By Meryl K. Evans
LinkedIn requires more steps than Facebook when you want to connect to others. Typically, you need to either enter the person's e-mail address or ask a mutual friend to introduce you.
To make the most out of LinkedIn, you need to go beyond "connecting" to people. Go there for Answers or become a groupie with its Groups.
Got Questions? Got Answers? Do Both!
For this article, I posted a question in both LinkedIn and Twitter asking writers how they've benefited from LinkedIn. I had more replies to this question in Twitter than LinkedIn. This doesn't mean LinkedIn doesn't work. It shows that relying on multiple social networking sites leads to more successes than just working with one. LinkedIn's Answers may not have worked well this time, but LinkedIn has come through in the past.
Go beyond asking questions by looking for questions you can answer. Helping others grows your reputation and expertise. LinkedIn sorts Answers into categories so you look for questions in your areas of expertise. Whenever you post a question, LinkedIn lets you select the category for your question. It also allows you to share the question with selected connections. However, if you do this, you won't receive as many answers as you would if you post the question in public.
Hang out with Groups
You can start your own group or find groups by searching LinkedIn Groups by keyword, category, and language. Using "writer" as a keyword yields 105 search results. LinkedIn provides a summary, the name of the group's owner, and the number belonging to the group so you can decide whether to join. LinkedIn also identifies groups you might like based on your profile.
Most group pages show recent discussions, news, posted jobs, list of members, and group settings. Before starting a new group, participate in a few to learn what works and what doesn't. Becoming familiar with Groups also helps you get the hang of LinkedIn's Group features and settings.
Find the Right Connections
Need an agent? Publisher? Editor? Virtual assistant? Your connection's connections may include people in these careers. Use "people search" to find the right people by keywords, industry, company, title, and more. The search results will show you how close your connections are to you. You have direct access to first-degree connections. For second-degree connections, you share a mutual connection. Contact that mutual connection for an introduction to the second-degree connection.
LinkedIn also includes a "recommendations" feature. You can ask colleagues, clients, and managers to endorse your work. You can also check the endorsements of others to see if you want to pursue an introduction.
Though LinkedIn has a few small barriers to connecting compared to other social networks, they're there to improve your connections.
Meryl K. Evans is the author of Brilliant Outlook Pocketbook, co-author of Adapting to Web Standards: CSS and Ajax for Big Sites and contributor to many others. The long-time blogger and gamer has written and edited for a bunch of places online and off. A native Texan, she lives a heartbeat north of Dallas in Plano, Texas with her husband and three kiddos. Though born in silence, she tries to show that deaf people are just like everyone else. Follow Meryl on Twitter at @merylkevans.