What is LinkedIn and Why Should You Join?

what is linkedin and why should you join?

This post was revised on May 22, 2014

I attended a great local Tweetup last night in my local Orange County, California.  There were many people who I had communicated with on Twitter and finally had the chance to meet…the feeling was almost like seeing long lost friends!  I will save Tweetups for another blog post, because what interested me last night were how many people I met last night that were active on Twitter but not at all on LinkedIn.  Many saw the latter as just being a site for “professionals” or really didn’t know what to do with it.  The good news is that my Windmill Networking book on LinkedIn will help both those just learning about it embrace the platform as well as assist advanced users in finding value they didn’t even know existed on the platform.  In order to really explain what is the value of spending time on LI to those that are new to it or do not fully understand it, I think it is best to ask what it is in the first place and elaborate some reasons why everyone (and I mean everyone from Gen Y and Millenial college students to Baby Boomers) should be utilizing it.

What is LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is really a huge database of professionals.  Twitter lacks profile depth, Facebook is all over the place demographically and is also hard to find people.  LI standardizes information entered by users into predefined “Profile Headline”, “Summary”, “Education”, “Company”, etc. categories.  In addition to this huge database of information, the platform also provides an awesome search tool to allow you to pinpoint the person you are looking for depending on a number of very specific factors.

On the other hand, the more connections you have, the closer you will appear to more people – and the closer others that you might want to contact will appear to you.

So What is LinkedIn?

It is the place to find other professionals and be found by other professionals.

 

Why Should You Join?

I wrote a blog post on 7 reasons why every professional should join LinkedIn, but I wanted to follow up with an updated recap of the 3 biggest reasons for those who are still not sure as to how much time they want to spend on the networking platform.

1) Getting Back in Touch (Finding & Being Found) —> Yes, Classmates.com and Facebook also allow you to get back in touch.  But because of the search functionality that LinkedIn has, I am finding people there that I can’t find on the other social networking sites.  And because it is easier to be found on LI, many are finding me too! You can find people primarily from where you both went to school as well as where you worked.

2) Acquire & Share Expertise —> There are almost 2,000,000 Groups (updated number as of 2/2014 … see screenshot below) that you can join.  Each group has its own Discussions Board, News Board, and Jobs postings.  Furthermore, the LinkedIn Answers boards have more than 2,000,000 answers to a variety of questions for you to peruse.  (note: LinkedIn has since removed this application from their site) The subject matter in Groups and Answers covers a wide enough of topics that there is value for everyone to be participating. Furthermore, with LinkedIn Pulse, you can now read the news curated for you and your industry and keep tabs on what news you need to know from a professional perspective.

almost two million linkedin groups

3) Career Management —> I mentioned the following in my previous post on Social Networking Tips for the Unemployed: Social Networking is a Career Insurance that you can never have enough of. The advice is the same whether you are looking for a job or are happily employed: a network should be your insurance for your future career growth. Companies are organic entities whose needs change and do not and cannot promise you a guarantee that your job will be there 10 years from now, next year, or even next month. That is why you need to be on LinkedIn so that you can both find potential companies and recruiters as well as be found by them. Even if you are happy in your job, it can’t hurt to have a minimal profile on LinkedIn and receive contacts from recruiters in your industry or specialty who may be able to help you out in the future, can it? LinkedIn is free career insurance! BUY INTO IT!

If I was to list one more reason to be on LinkedIn, it would be to establish and maintain a robust professional brand, but some might consider this a subset of Career Management.

You will notice that I didn’t even mention the reasons you should join if you are looking for business benefits from social networking.  Of course there is lots of business and other advantages to being on LinkedIn.  Read my LinkedIn book as well as new LinkedIn book for business for all the details!

If you still don’t understand what is LI and its value and why you should join and leverage it, I have not done my job as a blogger and LI advocate.  If you are still confused please comment and let me know how I can help you see the light!

Finally, LinkedIn recently hit 300 million users, so check out this infographic on their amazing journey as well as some other statistics which are bound to give you some new insight into the question, “What is LinkedIn?

