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5 Tips from a LinkedIn Jedi

5 Tips from a LinkedIn Jedi

The man who wrote the book on LinkedIn shares his secrets to becoming an expert social networker.

David Gowel has made many career transitions:from civilian to military, from military to academic, and finally from academic to entrepreneurship. Along the way, Gowel used LinkedIn to achieve each step; an experience, he says, that has made him into an expert on how to use LinkedIn to become a master networker.

He even wrote a book to prove it. The Power in a Link: Open Doors, Close Deals, and Change the way you Do Business Using LinkedIn, (Wiley, December 2011) is a 159-page opus on becoming a master social networker. Gowel, a West Point graduate who served as a platoon leader in Iraq and has taught leadership classes at MIT, says CEOs and entrepreneurs are generally pretty bad at using LinkedIn. He says they use it as a business card or résumé service when they really should be using it to mine for new clients, new connections, and new employees.

“LinkedIn has very slowly evolved into an incredible force for social business intelligence that is readily available if you know how to use it,” says Gowel, who was once described as a LinkedIn Jedi. “That’s why we don’t think [entrepreneurs] are generally using it as well as they could. When used properly, LinkedIn is very much disrupting other ways we’ve done [networking]. You can reduce the time you spend in those other activities and be much more focused on making connections if you are high-quality and ethical.”

In January 2010, Gowel and his co-founder Mark Rockefeller started RockTech, a Boston-based software company that has built online tools for CEOs, entrepreneurs, sales professionals and job seekers to help leverage their LinkedIn accounts. Their main product, TAP for LinkedIn ($29/year) ties directly into a LinkedIn profile and guides its user through the recommended settings and strategies. According to Gowel, it’s easier than reading a book, and cheaper than online tutorials. decided to tap Gowel’s LinkedIn expertise and his new book for some of its networking inspiration. Here’s five key takeaways:

1) Don’t be a “Johnny Milker”

One of the first mistakes LinkedIn users make, says Gowel, is milking introductions from the start. “People generally know when someone else has used or is using them,” he writes. “Treat people like the friends, contacts, and respected employees they are while you network, and not like the tools that you’re trying to manipulate.”

2) Update, update, and update again.

Status Updates, much like Twitter, allow you to post succinct messages to your LinkedIn feed. Gowel believes it’s an underused feature that can get you in the spotlight and keep you in the forefront of people’s minds.

“Using status updates is a much more personal way to keep from being forgotten and can potentially differentiate you from the crowd,” he writes. Plus, he adds, if your status updates are fresh, the people in your network are more likely to believe the content on your profile is fresh.

3) Don’t run through walls to make connections.

It’s all about the recommendations and introductions. Gowel says that entrepreneurs often see what they want, or someone they want to know, and will run through walls to get to them directly. But that’s not always the best approach. Gowel says it’s almost always more effective to enlist the help of current connections—even if it’s 2nd degree—to get in touch with the people you’re trying to do business with.

4) Don’t accept any old schmo.

To accept or to reject? Perhaps breaking some conventional wisdom, Gowel says it’s better not to just accept any random request you receive from someone you barely know, or someone you don’t know at all.

“Remember that if you accept someone whom you don’t know into your network, you also give him access to your e-mail addresses,” he writes. “Ignoring someone is equivalent to giving him a cold shoulder: the request stays in his sent messages, and he may believe you just haven’t come across his invitation yet.”

5) Search is the best tool on the Internet.

“Here’s a bold statement for you,” Gowel writes. “LinkedIn’s search capabilities are going to be more valuable than Google’s search capabilities.” Gowel asserts that because LinkedIn’s search offer access to “self-updating relationship information” while Google is essentially data agnostic, the value of a LinkedIn search is becoming more valuable for business owners constantly looking for specific, personal connections.

By using “relationship searches,” “CEO searches,” or “industry searches,” savvy entrepreneurs can leverage current and potential connections to expand business and create deals.

