LinkedIn is the most popular social networking site among the accounting professionals that participated in the SocialCPAs 2010 Social Networking Survey. Specifically, participants were asked to “Tell us if you actively use any of the following social networking sites” and LinkedIn outpaced Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
How can accounting professionals get the most out of their time on LinkedIn? One way is to grow your list of LinkedIn Connections. Once built, it is equally important to interact with your connections. This can help you use LinkedIn to meet new professionals, showcase your expertise and develop business opportunities. This month, I will focus on the seven essential types of connections that you should have in your LinkedIn account.
Co-workers – You can easily start building your network by connecting to all of your current and former employees. You start by entering your employment history and attaching your account to the companies for whom you have worked. If you open the company page for your employers, you will see a list of all employees and can add them to your network. In addition, LinkedIn will show a list entitled “Just Joined LinkedIn” at the bottom of your homepage that will allow you to connect to co-workers.
Clients or Customers – How many people are in your Outlook Contacts? How many clients do you interact with on a monthly basis? Are they all listed in your LinkedIn Connections? Often, our clients are our best source of referrals and future business. They also may prove to be valuable connections on LinkedIn. However, there may be privacy concerns on behalf of your client or you. If you are concerned that people may use LinkedIn to see your client list, you can adjust your LinkedIn settings to deny anyone access to your connection list.
Classmates – You can connect to classmates in a similar manner to co-workers. Once you enter your education information on your LinkedIn profile, it will add your classmates to the list of people you may know. In addition, LinkedIn will include your classmates in the “Just Joined LinkedIn” list that appears on your homepage.
Fellow Volunteers – Do you volunteer your time? If so, have you connected with your fellow volunteers? You can find your fellow volunteers by entering their name in the LinkedIn search tool. You may discover that you have mutual connections with other volunteers and may even find ways to share business opportunities.
Members of Your Business Networks – Do you belong to the local chamber of commerce, Rotary or other business networking group? If so, you know the importance of building a strong network of fellow business professionals. These people will also make great connections on LinkedIn. Once connected, you can use LinkedIn to learn more about their areas of expertise, work history and educational experience.
Family and Friends – When it comes to connecting to family and friends, most people think of Facebook. However, your friends and family may just be able to connect you with people who can help you develop new business opportunities for your organization. I have connected with several family members and have been surprised to find out that my business contacts know members of my family. It has made for some interesting conversations!
Fellow Members of LinkedIn Groups – Have you joined any groups in LinkedIn? If not, may I suggest that you start with SocialCPAs? It is a great place for accounting professionals to gather and share ideas about social media. AICPA members can also join the AICPA LinkedIn group. As a member of any LinkedIn group, you can see the group’s member list and potentially use it to develop additional LinkedIn connections.
LinkedIn offers several tools to import contacts into LinkedIn. I would advise that you test these tools before offering up your entire Outlook Contact list. You may find that LinkedIn uploads too much information! You may be able to avoid any problems by just uploading a list of email addresses. You can export contact information from Outlook to Excel, edit it as you please and save it in a CSV format on your desktop to upload to your LinkedIn account. The import tools can help you build a large number of connections in a short amount of time. I hope you can use the information in this article to build a stronger LinkedIn network and gain benefits from your time on LinkedIn.
This article was originally published in the AICPA's CPA Insider newsletter.