What is LinkedIn good for?
December 10, 2009 8:02 AM   Subscribe

What is LinkedIn good for? I have a basic (that is, free) account there and have set up my profile. But I'm not looking for a job, nor am I trolling for clients. Can the hivemind give me some examples of how else I could use it? And here's a related question that has been bugging me: When it lists "People you may know", where do those come from?
posted by DrGail to Work & Money (21 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
"People you may know" seems to be pulled from my gmail address book and people who have worked at the same companies I have, FWIW.
posted by downing street memo at 8:05 AM on December 10, 2009

I'm working in business now, and executives seem to use it like a really boring version of Facebook (ie, as a way to keep track of contacts).

If you feel magnanimous, you can join your alumni network and make yourself available to students interested in your field of work.
posted by oinopaponton at 8:08 AM on December 10, 2009

People You May Know also (this is Grade-A 100% conjecture based on who I see in there) suggests people whom multiple people you know know. In other words, if you know Fred and James, and Fred and James know Donna, PYMK will suggest Donna.

LinkedIn is both a recruiting tool and a job finding tool -- they sell their product to job hunters and to recruiters -- but it also provides an opportunity to make sure you're Google-able, to reconnect with former colleagues, and to ask and answer questions in your field of expertise (in my field, this last feature has a signal-to-noise ratio that renders it pretty useless.) You can also use applications like TripIt (which lets you know if your connections will be traveling to the same places as you) or Slideshare (which lets you share presentations). If you aren't interested in those things, it may not be worthwhile for you.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:13 AM on December 10, 2009


Getting hold of people in companies that I'd like to do business with. It's far easier to have a way in when you both know someone in common. I contacted a number of companies for an RFP recently this way.

Keeping track of colleagues and clients who move companies. Once they leave, you're left with a business card which is useless. With LinkedIn, I can see where they have gone to and can continue to keep in contact - especially if I want to do business with them.
posted by mr_silver at 8:22 AM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

As Penelope Trunk explains in the first item in this blog post, LinkedIn isn't a dynamic site like Facebook where it's easy to have casual conversations with people or send them quirky links on the spur of the moment. Rather, it's a fairly static site that mainly allows you to (1) host a resume-like profile for yourself, (2) have access to similar info about other people, and (3) show off the fact that you're (supposedly) networking with other people in such-and-such a field.

Other features (which I've never tried because they seem rather unwieldy and/or stodgy):

- You can have someone write a recommendation for you, so if a prospective employer Googles your name they'll go to your LinkedIn profile and find your friend's comment about how "DrGail was so great to work with because of her tireless dedication," etc.

- You can send someone a message, but I think it costs money and you can't do it to just anyone. Maybe you need an introduction by someone who's their contact? Again, I haven't tried this -- maybe someone else can give a better explanation.

An endrun around that incredibly clunky message system is to append your actual email address in parentheses to your username. For instance, I wrote my last name as "Cohen (_____@gmail.com)." (Of course, I put my actual email address instead of the underscore.) This way, someone who finds me on LinkedIn and genuinely wants to talk to me doesn't need to worry about how to send me a LinkedIn message -- they can just send me a regular ol' email. The more people do this, the easier it is to use LinkedIn as a way to initiate spontaneous conversations.

- You can join groups and participate in their discussion forums. For instance, if you have a blog, you could join the "blogging" group and talk about ... uh, blogging, I guess. Frankly, I've looked at some of these forums and haven't been very impressed with the content or interested in participating. They're no Metafilter.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:22 AM on December 10, 2009

Linkedin has a great forum, that I haven't seen anywhere else, for my career niche - Women in Photography.
posted by cda at 8:29 AM on December 10, 2009

Linked-In acts as a digital-age method of networking. If you are of the mind that networking is an important key to your professional/business success, then it's pretty-much become the de-facto place to be.

On the other hand, if you find networking to be an executive-level circle-jerk, then you probably won't have any real use for Linked-In beyond just having your info there.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:29 AM on December 10, 2009

I'm glad you asked this -- I have a similar question. So far, here's what I've used it for:

* Figuring out who I know who knows somebody at a target company. This is the main value as far as I'm concerned.

* Semi-permanent hosting of my professional profile, and the ability to track professional contacts after they switch jobs.

* Writing recommendations in hope of eliciting a reciprocal one. This sort of works, and at the very least it's a way of expressing and banking professional goodwill.
posted by ottereroticist at 8:29 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

People You May Know also (this is Grade-A 100% conjecture based on who I see in there) suggests people whom multiple people you know know.

Seconded, as I haven't linked any other accounts with mine, yet I get people from my industry showing in there.

