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Feb 13, 2014 | Insights

How Your Nonprofit Can Make the Most of LinkedIn: Joining the Conversation

In the previous article, marketing professional Myrna Greenfield recommended best practices about making connections on LinkedIn. In this final installment of a multipart series, she discusses several ways to keep in touch with and develop these connections.

Enhance Your Profile by Adding Applications

LinkedIn currently offers 18 applications that can help you share information, showcase your work, collaborate or communicate with your network. Some of the best applications include an easy way to post your LinkedIn status update on Twitter, a place to post your travel, Slide Share presentations, events and cross-posting your blogs.

To explore these applications, go to the “Settings” page and click on the “More” link in the top menu. Scroll down to "Get More Applications".

Use LinkedIn Frequently, But Carefully

Like Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, LinkedIn allows you to make “status updates” on your profile page to update your network with what you are doing, thinking, or reading, or to ask a question or get advice. Your status updates will show up on the home page of your direct connections or your network. According to the Lab42 survey, 67% of LinkedIn users visit daily or a few times a week, so when you post updates, your connections are very likely to see your posts.

Get in the habit of checking into LinkedIn daily, so you can see what your connections are up to and make appropriate comments or follow up right away. (If you sign up for industry updates on LinkedIn Today, it will get you in the habit of automatically opening your account each day.)

Try to post a status update or recommend an article at least once a week, but if you enjoy social networking and have a lot to say, feel free to post several times a day.

Stay Professional

Since your messages are going out to your professional network, take time to think about what you’re posting. Write about what you or your organization is doing, comment on another post or current events, or share a link to your own post or other good content. Make sure that what you’re writing or sharing is likely to be useful, entertaining or helpful in some way. It’s a personal medium, so show some personality. Convey warmth and enthusiasm.

And even though social media network sites use more informal language than other professional correspondence, take a minute to proofread your post before you send it.

Mind Your Manners

Make the Most of LinkedIn

Like all social networks, LinkedIn is about connecting with people, not (overly) selling yourself or your product, boasting or dominating the conversation. While social networking does add a personal element to even the most business-oriented relationships, inappropriate sharing may damage your brand. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, people are not expecting you to post photos from your holiday party or tell them how you feel today. If you annoy people, they can always delete you as a connection, or the group moderators can block you.

If you Tweet a dozen times every day and your content is very repetitive or not relevant to your professional life, don’t set up Twitter to automatically feed your tweets into your LinkedIn account. If you do, your Tweets may dominate the home page of your LinkedIn connections, and bewilder or annoy people who are not on Twitter.

Fortunately, there are plenty of appropriate – and more nuanced – ways to promote yourself. You can include your blog updates in your activity feed. You can comment and answer questions in LinkedIn Groups or LinkedIn Answers. And you can (subtly) mention that you have more information about a topic on your website or blog.

Join LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn has over 1.2 million groups – and over 3,000 of them are directly related to nonprofits.

Eighty-one percent of users surveyed by Lab42 reported that they belonged to at least one group. While some of these groups are private groups, such as alumni associations or current or former employees of a company or nonprofit, most are open to anyone who wants to join.

LinkedIn groups offer the opportunity to network with professionals in your industry and participate in conversations on relevant and timely topics.

  • The groups you belong to will be listed in your LinkedIn profile, providing more information about you to people who look at your profile.

  • Groups are interactive. It’s a great opportunity to ask and answer questions, comment, promote your expertise, help others and meet people.

  • Some groups generate a high volume of posts. Get real-time emails from the groups you most want to monitor, and sign up for the daily or weekly news digest for other groups.

  • Before you join a group, decide on your goal for joining. Is it to learn from others, build relationships, promote your expertise, or increase your visibility? Once you join a group that you think will be useful, evaluate it after you’ve been a member for a while. Are you able to achieve your goals?

  • Every time you post a new comment, it shows up on group members’ home pages, increasing your visibility.

  • Smaller groups may be better suited for building deeper relationships. It can be harder to gain visibility in a larger group.

  • Groups can let you add links to relevant websites or your own RSS feed, so it will automatically update the group every time you post a new article on your blog.

There are many ways to find groups to join. You can see which groups your connections belong to. You can search for people with similar interests or who perform similar job functions and see which groups they belong to.

In addition, you can go to the Groups page in the top menu and scroll down to the link called “Groups You May Like.” This is a list of groups that LinkedIn has identified for you, based on your profile. You can also go to the Groups link in the top menu and scroll down to the Groups Directory to search for groups. 

Use Linked-In Answers

Linked-In Answers is a database where people can ask questions and get answers.

There are 22 answer categories with millions of entries. It’s a great way for you to get your own questions answered, find people with similar interests, and promote your thought leadership and expertise.

  • To access LinkedIn Answers, click on the "More" tab at the top of your home page and scroll down and click on "Answers".
  • To ask a question, type your question into the “Ask a Question” box, click "Next", and you’ll be prompted through the process.
  • To answer questions, you can browse through the list of open questions and submit your answer.
  • Answer the questions in an informative way, without promoting yourself, unless you have a relevant blog post or link that will help them further.
  • Once you've identified questions for which you can provide a helpful response, answer it in an informative, non-promotional way.
  • Your answers will get included in your profile and are indexed by search engines.
  • You can get an RSS feed for any of the answer categories.

The person who asked the question and everyone else who reads it gets to rate “The Best” answers. LinkedIn has “Featured Experts” for each category. The more answers you give and the higher the rating you get, the higher you will be ranked among the experts. This will increase your visibility and make it more likely that people will click on your profile to learn more about you.

Sign up for a LinkedIn Today Feed

LinkedIn Today aggregates news that other professionals are sharing on LinkedIn and Twitter.

You can customize your home page so you can follow industries, news sources, and/or specific categories, such as nonprofits, PR or social media. You can share articles, which is an easy way to provide helpful information to others, be seen as an expert and keep your profile active.

  • You can access LinkedIn Today by clicking News at the top of your home page or typing in linkedin.com/today. To choose which news sources or industries to follow (or unfollow), go to "News" at the top of your home page, click the "?" symbol in the upper right corner of LinkedIn Today, select Follow/Unfollow, choose the Industries or Sources tab and click Follow or Unfollow.
  • If you or your organization publishes a website, blog or other content, LinkedIn may consider including your content in their feeds.

Stay Linked Into LinkedIn

If you want to make the most of LinkedIn, use it! Keep your profile updated, post updates, share links, solicit and offer recommendations, and add new connections. Although your main goal may be professional, spending time with your contacts helps you feel connected to a community of like-minded people.

Like all of the fast-growing social media outlets, LinkedIn is constantly making changes and improvements. The best way to keep up with what’s happening is to subscribe to the LinkedIn blog. The blog alternates between insider views of what’s going on at the company, top stories of the week, new features and interesting random posts. It’s a great way to stay linked into LinkedIn.