I started using LinkedIn what seems like a decade ago. Even though I am a web person, I really couldn't see the value beyond being an online Rolodex. Fast forward to 2011 and you'll notice that LinkedIn today is not the same LinkedIn it was.
In December 2010 CBSAC/NY had the "LinkedIn: How to Make it to the Top" event with Ruben Quinones from Path Interactive. [See Managing Your LinkedIn Profile.] Through Ruben's pointers, I was clued into knowing how to use LinkedIn more effectively. It is now my favorite social network platform on par with Twitter.
Some of the pointers that I was able to pick up from this session were:
1. Your LinkedIn profile is governed by the laws of SEO.
Even more so than on Web sites or blog articles you should pay attention to keywords. These are most important in the Experience Section job titles. If you are a Manager of Communications, but actually do social media community management, use Social Media Community manager as your job title and you will come up in more relevant "social media" searches.
For the same keyword SEO reason, fill up your Skills Section with your applicable skills. LinkedIn has a set of predefined descriptions that pop up when you are entering your list of skills. I tried to stick to the terms that LinkedIn suggested. I guessed that LinkedIn probably knew more on the most popular search times than what I did. Skill descriptions such as "working a room" aren't in this list of most popular terms. So it's probably better to just skip those.
2. Affinity, affinity, affinity is the location of LinkedIn.
The dirty little secret that LinkedIn doesn't want you to know is that the more connections you have, the more often your profile will come up in search. LinkedIn says that your connections should be people you know and trust. I know most of the people that I am connected to, with some thought. Either that or they are CBS alumni. But I connect with almost anyone who asks unless it looks like a spam or false account. Group membership also plays into affinity and the number of times you come up in a search. If you are looking for a new position, join a recruiting group. You'll come to be in more recruiters' searches.
As a corollary to connections, the process of sending a message to your connection, who forwards it to theirs, is in my opinion flawed. I've never seen this work effectively. If the person you are trying to contact is a CBS alumnus, you can look up their email address in the Columbia BANC and contact them directly outside of LinkedIn. If they are not alumni, do some other type of investigative work to track down their contact details.
3. A LinkedIn update each day is the only way.
You won't be seen or found as often in LinkedIn unless you participate in the communities or provide a status update. The more you do this, the more you'll be found. In LinkedIn searches, like Google, profiles higher up on the list of results are those that were updated more recently. I've seen this in action through my own experiences as verified in the analytics LinkedIn provides to every account for free. The weeks when I participate more will sometimes double the number of times I am found in search.
A great way to participate or provide updates is to put one of those ShareThis buttons on your browser. After reading an article you can easily post the URL to LinkedIn with your thoughts. This can be done as a status update or a group post. The LinkedIn status updates can be automatically tweeted.
As a summary, your profile findability depends upon your keywords, your connections, and your status activity. I found Ruben's information to be quite useful and I am looking forward to learning more.
Bradley Jobling CBS '95
Note: Brad Jobling manages CBSAC/NY's LinkedIn Group. Please consider joining if you haven't already.
Added 12/18/11: Brad recently created this Slideshare presentation titled Using LinkedIn for the Job Search which you can access by clicking on Columbia ICAP: Using LinkedIn.