Anyway, I find LinkedIn useful as a networking tool. I don't really actively network on there but I now have 200-300 contacts who I've done business with and I know that if I were to want a job or do some research or whatever, I have a valuable resource waiting for me!
posted by wackybrit at 8:32 AM on December 10, 2009

I use LinkedIn in primarily two ways. First, I use it to stay in contact with work related colleagues. These are not my friends in a social sense, but they are people I have a good working relationship with. In this case I like that LinkedIn is static and not a communication tool, it's more of a contact tool (or fancy rolodex). I can see how my colleagues are progressing professionally over time, and how they're doing. The second way I use it is to research if somebody or some company is in my "friends of friends" network. It makes it a lot easier to connect with somebody if there's a link there. I don't use LinkedIn that much as a job search tool, it's not my primary job search tool anyway, but I have used it to browse jobs before, and eventually I plan to update my information to resume like quality, but that's not what I like about it or why I use it.
I also have facebook, and I have only one or two people that are on facebook and LinkedIn, mainly because they were actual friends that connected to me via LinkedIn before facebook.
posted by forforf at 8:36 AM on December 10, 2009

I'm on LinkedIn and the discussion groups for my industry are useful as it is a fairly narrow interest group (aviation safety). Apart from that I found it useful for locating people I worked with many years ago as I could search on the company name and find people that way.
posted by 543DoublePlay at 8:49 AM on December 10, 2009

In addition to my above comment about putting your email address in your name (which is the best way to telegraph this since it shows up in searches), it's also a good idea to put a link in your profile to some kind of external website that will let people contact you, e.g. a blog or Facebook if you have them. The profile editor doesn't specifically prompt you for a Facebook profile link, but they do prompt for external website(s) links, and there's nothing stopping you from putting your Facebook profile there.

Also, I realized that my advice about getting a "recommendation" to make yourself look more impressive to prospective employers might seem off-point since you said you're not looking for a job or clients. But it could still be useful if there's ever going to be anyone you want to impress. Who's to say you won't be looking for a job sometime in the future? If you have several recommendations accumulated over a long span of time, that might come across as more genuine than if you have a couple very recent ones right around the time you've started looking for a job.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:54 AM on December 10, 2009

I use typically look for people i'm going to meet on linkedin beforehand - just to get an idea of their background and see if we may have a common acquaintance

Also: linkedin is usually on top of google search results, so I keep my profile up to date as I assume clients/prospects will be googling me from time to time
posted by motdiem2 at 9:23 AM on December 10, 2009

I think it's helpful to build up my profile and contact list while I am employed, so if/when I become unemployed I have a number of people to contact right away for job leads.
posted by look busy at 9:57 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I generally use it to delete connections to people of dubious value once it's clear they are of, well, dubious value.
posted by 3mendo at 10:04 AM on December 10, 2009

I use it to see what former colleagues are doing career-wise, and also to sample possible career progressions.
posted by dhoe at 10:48 AM on December 10, 2009

I haven't found LinkdIn useful other than giving me google results I have control over. I don't have a big web presence, so I'm pretty happy about that
posted by Gor-ella at 11:06 AM on December 10, 2009

Forget companies you want to do business with, I use it for finding people within MY OWN employer (43,000 people in 70 countries). We have no/limited distribution of organization charts - especially at a non-executive level - which makes networking and knowledge-seeking an arduous task.

LinkedIn was a major contributor for my recent transfer to a new international location and new division within the company, when, if I had left things to fate, I may well have been laid off instead. It was invaluable for identifying contacts who could help me, making myself known outside of my previous sphere, and assuring them I could promote myself and my skills for a new role. (I know it was LinkedIn from keeping an eye on the "who looked at my profile" page.)

"boring facebook" it may be, but some of us rather like to avoid the extra drama.
posted by whatzit at 4:14 PM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Do you know anyone who IS looking for a job? If you have the time and inclination, you can help your friends connect with possible contacts at companies they want to work for.

Having someone who will vouch for you is a huge help in landing a job. If you've worked with Susan or Bill and know them to be great workers, it can make a real difference when Bill is looking for a job with Disney or Microsoft and you can contact your former co-worker Pat at Microsoft and say "Hey, I see there's an opening for a widget repair tech at Microsoft and I wanted to let you know about Bill, who worked with me at Acme, who's one of the best widget guys in the biz."
posted by kristi at 10:37 AM on December 11, 2009

Oh, also:

In my experience, "People you may know" comes from new members who list past experience at companies you've worked for. So, for example, if you've entered a stint from 2000-2002 at Disney and a stint from 2002-2006 at Microsoft, when new people who used to work at Microsoft join LinkedIn, they'll show up in your "People you may know". For me, this has occasionally meant huge quantities of people I've never heard of, who had also worked for extremely large companies that I had worked for.
posted by kristi at 10:40 AM on December 11, 2009

This was not my goal when I started linkedin, but it was an inadvertent pleasant surprise. This is from the perspective of a small business owner with a service type business (medical writing):

• Highly google-able, in fact, you can get on the top page with certain terms for your industry. Link this to your business web page.

• Clients find you. I was surprised that clients with interesting projects (and these people wanted people that had a specific skill set) found me. I have about ~25 K of work that came to me this way last year, and this year I have had a couple queries already.

• Great search tool for me to find companies and projects. Now I am looking for types of projects that I would like to do. Company lists are limited; using linkedin, I can find characteristics that I am interested in (eg, oncology, elearning, meetings,, etc.) It is easy for me to find these companies and go straight to the company webpage, using linkedin as the original search tool.
posted by Wolfster at 5:56 AM on March 3, 2010

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