Mastering LinkedIn: Tips for Journalists

there are hundreds of online social networks. It can be daunting to decide which networks to join. Each network provides its own set of advantages. This week the Hub takes a look at LinkedIn and how news start-ups and journalists can make the most use of this powerful network.

LinkedIn is an incredibly powerful way to represent your professional accomplishments and resume and connect with others. LinkedIn has been around since 2003 and continues to grow in size and reach. According to the company’s website as of March 2012, they have 161 million members in over 200 countries and territories. Two million organizations have company pages in the network. In addition, there were nearly 4.2 billion professional searches performed on the platform in 2011.

Many people may consider LinkedIn as just a virtual business card, but there is a lot more to the network. News start-ups and journalists can use the network to build their digital presence, to find sources, to gather information and research on individuals or companies, to seek out conversations on the latest buzz happening in a company or community, to find other professionals to collaborate or connect with, and to join groups by interest or subject area.

Individual Profile Tips

If you have not set up a profile before or already have a profile on the network, the following tips can help you strengthen your presence on the web as well as in the network.

  • Current and Past Work Experience. Make sure to include as much information as possible on your current position and past jobs.
  • Have a Strong Summary. Provide a detailed summary about what you do by using action-oriented words and keep the summary short to no more than two to four paragraphs.
  • Add Skills. Include all the skills you know ranging from computer applications (i.e. Photoshop) to specific techniques (i.e. data analysis and visualization). If you know computer languages like PHP or HTML – add that as well.
  • Add Educational Background. Make sure to include all degrees and certifications you have received. Don’t forget to include workshops and seminars you have attended.
  • List all Websites. Under the additional information category, list out all the websites you work on – news website, blog sites, Facebook pages, Twitter, etc.
  • Create a Custom URL. By making a unique url tied to your name or news organization, it will show up faster in the search results. You can also include this link on your own website, in printed materials, on business cards, etc.
  • Add a Professional Photo or Logo. Include a professional looking headshot or the news organization’s logo.

The more detailed you are in putting this information into your profile the more you will get something out of the network in return. LinkedIn is a social network but also a powerful search engine – so you want to make sure the information you put into your profile is clear and succinct. Others will find you in Google searches and on the LinkedIn network based on what you write in your profile.

In addition, your profile is more than just a resume – it’s your professional identity online that shows your work, qualities and skills so that others can find you and in turn how this can lead to future collaborations or other opportunities.

Managing Your Profile

Once you have your profile created, it’s important to continue to manage and update it as you would any other social network account. Make sure to check into your profile often to see what has been posted to your profile and to find out what other people in your network are doing. When managing your profile, make sure to do the following:

  • Google Yourself. Google yourself from time to time to see where your profile shows up and how it shows up.
  • Monitor Your Profile Views. Check to see who is viewing your profile.
  • Add Contacts. Don’t forget to seek out contacts to add to your network as you meet different people. Your network will only be as strong as those you add to it.

Using LinkedIn for Newsgathering

At a recent Social Media Summit I attended at Stanford, Mario Sundar of LinkedIn gave pointers on how journalists can best use LinkedIn:

  • Complete the Section on Publications. Consider posting your best work in this area. Also consider making a LinkedIn post each time you publish a new story.
  • Use Filters to Manage Relationships. The network can be helpful in identifying colleagues you would like to connect with, but you can also use it to find sources. Using the filter function in the network can help you manage and organize these contacts accordingly in your profile.
  • Use Advanced Search. If you are looking for a particular individual, type of company, industry or group, the advanced search function can help you locate profiles on the network that match the criteria you are looking for.

In addition, the network can be used to help you gather information related to a particular group, company or individual.

  • The Skills area allows you to find out who are the professionals listed by that particular skill, find out companies that specialize in this skill set, and relevant groups tied to that skill.
  • The Companies area allows you to search by company name to get additional information on who they are, who are their employees, the latest news with the company, etc.
  • Signal Search. This area allows you to search all public updates by LinkedIn members to find out the latest news about a company, individual or group.

In addition, consider checking out the various interest groups on LinkedIn. In particular, there is one for journalists. Once a month, the LinkedIn Journalists group hosts an online training seminar on how to use the network for journalistic purposes.

These are just a few tips to help you get started toward mastering your profile on the network effectively.