 

The Top 10 LinkedIn Facts and Figures in 2014 You Need To Know #linkedin #infographic

 

Infographic source: dpfoc.com

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professionals strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

@nealschaffer

Author, @MaxYourSocial | Founder @msocialbusiness | Trilingual Social Media Strategy Consultant, Coach, and Speaker | 日米ソーシャルメディア専門家|G+: https://t.co/BqaJvubiP8
Excited to announce that I'm launching a new event, the Social Tools Summit, in Boston next May! http://t.co/fgtodkEq59 #boston #socialmedia - 2 hours ago
Neal Schaffer
MYS - Free Preview - Revised

Comments

  1. CAdiver says

    You hit it right on the nail again Neal, I have myself used the insurance image many times to illustrate social networking, networking in general and LinkedIN. When I am told it takes too much time, my answer is “like insurance, it's always too expensive….until you need it” and you do not buy a policy after you have an accident. Networking is all the time, not just when you have lost your job or are looking for new business opportunities. Networking is the work you do now to shorten or eliminate transition time.

  2. says

    OK, I get what you are saying … but how do I keep from getting bogged down with “constant contacting”. I'd like to join LinkedIn as a professional, but I already spend enough time with email and I don't want to be chatting and having mundane interactions with people just because they want to boost their LinkedIn profile, or whatever. I also don't want to get so inundated with contacts that it takes up the better part of a day better spent getting real work done.

    I've already received more Facebook invites than I can think about … and I don't even belong to Facebook!
    It seems like it can get out of hand, can LinkedIn be tightly managed and how do you keep it under control?

  3. Rita says

    What does it cost to join Linkedin? I was invited to join as a contact from someone I know but they didn't mention the fee

  4. says

    LinkedIn is free Rita! I wrote my LinkedIn book based on the free version so no need to pay any money unless you start using it and want to get additional value out of it!

  5. TRAV-TOWN says

    why dont you all get a REAL LIFE and get off the internet and go meet people in real life like everyone used to do!! dont rely on Social Networking just on the internet!! my god people have we lost touch with reality??!!

  6. says

    Hey Travis,

    Well, since you're commenting on my blog, you're now one of us ;-) That being said, I agree that online networking is only one type of networking and that meeting people in real life should be the most valuable type of networking.

    - Neal

  7. Neema Mwinamo says

    Can you crarify me if someone wants me to sign for the linkedIN WHAT IS THE BENEFIT TO BE ON IT. One of my brother ask me to add with his professional network. I DONT UNDERSTAND WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

    Please answer my question before I agree.

  8. says

    LinkedIn is a professional network. By signing up for it, you can now search for and be found by other professionals. You can join groups with other like-minded professionals, search for long-lost colleagues, and even find Answers to business problems. It is not what the benefit of LinkedIn is to you: it is more like what is your objective in using social media? If you have an objective with a professional-related reason, I am sure there is a LinkedIn benefit for you!

    - Neal

  9. says

    Good analogy about career insurance. LinkedIn sits on the professional end of the social media spectrum, so many people write it off. You do a good job of describing the benefits of joining.

    Michael

  10. George says

    In your article 10 LinkedIn Mistakes You Shouldn't Make –2. LinkedIn Profile Headline is Not Branded Enough.
    Could you please explain what to put in your profile headline? Underneath my name is the name of my company, is that correct? Could you also explain “brand” as you use it quite a bit. Oreo, Clorox, IBM are my examples of a brand. How does brand refer to me?

  11. says

    Hi George -

    Well my LinkedIn Book goes into details about your personal brand on LinkedIn, which I call your “LinkedIn Brand.” A brand is how people perceive you. Whether you like it or not, you are being googled and people are looking at your profile without having personally met you. They are already perceiving you in a certain way based on what you have (or don't have) on your LinkedIn Profile, for instance. Your Professional Headline, the area below your name, is the most powerful part of your profile and should be heavily branded, or seeded with content proactively that 1) shows off your strengths and 2) differentiates you. Hope this makes sense…for a further detailed read, I really do recommend you invest in my book. I think it will be a convincing and informative read for you.

