A few weeks ago, I found one of my coworkers on LinkedIn and added her as a contact there. The next day, I received an email from her explaining that she didn't really use LinkedIn very often and wasn't sure how it worked or how to use it effectively.
As with all social networking sites, I think you will get out of it what you put into it. I don't actually use LinkedIn very often (I prefer Twitter and Facebook), but I still maintain a presence on the site. My thought is that if someone wants to connect with you, make it easy for them.
To start out, having a completed, up-to-date profile that includes a photo is a must (this goes for most networks). This lets people know that you are actually active on the site, and that your message or invitation to connect won't sit in their inbox for months at a time.
You can take your level of involvement further than just maintaining an up-to-date profile. By answering a question in the Answers area of LinkedIn, I was able to make a good connection with someone that I would have otherwise never met.
I also always say that social media is social, and that when you are requesting to add someone as a contact don't just send the templated "I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn" message. Instead, personalize it. Remind the person of how you met, or if it is someone you know well send them a quick hello or maybe why you'd like to connect with them on LinkedIn. Just as a personalized, relevant pitch letter to a journalist can go a long way, a personalized, relevant inviation to connect on LinkedIn is worth a lot more than the service's pre-written invitations.
I was reminded of this a few weeks ago after receiving a whole bunch of the pre-written inviations in a row, then recieving one that was personalized. In the future, I'll probably remember that one connection more than any of the others.
Now, this is by no means the definitive guide on how to use LinkedIn, and if nothing else has gotten me interested in learning more about it, and being a bit more active there.
LinkedIntelligence, the unofficial blog for information about LinkedIn, has an exhaustive list of "Smart Ways To Use LinkedIn."
Dave Taylor has a good article about LinkedIn, and notes one of the reasons why you should have a detailed profile:
"It makes you more findable for others, but even more importantly, when you initiate communication with someone else, the first thing they'll do is go and check out your profile. Even if your profile isn't that great, the fact that you've spent the time trying to make it comprehensive will tell them that you're serious, that you respect their time and attention, and that you want to use LinkedIn to its fullest capacity."
An article from last August called I Got My Job Through Social Networking was an interesting read, provided some interesting advice about asking for recomendations on LinkedIn. However, I feel odd about asking for recommendations on LinkedIn. it just seems forced.
What are your thoughts on the recommendation system on LinkedIn? Do you have any LinkedIn advice?
If you're on LinkedIn, feel free to add me as a contact: http://linkedin.com/in/parkermason