Professional Communities and Social Media

Amber Hayes
By Amber Hayes
September 28th, 2010


When summer vacation started I finished my last column warning I would start back up with one of my favourite social media conversations which involves social media and business.
There is a huge value in Social Media for businesses, not just for promotion and advertising but also for market research, human resources, knowledge development and networking.
One of the leading communities online for professionals is LinkedIn.com and it offers all of the above values plus it is easy to use, free and has over 75 million members in over 200 countries. A new member joins LinkedIn approximately every second and interestingly executives from all Fortune 500 companies are LinkedIn members.
So how can you use it?
Join up for free and fill out your profile first. Be thorough. Your profile is your online resume and first impression to new business people you will meet in the community.
I would suggest next to go to the search bar, choose to search groups and type in your industry or work description.
You will chose to join a group for two main reasons, to advance your professional knowledge/skills and to promote your products to potential clients.
As an example:
If I was making homemade dog biscuits I might belong to groups such as: Bakers industry (to learn baking tips), Dogs Are Us (to do market research, marketing and sales),  and Pet Stores (selling product).
When you search for groups the results will show all of the groups associated with your search terms. Take a look at the description of the group and the number of members. High member numbers indicate you will have a large audience to both learn from and share with. Join a few groups that interest you and choose to receive an email summary a week from them.
What you will receive by email could be described as newsletter from the group including new discussions, announcements, jobs and more. These will both give you an idea if this is the right group for you and give you a sense of how the group communicates. I also recommend reading posts and tweets to give you a better sense of how to write catchy titles and content. If it caught your eye decide why and try to emulate that style when you start posting.
When you have news to share, new products or events post them to the groups but also engage the groups!
Ask them for feedback or their experiences. This allows you to share what you are doing while offering other members to give their perspective and similarly blow their own horns. It’s a win for everyone and avoids the boring and at time offensive blatant “buy my stuff” postings.
Building your personal network is generally best tackled by using your Email client to search for people you know who are already on LinkedIn and invite them to connect to you first.
Once you have them in your network you may see other people you know to invite or you may decide to invite key people who has impressed you in the groups you belong to.
Like any social media tool your goals will dictate how you grow and use your network but it is a valuable tool for your business toolbox.
I have personally used LinkedIn to find answers to technical questions, promote registrations for events, and build my expertise network, wrangle introductions to people I want to meet, source speakers and industry specialists and of course engage potential clients.
It is a fabulous tool for a variety of business uses. I hope you enjoy browsing around LinkedIn and making some valuable connections out there!

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