    Best regards,
    Neal Schaffer

  12. George says

    Hi Neal, Thanks for your response. This is the first I have hear about your book so I plan on looking for it. You wrote,

    Your Professional Headline, the area below your name,
    > is the most powerful part of your profile and should be heavily branded, or
    > seeded with content proactively that 1) shows off your strengths and 2)
    > differentiates you.

    To be quite honest what you wrote makes no sense to me. Sorry, there are just no specifics to what you write.

    Thanks for your help,
    George

  13. says

    George,

    Sorry if my comment made no sense to me. What I am talking about is the wording in your resume headline or professional headline on LinkedIn, which appears just before your name. The keywords or language that you you use here will decide how others perceive you. I could write “Social Media Book Author”, “President, Windmills Marketing”, or “Social Media Strategist”, and depending on which I choose that is how people will form opinions about me. That is why you want to try to find language that showcases your strengths and that differentiates you. If you just put a company name there, that is not a personal brand but a company brand. What did you do at that company which would give someone a reason to hire you? That's what you want to try to hint at in your Professional Headline.

    I am trying to be as clear as I can in my explanation…hope this makes sense.

    - Neal

  14. says

    I did a LinkedIn presentation last week for about 100 people and I asked how many LinkedIn users also had a Twitter account? Five hands raised, but they all had LinkedIn accounts! Just the opposite of what you were talking about in your article. Must have something to do with geography, they don't use Twitter in the MW.

  15. says

    It really depends on the demographic. Something tells me that Twitter catches on faster in urban areas, but I have yet to confirm this. Needless to say, for professionals, LinkedIn is the place where you HAVE to be. I think that Twitter is a place where all professionals SHOULD be…

  16. Mugambira Jean says

    This is a very clear explanation of Linkedin and its benefits. Let me join immediately
    Kalisa Fred, Rwanda , Africa

  17. says

    I believe people must meet their contacts in LinkedIn, or at least, to share something in common to be in contact.

    But on the other hand, I accept all the invitations I get, but I don´t ask to be in contact to someone without a good reason.

    Am I a LION, a panther, a leopard o a CAT?

    Best Regards

    Alejandro

    • says

      Good morning Neal, I just started my home base Avon business and I’m trying to build my customers on line. I built my web site as well as a page on face book. My question for you is, how would LinkedIn benefit my business?

      Mary

      • says

        Hi Mary and thanks for the comment! I suppose my question for you is, if you are looking to build an online business, how do you plan to capture website traffic and obtain leads? Obviously a website is a good start, and Facebook is the 2nd most popular site after Google, but Twitter and LinkedIn were recently number 9 and number 10 for website traffic in the United States. This means that, you could just stick to Facebook, but there are other opportunities on Twitter and LinkedIn. LinkedIn has a unique demographic of professionals and, compared to the other two networks, you will find those with a higher annual household income on the site. But, just as you meet new people through introductions, you need to use LinkedIn to use your network to obtain new introductions as well as engage with those who might directly or indirectly help your business. If you have the budget, I recommend you check out my book Maximizing LinkedIn for Sales and Social Media Marketing for further details on how you might be able to leverage LinkedIn for your business. You can also start with my free ebook 30 Minutes to Maximizing LinkedIn.

  18. says

    Hey Alejandro,

    Thanks for the comment. I agree 100% that I would love to be able to meet all of my contacts in LinkedIn….however, my opinion is that if I were to do that I would be limiting myself to the potential of connecting with people with whom I could create a mutually beneficial relationship. I also only send out invitations to people who I have something in common with as well.

    On the other hand, the definition of a LinkedIn LION is someone who accepts all invitations that they receive. Even if you don't advertise yourself as a LION, if you accept all invitations you are an “Open Networker” in my book.

    @NealSchaffer

  19. Christine Walton says

    Hi Neal -
    Your book looks like it will be very helpful…Thank you!
    A quick question for now…
    Do I just introduce myself to business people on Linked In and tell them about my great service that I have to offer them? Or do I chat and have a signature file?
    Or do I post info about my service somewhere?
    How exactly do I promote my service on LinkedIn?

