by Yahoo! Mail users who use its basic email service: Every time a Yahoo! Mail user sends an email using a free account, an advertisement for Yahoo! is appended to the end of the email. This email may get forwarded to numerous other people, who will all have the opportunity to "catch the marketing virus" by seeing the advertisement.

You can put the same concept to work for yourself by appending one or more web addresses (URLs) to the bottom of every email you send. I append anywhere from one to five addresses after my name at the bottom of every email I send. Often one of the addresses I include is my LinkedIn personal profile address:

When someone clicks on this address, they will see my profile if they are logged into LinkedIn. If someone clicks on my profile and they do not have a LinkedIn account, they will reach the LinkedIn home page which will encourage them to register.

So how do you determine your profile's address? Follow these instructions to find out:
  1. Log into LinkedIn.
  2. Click the "My Profile" tab.
  3. In the upper right corner of the Profile Information page, click "View your profile as others see it" link to go to the User Profile page.
  4. Look at the address (URL) for this user profile page. It will look like the following link, but will have a different number at the end:
  5. Copy the address that follows, and paste it into your browser:
  6. Type the number you noted in step 4 to the end of the address of you pasted into the browser, so that you have an address that looks like this:
  7. Press enter in your browser to load the new address that looks like this:
  8. You should now see your profile using this address.
Many email clients allow you to configure a standard "signature" that can be populated into every email you write by default. You may want to edit your signature to include your LinkedIn profile address. For my signatures, I put the addresses in a small font so that they do not appear too obtrusive.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Receiving Invitations from Unknown Persons?

Receiving invitations to connect from people you don't you know? If your strategy is to link to as many people as possible, then you may accept an invitation from just about anyone. LinkedIn, the company, does not advise this strategy, since the intent of the service is for people to create "trusted connections", i.e. connections between people who know and trust each other very well.

Let's say that you don't want to accept an invitation, now what?

You may be tempted to select "Decline", but I advise against it. By clicking "Decline", you close the door to being connected to this person in the future. You may also find that you've burned a bridge, and may regret your decision later.

You may be tempted to not take any action. If you do this, you may receive automated reminders or manually sent reminders to link. Also, the request to connect will show on your home page.

When I receive invitations from people I don't know, I select "Decide Later". This removes the notice of the invitation from my LinkedIn home page, and prevents reminder automated emails from being sent to me. I then send an email to the person who invited me to connect to them. I tell them that I appreciate their invitation, but prefer to only connect to those I know personally. I then extend an invitation to get to know me better, and offer to help in whichever way I can. I then hope the recipient respects my decision.

Do you have a strategy for handling invitations from people haven't met? If you do, please share your strategy by posting comments to this post.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

LinkedIn Only a Tool for within the Larger Networking Process

LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for use within part of the networking process, but is certainly not applicable to the entire process.

Seth Levine has written an extremely useful short series of blog posts about networking (links at end of post). In his Networking 101 post, one of the steps, step 2, is to "exercise your existing network", which involves tracking down people you'd like to meet through people you already know. LinkedIn is perfectly suited for this purpose.

Benedict Casnocha pointed out in one of the comments on Mr. Levine's blog entries that there are some parallels between Mr. Levine and Keith Ferrazzi's networking process. Mr. Ferrazzi may be the ultimate networker. Although Mr. Ferrazzi's style is much too over-the-top for me, I think he offers a lot of great ideas.

Seth Levine's Blog Posts
(Read the comments for valuable information):
Networking 101
Networking 101 Expanded
Here's how you do it

About Keith Ferrazzi:
Meet the MasterMinds: Connecting with Keith FerrazziThe 10 Secrets of a Master Networker
Never Eat Alone

Benedict Casnocha's home page

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Be Found By Anyone in LinkedIn

Note: On August 5, 2005, substantial changes were implemented to the LinkedIn service. This post has been updated on August 9, 2005, to reflect these changes.

