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How journalists can use LinkedIn as a social media tool

Linked-In-BannerMore professionals are increasingly creating accounts on LinkedIn because the atmosphere is suited to industry networking and taking care of business. This is not the place for sharing information about your favorite cat video, though you’re welcome to do so if you wish. Similar to Facebook, LinkedIn contains profiles, profile pictures, status updates posted by you and your connections, as well as the ability to search for people you know. You can also follow people like you do on Twitter, but you must be linked with them. LinkedIn will not allow you to connect with people you do not know. However, you can follow companies. In short, you have to earn your stripes, and here’s how to begin.

Click on Sign up and enter a first name, last name, an e-mail address and a password. You can adjust your settings to make your information as public or private as you want. Keep in mind that although this website is primarily concerned with your work and career, it does leave room for hobbies and friends. People from almost every industry are using this space to find creative inspiration, business development potential and more. While LinkedIn is currently one of the most under-utilized social media tools available, your investment in it can still reap huge rewards.

Take Cristina Falcão for example. This week she is the top expert with 552 answers posted in LinkedIn’s Answers Home section. The Answers section of LinkedIn is a place where people pose specific questions like “how does putting solar panels on your home increase its real estate value?” Falcão became an expert because enough people ranked her responses as the “Best Answer” to their question. For each person who says you’ve given the “Best Answer,” you receive one point. These points add up, and every “expert” who collects them is ranked and listed on the Answers Home page in a section called This Week’s Top Experts. The expert’s name is displayed along with a short bio and title, the categories in which they received “Best Answer” points, and a link to see all the answers they’ve provided to people – as well as the number of answers they’ve provided this week.

To find the Answers section on LinkedIn, you’ll probably have to click on the More link in the bar at the top of the page where you’ll find links to Home, Groups, and your Inbox. You can read through thousands of open questions. If you want to search for questions related to your industry, read the Browse box where the questions are categorized according to their topic, such as Administration, Business Operations and so on. If you want to ask a question of a specific type of person, use the Advanced Search field to locate a business, person, or industry. Each person listed on LinkedIn comes with a blue circle next to their name which tells you their degree of separation. You can see if you know anyone who is connected with them and try to get introduced. It’s the best real imitation of how actual socializing works that I’ve seen online.

The Groups section demonstrates how birds of a feather, well, chat together. Search or create groups that pertain to your interests and watch your connections grow. Some Groups are Closed, which means you have to ask the creator’s permission to join and their discussions are not open to the public. However, as with any online forum, always be careful what you post. Private/Closed groups can be changed into public ones by the owner. If you wanted to interview someone about banking and finance, you’ll find that this group has approximately 20,000 members. You don’t have to join the group to make a connection or ask a question. Once you select this group, LinkedIn lists the names of those who are Group Members in Your Network.

The benefit of growing your network is that you can use LinkedIn as a place to promote your articles. Before a PR person contacts you about a question you’ve posted, they’re going to want to make sure you’re legit. By making your work profile public and providing links to your previous articles, books or video interviews, you’ll create a greater awareness of your experience. Anyone who looks at your profile is tracked and a summary of who’s been watching you is listed on your home page.

As great as these features are, the usual precautionary measures should be taken with LinkedIn as with any other site. Many profiles are not what they seem to be and you shouldn’t post information that’s too personal. A good place to start is on the How To page dedicated to helping journalists use LinkedIn. And don’t forget to check the inbox of the e-mail address you attached to your account. That’s where your replies, updates and new connections will await you.

–Rebecca Bredholt

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