    Thanks for your help!!!!

  20. says

    Hi Christine,

    Thanks for the comment and question! Your question is one that I receive often, so here is how I answer everyone:

    LinkedIn is a platform for social networking among professionals. So, imagine you went to a Chamber of Commerce meeting. Would you, after arriving, take a megaphone and announce to the crowd at maximum value about the services your company offers? You wouldn't right? You would first get to know the people around you, ask what they do, and maybe, slowly, start to introduce what you do without unbalanced self-promotion.

    Does this make sense? LinkedIn is no different. Start blasting new connections and LinkedIn Groups with self-promoting messages and you will be ignored. Start asking how you can help others and become a good listener and you may have a chance to have people help you find business.

    Promoting on LinkedIn isn't any easier than promoting at a Chamber of Commerce meeting. it is the same scenario: it is people-centric, so you need to have good people skills in order to succeed.

    That being said, if you want to “promote” your company in the old-fashioned way, you have the option of:

    - LinkedIn Direct Ads advertising (like Google AdWords)
    - Creating a LinkedIn Company Profile (search my blog for the post I wrote on this)

    Remember Christine, social media was made for people, not businesses. In order to succeed you must be a good networker. And I believe my book, and the concept of Windmill Networking, shall give you some good advice on how to succeed not just in LinkedIn but any other social networking website.

    Hope all of this makes sense to you. Good luck…and do let us know how you do!

    @NealSchaffer

  21. Christine Walton says

    Hi Neal -
    Your book looks like it will be very helpful…Thank you!
    A quick question for now…
    Do I just introduce myself to business people on Linked In and tell them about my great service that I have to offer them? Or do I chat and have a signature file?
    Or do I post info about my service somewhere?
    How exactly do I promote my service on LinkedIn?

    Thanks for your help!!!!

  22. says

    Hi Christine,

    Thanks for the comment and question! Your question is one that I receive often, so here is how I answer everyone:

    LinkedIn is a platform for social networking among professionals. So, imagine you went to a Chamber of Commerce meeting. Would you, after arriving, take a megaphone and announce to the crowd at maximum value about the services your company offers? You wouldn't right? You would first get to know the people around you, ask what they do, and maybe, slowly, start to introduce what you do without unbalanced self-promotion.

    Does this make sense? LinkedIn is no different. Start blasting new connections and LinkedIn Groups with self-promoting messages and you will be ignored. Start asking how you can help others and become a good listener and you may have a chance to have people help you find business.

    Promoting on LinkedIn isn't any easier than promoting at a Chamber of Commerce meeting. it is the same scenario: it is people-centric, so you need to have good people skills in order to succeed.

    That being said, if you want to “promote” your company in the old-fashioned way, you have the option of:

    - LinkedIn Direct Ads advertising (like Google AdWords)
    - Creating a LinkedIn Company Profile (search my blog for the post I wrote on this)

    Remember Christine, social media was made for people, not businesses. In order to succeed you must be a good networker. And I believe my book, and the concept of Windmill Networking, shall give you some good advice on how to succeed not just in LinkedIn but any other social networking website.

    Hope all of this makes sense to you. Good luck…and do let us know how you do!

    @NealSchaffer

  23. Better says

    Why would I refer someone who’s on LinkedIn if I haven’t used their services.   And why would I use someone just because they’re on LinkedIn.  Am I going to tell people “hey, use this guy for your carpet cleaning.  I have no clue who he is and I’ve never used his services, or anyone I know, but hey, he’s on LinkedIn.”  I’ve had friends try to refer me to someone they had dinner with, or stood in line at Starbucks with, but know nothing about them.”  I’ve had people from LinkedIn ask if we could have a mutual referral agreement.  If I refer someone it’s going to be because I’ve seen their work, or a friend has really seen their work.  Not just because they picked up the person’s business card somewhere.  I want someone to prove their abilities before I refer them.

