LinkedIn is hailed the most important professional social network on the internet, with more than 250million users spread across 200 countries. It is perhaps most useful for job seekers, recruiters and individuals looking to network and/or build their own profile online. That said, there is an avenue for organisations and brands to represent themselves, and the site has recently boosted its representation of higher education establishments.
Like most social networks, when you join LinkedIn you will then be prompted to create a personal profile. The difference with LinkedIn is that this profile tends to act as an online CV and is structured around your work experience and key skills rather than just being about your interests.
LinkedIn allows you to engage with other users and ‘connect’ with them – which is similar to adding someone as a friend on Facebook. LinkedIn makes it very easy to find new connections, and grades other users with a connection degree – 1st degree connections are those you’ve already connected with, 2nd degree connections are people who are connected to one of your 1st degree connections but with whom you have not yet connected and so on.
LinkedIn has functionality for groups and company pages. Groups are spaces in which professionals and experts can share content, ask for advice, post or search for jobs and network with others. They are tailored to brands, associations and societies, support groups, causes, publications and industries in general.
Company pages contain general information, often having a similar look and feel to Facebook pages. Many companies also choose to list job openings on their pages.
The business case
As well as the obvious benefits for personal networking and career development, LinkedIn has definitely shown some worth for those working in higher education. Potentially one of the most useful aspects is to find and connect with alumni, either through personal connections or by creating groups for alumni to join. This could lead to extremely valuable contacts for your department.
Another strong use of LinkedIn would be to help your students as they prepare to search for jobs. LinkedIn allows them to connect with their tutors, advisors, fellow students and alumni, as well using company pages and groups to find out more about particular organisations and what life working for them might be like. This is alongside the fact that you search for jobs and graduate placements on LinkedIn.
Complete your profileIf you are creating an account on LinkedIn, it is worth filling your profile with as much information as possible to help you find the most useful connections. This means adding information about your current job, some previous positions, a profile photo and at least five skills, amongst others. The same ethos goes for creating a company page – fill it with plenty of information.
Don’t update too oftenA big part of LinkedIn etiquette is to not spam your connections and followers. This means only sharing really interesting content that will be relevant to your audience, and not posting too many updates. One a day is enough.
Update consistentlyWhile you may only be posting around once a day, make sure you do this consistently to help keep your page content fresh and to show your audience that you are still there – this goes for every social network really.
Don’t spamSpamming is particularly frowned upon on LinkedIn and can lead to pages being deleted, group membership being revoked etc. Don’t do it!