For several years I have been using LinkedIn and getting good value from it. For anyone who is not familiar with LinkedIn, it’s a useful site where you can create a professional profile of yourself, almost like an online resume.
These days, few of us get a job for life. Instead, you have to take charge of your own career, and LinkedIn helps you do that. Many entrepreneurs today shift in and out of being employed and then owning our own businesses and back again (read the On Again Off Again Entrepreneur). It’s important to be open to career opportunities at all times and from all directions.
Some of the value I find from LinkedIn includes:
- LinkedIn serves as your online resume. Through LinkedIn you can always be “looking” for a new career opportunity 24/7. Your credentials are logically laid out for the world to see in a profile at LinkedIn.
- You can also go over to LinkedIn to get a quick, immediate snapshot of other peoples’ professional backgrounds. You can see where someone works currently, past work history, the businesses they own, and even the side businesses they run. If I am checking someone out, I immediately check to see if they are on LinkedIn because it is usually the most streamlined place to scan someone’s professional qualifications.
- You can connect with other professionals at LinkedIn. You might wonder, what’s the benefit of connecting? For one thing, you can find service providers if you need them. For another, you can keep track of co-workers, past co-workers, and colleagues. For instance, if you need an email address for one of your connections, you can usually find it there. Some people also include an electronic business card (Vcard) containing other contact details. I have hundreds of contacts in my line of work and despite my best intentions, about 80% of the time I do not update my Outlook contacts file.
- LinkedIn serves as the 21st-century equivalent of the recommendation letter (who uses those anymore, right)? Former employers, colleagues and co-workers can give recommendations.
- LinkedIn notifies you when one of your connections updates his or her profile. That way you can keep up to date on their career moves. And you can keep other people up to speed on your career moves, too.
- You can submit questions (and answer others’ questions) at LinkedIn. This is a way to share knowledge and in the process bring some added visibility to yourself, your business, and your expertise.
And there are a lot more benefits to LinkedIn. Some early adopters may have moved on from LinkedIn to the latest shiny object. However, I find that the mainstream entrepreneurs and professionals are very active in using LinkedIn. I regularly get new connection requests.
That tells me that other business people are finding LinkedIn a valuable and enduring tool. And that is the real test of whether a social networking site is worth your time. It’s not whether the site is the hot fad of the moment (only to cool off just as quickly when another shiny new site comes along). Rather, does it remain useful over the long term?
Enter Facebook into the picture. In the past two months I have been receiving multiple requests to connect in Facebook. I finally took the time this past week to explore Facebook in detail and determine whether it is worth the time to learn it and use it.
I’ve decided Facebook definitely is worthwhile for business owners, entrepreneurs, and other business people.
Do I see Facebook as a replacement for LinkedIn?
Facebook is a different kind of tool, but just as valuable in a different way:
- Facebook is more about seeing the “whole” person — the personal side and some of the professional side, too. You can create a profile of yourself, but I have not seen any profiles that are nearly as detailed about work history as LinkedIn profiles. Also, LinkedIn has specific job-hunting tools that Facebook does not have.
- Facebook, however, facilitates more interactivity with those in your network. For one thing, it allows you to upload photographs, something LinkedIn does not enable.
- Facebook also allows you to add other content to your Facebook page, such as RSS feeds of your blog and Flickr photo streams. That way, others can see what your interests are and see more of what you do in your daily life.
- It is much easier to communicate within Facebook with your network. Facebook shows a running stream of commentary and shows recent events like when you’ve added a new “friend.” You can leave short messages on other people’s pages.
I can see value in both Facebook and LinkedIn. Facebook seems suited for furthering relationships and for getting to know the complete you. LinkedIn is suited for maintaining an online resume of your professional credentials and for finding employers, employees, service providers, and those who can introduce you. My plan is to use both.
What do you think? Do you use or plan to use LinkedIn or Facebook? Will you continue to use them?