  24. Wally Collett says

    So, I am retired or try to be at least.  So what connection should I have to Lindedin or Linkedin to me?  As a retiree how do I contribute  Do I have anything to contribute?  Of what value is it for me to be connected to Linked in?  I had no knowledge of Linked in until a friend invited me to be connected a few days ago. Perhaps you could give me some insight into some of the questions I have asked.

    Wally Collett

  25. says

    Hi Wally,

    Thanks so much for your comment. My retired father is in his 80’s, signed up to LinkedIn, and has been able to get back in touch with many people that he is worked with in his professional life that he lost touch with over the years. He has been able to meet some of them and have phone conversations with them as well. So, for retirees, LinkedIn (as well as Facebook) could help you get back in touch with those you might have lost touch with. If this is something you are seriously interested in, you should take advantage of the opportunity.

    The other way in which LinkedIn might interest you is to stay on top of news in your industry or whatever interests you in the business world.

    Finally, you could use LinkedIn to meet new people in your area by joining local LinkedIn Groups as well as looking for local networking events in the Events application.

    So reasons for using LinkedIn are only limited by what your potential objectives might be. If you’re looking for photos, games, and funny jokes, Facebook will be a funner experience. But LinkedIn can also help enrich your daily life in many ways.

    Hope that this explanation made sense. Feel free to respond back if you have any follow up questions.

    Neal Schaffer

  26. says

    Hi Krizia,

    LinkedIn can help you get back in touch with colleagues and classmates that you might not have found on Facebook and Classmates.com. More importantly, you can now use LinkedIn’s search to see who your connections might connect you with for your future career or even networking needs. Finally LinkedIn Groups and Answers also give you the ability to ask questions, answer questions, and learn a great deal of information that can help you in your career. Hope this helps…

  27. Bketner001 says

    I”m doing a research paper on LinkedIn and need the following information. Company background, Mission of this site, membership info and membership stats

  28. Clarice says

    I am a CPA looking to re-enter the workforce after 20 years.  I lived overseas 14 of those years and did volunteer work at the kid’s school, etc. Would LinkedIn benefit me? I do not have a job now and am in the process of updating my technical and computer skills. 

    • says

      Clarice, LinkedIn benefits any and every networker because it’s where hiring managers are, your professional network is, and other professionals from whom you can learn from. Please give it a try – you won’t be sorry!

  29. Ang3la22 says

    So when u get an invite from a professional friend or relative and you are not a professional why would I want to join? Also should I even be on LI then ??

  30. Johnny1810 says

    As is so typical of many of the supposedly brilliant websites out there, I have found LindedIn impossible to contact to straighten out my problem.  It claims that my e-mail address is already in use.  Oh, really? Then why has it worked on other sites all these years, and in hotmail as well, without any notice of duplication?  Never mind the run-around I’m getting by trying to rectify the situation. You’re the closest I’ve been able to get to a contact.    

    • says

      You bring up a very good point. There is one post on this blog that has garnered a number of comments from users in a similar situation to you with complaints where LinkedIn doesn’t seem to be listening. Definitely not good for their PR. Hopefully your situation will rectify itself soon, but please do keep us posted!

  31. AL says

    I still don’t see much advantage. The only people that can view my profile are LI members (or is there some way that is not immediately obvious)?. Other people would have to sign up, but will probably just move on to googleing (or even the phone book) professionals in my area like I am about to do. Yes maybe I could have signed up by now instead responding to this blog but i still don’t know how a profile is even presented let alone what chance I have of finding the skills i’m looking for. If I could view the profiles of freelance mastering engineers & then contact them without being a member then I could see the point & I would be more inclined to use it. It’s much quicker to pick up a phone, talk to a human, & come up with a plan. No blogs, emails, or digital sheep involved !

    • says

      LinkedIn has 200 million+ users. If you want to be found – or find others – that represent that community, there are benefits in joining. But if you don’t see any benefits in joining, there is no reason to join! It all comes down to your objective more than anything else in my opinion.

