Last week, I introduced LinkedIn, a Social Media tool linking over 35 million experienced business professionals from around the world. You were encouraged to begin the process of creating your LinkedIn profile, and to start building your network of connections. Since I’m a glass half full kinda gal, I’m confident you’ve completed your homework, so this week we’ll move on and explore the best ways to build your connection base, and how to harness the amazing “think tank” powers of LinkedIn.
As I touched on in the previous post, you are the master of your own LinkedIn universe, as the benefits you will receive from LinkedIn are directly proportionate to the amount of work you put into creating your profile and building your connection network. Creating your profile takes time, but once you’ve written a strong summary full of searchable CIO and Healthcare IT-ish keywords and pulled the best job description content from your most current resume’, you’re pretty much good to go, until your next big accomplishment, job change, or mid-life crisis warrants an update.
Your network of connections, however, will take (should take) longer to build. As with Twitter, you should think through your desired end result before you actively seek to add connections. There are two schools of thought about who and how many to include in your LinkedIn network. Since you are able to contact the “down line” connections of your personal LinkedIn connections (2 degrees of separation), and the down line connections of their connections (3 degrees of separation), many people look at LinkedIn as a numbers game, and seek to connect with as many professionals as possible – regardless of whether or not an actual connection or relationship exists. Others opt to use LinkedIn as a true personal networking tool, selectively adding true and real connections as time goes on, much like adding key business cards to a rolodex. To me, it's similar to the difference between throwing a huge wedding extravaganza, inviting 500 of your “nearest and dearest,” or getting married on the beach surrounded by 25 people you can’t imagine living without. Completely different approaches, but one with a ton more thank-you notes.
I’ve opted for the more personal approach, and highly recommend it. I currently have access to 12,400+ connections through my list of 78 connections, and if that’s not enough, going one degree further I have 1,251,500+ in my total LinkedIn network. I think I’m in pretty good shape! LinkedIn members who boast 500+ connections may appear to be more popular, but they also run the risk of getting hit up to make introductions between connections they most likely don’t even know personally, which completely defeats the purpose of LinkedIn! That being said, I will continue to selectively seek out valuable new connections in the Healthcare IT industry, to improve upon the strength and breadth of my network. Healthcare IT professionals reading this blog, those I meet at HIMSS, on Twitter, or work with through HealthcareITJobs.com – because all have promising, relevant connection potential and I’ll be excited about adding them to my connection network.
In addition to networking through one-on-one connections, LinkedIn also offers affinity groups to join, giving you the opportunity to interact with like-minded or like-positioned contacts. With the 221,292 groups currently available, chances are good that you’ll find one or two to join, but if not, you can always break off and start your own group. As with the number of connections, you can easily go crazy here, too, joining everything from the New York Jets Fan Group to the Wine 2.0 Group, so you may want to limit your memberships to a select few. Here are the Healthcare IT industry groups that I can personally recommend – not an exhaustive list by any means, but a good start:
The beauty of LinkedIn Groups is that they give you the fantastic benefit of participating in discussions with fellow group members, and keeping up-to-date on breaking industry news and developments. Wish you could “talk the talk” with a colleague who has already experienced your current challenges as a hospital CIO? Chances are good that you’d find that special someone through a LinkedIn industry group, and chances are also quite good that you’ll be able to help a colleague along the way, as well – Social Media at its finest!
Speaking of finding that special someone, LinkedIn is a Healthcare IT recruiter’s dream, so next week we’ll look at how to leverage the many LinkedIn tools available to find and recruit Healthcare IT professionals, and/or how best to use LinkedIn to pursue your own new opportunity! Oh, and I’ll also tell you why I would not be writing this blog post if it weren’t for LinkedIn. Stay tuned!