Question of the day…. Are you on LinkedIN?

Statistically you are way more likely to respond positively to that than you would have been 12 months ago. LinkedIn has seen growth of 65 % increasing from 48 million members to 79 million in the year to March 2011 (now at over 100 million). In roughly the same period LinkedIn staff numbers went from 500 to 1000.

Over half of the members are outside of the US – proving the network is truly global

Not bad considering the network started in early 2003 – but the signs were always there from the start with 4500 members joining in the first month. I can only hope my women in business group has a fraction of that membership this month – our first month (check out GMCWomen under Groups in LinkedIN and @GMCWomen on Twitter)

Nice touch from the boss too when they reached their 100 million member marker. I (and quite a few others) got an email from Reid Hoffman – founder of LinkedIN – thanking me for being one of the first several thousand members back in 2003.

So – how can you use LinkedIn to best effect?

Well – it is an amazing tool, that can be used for research, for launching new products, for great CRM, for meeting other like minded people. But – it is only as good as the effort you put into it and the size and quality of your network.

Now there are some LinkedIn trainers and “experts” out there who will tell you to only link with people you know.

Well – that’s a bit like going to a network meeting and only speaking to people that you already know. If someone wants to link with you – start a conversation with them and yes – accept them in your network – why wouldn’t you??? You obviously should not recommend people you do not know – but what is the problem with having them in your network? You never know who they know and who they can put you in touch with.

Also – you MUST have a photo on your profile. Using the example of the networking meeting again (because that IS what LinkedIn is – an online place to network) – you would not go to a network meeting with a bag on your head would you?

We are entering a new era – where social media and the voice of the people has a much bigger effect than it ever has. You want people to be talking about you and in a positive way – and you want to maximise the referrals and recommendations you get.

So, make sure your profile reflects this. Tell people what you do – and think about how you use your profile info. Instead of saying you are a Director of a printing firm for example – say – you specialise in helping people brand and market their business effectively in printed media, or you help your clients make a “wow” impression with their business cards when meeting new contacts.

This makes you more interesting straight away and starts to differentiate you from your competition.

Have you got clients who love you? Then make sure they have all given you testimonials – if someone checks out your profile and it has 20 testimonials on it – all from real people (because you can’t give an anonymous testimonial on LinkedIN) – and your competitor doesn’t have a single testimonial – or doesn’t even have a profile – which company is most likely to receive the enquiry.

Need a list of all the purchasing managers in the North West – you can do that through LinkedIn.
Need to hire someone with very niche skills – you can get a list of those from LinkedIN.

There are so many ways to use the system – but it starts with opening your mind, understanding that LinkedIN has reached critical mass and is now seen as an essential business tool – and like the Lottery – you have to be in it to win it.

If you need any help with your LinkedIN profile, how to use it to build your personal network, generate new business or do research – contact – we can put you in touch with a colleague who generates ½ million quid a year through LinkedIN.