  32. Leo says

    So what’s your take on those that are now semi retired? I left my job of 30+ years, it had become a miserable situation and my Wife is now our sole income generator. I am not officially retired but have no interest or need at this time to find employment, it would be something totally different anyway so my current LI profile really isn’t relative. I hesitate to walk completely away from it but it’s really just a snapshot of where I was when I left last year.

    Your thoughts?

    • says

      Social media all comes down to your objective. If, by staying on the site, you’re able to keep in touch with old colleagues and friends also be searchable by them, doesn’t that in itself have value? Would love your thoughts vis a vis your objective and my idea. Thanks!

  33. Gloria says

    I have been contacted by some friends to join. I am 66 yrs old, retired & see no value in joining. Some of my friends are much younger & professions but others are in the same boat of retirement. Why should I join?

    • says

      Hi Gloria, if you have no reason to join than you shouldn’t. If you are using social media to help keep in touch with friends, Facebook might be your best bet. However, there might be some people that you have worked with or went to school with that you might not find on Facebook but might be present on LinkedIn. For that reason alone I think there is value in opening up an account and connecting with long-lost friends… Just one idea for your consideration.

  34. says

    I noticed your 30 September reply to Gloria and, since I am a bit further along “in the boat” at age 77 and no longer in the work force, devoting most of my time instead to volunteer activities, I truly doubt that any benefits can be accrued if this old engineer and sailor were to join LinkedIn. I do no social networking at all and really have no intention to start in at this point in the boat — someone else can man the oars. So, my question is: how can I politely decline invitations from other septuagenarians to join them in LinkedIn? Is there a “button” I can press on your site which states “Thanks, but no thanks!” in a kinder manner? Thank you!

    • says

      Hi John, sorry for the delay in getting back to you. While I do think there is a way to use LinkedIn to help enhance your volunteer experience, I won’t go that route and instead focus on answering your question ;-)

      My recommendation would be to either 1) reply without accepting and creating a message that you could copy and paste explaining that you won’t be accepting their invitation or 2) simply press the “ignore” button. Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any follow up questions.

  35. john mayila says

    I would like through you getting held to be in connact with Mr Rajiv shah he met me in DRcongo but I did no
    t get time to talk to him.

      • Trey says

        I have no business, I do not work. I am on disability. What, if any, benefits will I get from joining? I still dont even understand what LinkedIn is or is about. I got an invite from someone I know and dont know if there is any real point in joining.

        • says

          If you don’t want to get back in touch with people, reach out and network with new people, or read business and career information, LinkedIn might have limited value to you Trey.

  36. ceil jone4s says

    when I accepted an “invitation” from a friend to join LinkedIn, I didn’t know what I was getting into. Apparently, all my contacts are being “contacted” requesting (from me) an invitation to join. I am not exactly thrilled about this. There are people I don’t want to hear from again accepting. Some business contacts of mine are upset about my “invitation” & I don’t know how to go about releasing them from LinkedIn. How has this happened?? AND what can I do to remedy this situation & informing people that I did not offer up any invitations to join.

    • says

      I have heard many people make this same complaint, and I am not 100% sure of the source of the problem. But, if you upload your contact database and send invitations to all of them, those that are on LinkedIn will receive the standard LinkedIn invite while those not on LinkedIn will be invited to join LinkedIn from you. The only way to remedy the situation is to go back and see who you might have sent invitations to by re-uploading your email database and contacting them one by one.

      If you never authorized LinkedIn to access your contact database, then this is a bigger issue and you should be in direct contact with LinkedIn.

      Hope the information helps.

  37. Jeff Palmer says

    Is LinkedIn a site that would be beneficial for a blue collar worker wanting to move to a western state?

    • says

      Yes. How would you know 1) where to look for a job and 2) how to promote yourself when there are so many companies that are active on LinkedIn looking for employees? While there are definitely more white collar jobs being posted on LinkedIn, the same decision makers are on there, so even just to set up a nice profile to promote your personal brand would be a good investment of time in my personal opinion.

  38. ricardo villegas says

    hi neal I have a ? I work with multilevel network com. what good is linkedin for me? what can it do for me?

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