LinkedIn gets a lot of attention because of its value to job seekers. But this social-networking site for businesspeople is not just for those seeking employment. LinkedIn is also valuable to those who already have jobs or businesses and want to network to expand opportunities, and share and gather information. eBay sellers and other e-commerce merchants will find many ways to connect with people who can help their businesses in some way, whether that person is a buyer, supplier or someone with a similar business.
When we last wrote about LinkedIn for Auctiva EDU, about two years ago, there were 32 million members. Now there are 85 million. Not only has LinkedIn grown its membership base spectacularly, there is a host of new features for you to explore. Some of the older tools have been improved as well.
LinkedIn solidly keeps its place as the best site for business networking, it's just more so! Since we wrote that first article, no new must-be-on sites have arrived to compete with or supplant LinkedIn. This is actually good, because it's easy to become frustrated and distracted trying to stay current with all the new choices in social media sites. To keep it easier, LinkedIn is still where businesspeople need to be.
Because we want to share only the newest information with you, we'll trust you to get the details on starting with LinkedIn from that first article. Here we focus on the site's latest features from the viewpoint of eBay and other ecommerce sellers.
You should be revising your profile regularly as your e-commerce 'story' changes
New ways to enhance your profile
On LinkedIn you start with your profile—one that the site tells you when it's 100-percent complete—and you go from there. Think of it this way: Suppose you moved into a brand-new house on a previously undeveloped lot. You'd have a lot of landscape work to do. There may well be no grass or trees yet, or bushes, or flowers. But the lawn would be the place to start since that frames everything else. That's your foundation. On LinkedIn, your profile is your "lawn," in that everything emanates from there. Without a good profile you're at big disadvantage.
You should be revising your profile regularly as your e-commerce "story" changes, such as product lines opening and changing, and the addition of new facilities, new employees and even new exclusive product sources. The fact that there are now new sections you can add to your profile is another great reason to consider revisiting. The new profile sections are:
- Publications: Have you written a book, an article or white paper that helps establish your credibility in your niche? If so, now you can list those here.
- Languages: If you're fluent in more than one language, this broadens your appeal as a business partner. Here's where you can list all the languages you speak, so the information is highlighted on your profile and, therefore, to LinkedIn's 85 million users.
- Skills: If you were looking for a job as a programmer, it would be important for potential employers to know you're proficient in Java. You'd share that here. As an e-commerce merchant you may not have programming skills, but since we all have areas of expertise, use this part of your profile to call these out.
- Certifications: Likewise, you may have earned certifications or licenses. For example, perhaps you've earned your certificate as an eBay Education Specialist. Now you have a place to highlight that on your LinkedIn profile.
- Patents: OK, so you may not have any patents to your name, but it's possible. We've worked with eBay sellers who have invented things and then sold them. For example, one seller we knew, who sold pipe and cigar accessories, saw a need for a portable and durable case for fishermen, hunters and other outdoorsmen to carry tobacco supplies. He invented a special weatherproof case and began selling it exclusively.
Finally, you can now further customize your profile by changing the order in which things are presented. For example, suppose you want to highlight your popular blog. Or, suppose you have tremendous testimonials from former customers. You can move these parts of your profile near the top for greater emphasis just by dragging and dropping the appropriate section headers.
Supersized company profiles
The Companies section, which provides some information about companies you won't find elsewhere, was in Beta the last time we wrote about LinkedIn. Now it's fully blossomed, featuring more than 1 million Company Profiles, including many more features than before. For example, you can now "follow" companies that interest you. You just click on the Follow button on the profile's main page. Then, developments within that company become part of your LinkedIn news stream. These may include announcements and other news, but also new hires, promotions and other developments. eBay sellers can follow suppliers, major competitors, auction sites, e-commerce sites and so on. You can use this data in all sorts of ways, such as to note how quickly competitors are adding staff.
Do you have a Company Profile for your own business? They're not just for the big guys. Small and medium-sized businesses are welcome to create Company Profiles, and you should, too, as the case for doing so is more compelling than ever. With the addition of the new Products and Services tab within your Company Profile you can showcase, well, new products and services. The products aspect of the feature is apparent, but your services could include eBay seminars, trading assistant services, or something relevant to your particular area of expertise. This is a free way to advertise your brand. You can also include recommendations from other LinkedIn members, and they become your "brand ambassadors." For further details, see this entry from LinkedIn's blog. LinkedIn also provides an online manual all about developing this part of your company profile.
When you update your status on LinkedIn, that new status can automatically be sent as a tweet to your followers
Enhanced sharing features
The walls are coming down among social media sites (well, some of those walls, at least) as the people who run them realize formal relationships can be beneficial. One of the best examples is LinkedIn and Twitter. Their new partnership works this way: When you update your status on LinkedIn, that new status can automatically be sent as a tweet to your followers. The same goes for new tweets—they can be sent via your status box to your LinkedIn connections. Of course, this means you need to be sure your tweets are business-related if they are not already. Here's LinkedIn's official blog entry about the new partnership.
Also, you can now specify who sees your updates (for example, your connections or just the people and groups you specify). So if you have news of a new development in your eBay business, you can be sure that only those who would be interested in such news receive it.
LinkedIn has a handy People Search feature, but with so many millions of members and counting, it's more challenging than ever to find new members to connect with.
Fortunately, you can now conduct more exacting searches. The Faceted Search enhancement lets you refine your search by current company, past company, relationship, location, industry, school and profile languages. There's a lot more to Faceted searching and it's all covered in this blog entry.
New group features
LinkedIn's Groups area allows you to start and join groups relevant to your eBay business, or just about anything else for that manner. You start with the Group Directory and search by keyword for Groups of interest. Once you've joined a group you can use the share box to broadcast links to articles and news items of interest to Group members.
The Groups area has an enhanced look and feel. You can more easily browse through discussions and updates. You can also more easily identify the content the Group as a whole has found the most useful, as members can now "like" or comment on ongoing discussions. The details are here. Before we leave the Groups area we wanted to mention the new Promotions tab that's part of the Groups area now. Use this area to promote anything you'd like regarding your eBay business.
With all these new enhancements, you might think that LinkedIn has become more complicated than ever. Not so. Yes, there are millions of new members, and some great new features. Fortunately, as LinkedIn is adding these things to its site it's also been working to make its site easier to use, through the improved layout of its pages, placement of navigation bars, and the creation of new navigation tools (i.e., Local Navigation) within Groups and other areas. Here's more on new ways to navigate LinkedIn.
So LinkedIn is bigger and better than ever. This means members have an even better tool at their disposal. It also means that if you're not on LinkedIn yet, or not taking advantage of all the latest enhancements, you're missing out on even more.