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  1. I’m still not using LinkedIn with maximum efficiency so your tips are definitely going to help!

  2. This is really a help…Thanks a lot for this post…

  3. Love the article! I found a webinar from Ivy Exec that has some more tips for using LinkedIn in your job hunt:

  4. HelpingYouHire

    Great post! I work as a Staffing Consultant for a Staffing Solutions company and I find LinkedIn to be a great resource and using the 5 tips suggested by you, one can make the most of their LinkedIn account.

  5. LinkedIn requests are becoming much more common today. I’m getting more requests on LinkedIn than on Facebook.

    Thank you for walking your readers through the best practices.

  6. I especially liked #5, using LinkedIn as a search tool. I never considered that before.

  7. This is a good article…Thanks for the great post you shared us here…

  8. Nice to know it is okay not to acknowledge someone you don’t know. Thanks for that tip.

  9. I must strong disagree with number 4. I have spoken more than once with top LinkedIn management and I know they frown upon large networks. Even though I continue to send them examples of success stories.
    If I came up to you at an event wearing my 5K custom made suite and my 10K watch would you give me the cold shoulder? So If I requested that you join my LinkedIn network what would you do? I am the same guy with or without the watch and the fancy suite.
    I feel ever “schmo” has value. I have closed countless deals and banked real money working with people I meet blindly on LinkedIn.
    Of course we all have to work within our comfort zones.

  10. Good article. I especially liked the part about using status updates to keep the attention of others and keeping it fresh.

  11. Good story, Bob. I’m a LinkedIn enthusiast but know I could be getting more out of it. Thanks!

  12. Martin Jones (@martinjonesaz)

    Great tips.

  13. Thanks for the great tips. I never really think about status updates on my LinkedIn.

  14. Thanks for the tips Bob. I shared this on LinkedIn

  15. Thank you for sharing these Bob, it makes a lot of sense! Wondering how you differentiate between Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn clients?

  16. Thanks for this. I just spent a boatload of time fleshing out my LinkedIn profile, but that’s just half the battle. Now I need to make it work for me. This is a great starting point.

  17. Great tips…thanks for sharing!

  18. Excellent advice! I must admit I don’t use LinkedIn nearly as often as I should!

  19. Good tips, I have found the search tool to be useful when I need to find someone who can answer a very narrowly defined, specific question.

  20. Dear Bob, thank you for sharing.

  21. I always appreciate what Bob shares with us here. Thank you.

  22. Thanks for the excellent article! It was eye opening, I under estimated how linkedin can be used.

  23. awesome tips…makes me feel better about being more selective!

  24. @ 4) – so what’s best if you don’t know them . . . the shallow ignore or the clear reject ?

  25. Very good tips, thank you :-)

  26. Juts starting to pay more attention to LI so this is a very helpful perspective. thanks

  27. BoB:

    Super message! I’ve been accepting any ole Joe on Linked-IN. I figure, the more the merrier. I guess it is time to re-evaluate my practices.

  28. Thanks for the great linked-in tips.

  29. Excellent suggestions, but in Italy Linkedin isn’t “hot” like social media.

    I’ve got an account there, but I admit I update few times it.

  30. This is a fascinating article – I will certainly pay more attention to LinkedIn in future. I am guilty – like many others – of prioritising Twitter, Empire Avenue and even Facebook, but I notice of late quite a few people are coming to my blog from LinkedIn.

    And the advice at the beginning about not being a Johnny Milker is as old as the hills – treat people as ends in themselves, not means to an end!

  31. Thanks for sharing tips about LinkedIn. I’ll apply principles I learned to improve LinkedIn engagement.

  32. Grace Alexander of Brilliance On Demand

    I definitely need to take LinkedIn more seriously! Thanks for this post!

  33. Great set of tips, now I just need to hire someone full-time to do all my social stuff so I can get back to work…

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