Are you concerned that someone is looking for you in LinkedIn, and they won't be able to find you? Maybe someone is looking for your skills set and experience, and would offer you the opportunity of lifetime...but can't because you are out of reach.

The purpose of this post is to outline a quick and easy way to eliminate the risk of missing opportunities to be contacted via LinkedIn.

If you would like to mitigate or eliminate this risk, two solutions are:
1) Make hundreds or thousands of connections to people you don't know to extend your "trusted network", and join many LinkedIn groups.
2) Change a contact setting for your LinkedIn account to allow anyone registered in LinkedIn to see at least some of your profile information.

The first option will take a lot of time sending and receving invitations to join people's networks, and some effort to find and join LinkedIn groups. After you connect to hundreds or even thousands of people and join numerous groups, you will still find that you cannot reach everyone, so the risk of missing an opportunity is mitigated, but not eliminated.

The second option enables anyone to see at least a portion of your profile, but only takes a minute:
1) Log into LinkedIn.
2) Click on the "Settings" link at the top of the home page.
3) Select "Through an Introduction from one of my connections, or directly via InMail™" if it's not already selected.
4) Click "Save Changes" at the bottom of the page.
...and you're done!

By selecting the option above, you can be contacted by anyone in your trusted network and LinkedIn groups, as well as anyone who would like to send you an InMail. InMail is a new feature which allows paying subscribers or single InMail message purchasers to contact you directly without going through a trusted network. Because InMail messages are only available through a paid subscription of $15 per month for three active InMails or $10 per individual InMail, you are protected from spam by the sheer cost of sending you an InMail.

Of course, if you find that you get inundated with InMails, you can always turn the feature off.

Going back to the first option of connecting to hundreds or thousands of people, some will argue that there are other reasons one would want to do this, including increased opportunities to be able to connect to people who can only be reached through a trusted network. But I'll defer discussion of the pros and cons of having numerous contacts for another post on another day.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

LinkedIn Tips: Step-by-Step

Whether you're someone who has just started using LinkedIn or who has been using it for a while, I suggest you check out these LinkedIn Tips. These tips walk you through a step-by-step process of getting started with configuring your account and inviting connections. For those who are new to LinkedIn, I suggest following the steps in the order given. For experienced LinkedIn users, I suggest skimming through each step to see if there any steps you may have missed.

When I first joined LinkedIn, I found the site to be a little overwhelming. There are so many features it can be difficult to figure out where to start exploring. After spending a weekend bouncing around the site in an inefficient manner, I wrote the tips to help others get up to speed in a systematic and efficient manner. With every invitation to connect I send, I include a link to the LinkedIn Tips.

There are a number of other sites with LinkedIn tips, but I think these tips are the only ones which walk you through the process of getting started from scratch.

Blogs for Business

Here is a directory of blogs that includes a category for business networking. I have registered this blog in that category, and found a number of useful blogs listed there as well. The information in many of the blogs is useful regardless of the size of the business you are involved with.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Yahoo! Groups About LinkedIn

I'm a member of four Yahoo! Groups related to LinkedIn:
  1. Linked Innovators
  2. LinkedIn Bloggers
  3. LinkedIn IT
  4. MyLinkedInPowerForum

The first three don't generate a lot of emails, but the fourth is very lively. All of them offer useful information. If you'd like to meet a lot of people using LinkedIn, and read about their strategies for using it, these are good places to do so. There are a lot of confliting opinions offered about the purpose of LinkedIn, and the best way to use it to further one's goals, whatever they may be.

Note that if you post a message to one of these forums and do not state in your post that you are not willing to accept invitations to connect from people you don't know, you will be sent a lot of invitations to connect. Some view this positively, others negatively.

New Blog About LinkedIn Service

I've created this blog to share information relevant to the LinkedIn service. Some postings on this blog were previously posted on my personal blog, and have been moved here to consolidate posts about LinkedIn-related subjects.