July 14, 2011

Nonprofit strategies for getting more out of LinkedIn

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Target audience: Nonprofits, NGOs, foundations, cause organizations, companies, brands, start-ups, citizen publications. This is part two of a series on how nonprofits, businesses and other organizations can take advantage of LinkedIn. Also see part one:

Highlights of LinkedIn’s new program for nonprofits

Debra AskanaseLast month I presented a webinar to the Darim Online community about how to use LinkedIn for Nonprofits. The program is so new — it just launched on May 9 — that most nonprofits don’t even know it exists.

When I was preparing for the webinar, two things struck me: why cause-focused groups may not work well on LinkedIn (more on that below), and how much LinkedIn offers. The presentation focuses on five ways to best utilize LinkedIn professionally: be goal-oriented, optimize both your personal and company profiles, utilize groups, and use LinkedIn Answers.

With more than 100 million users, 44 million of them in the United States, LinkedIn is a social network you can’t afford to ignore. If I had to offer three tips about using LinkedIn effectively, they would be:

  • Think about why you and your organization want to be one LinkedIn, and how you use it will follow.
  • Identify a combination of 10 keywords and keyword phrases that best describe you, and 10 others that best describe the organization. Integrate these keywords and keyword phrases into your personal and organization profiles.
  • Complete all employee personal LinkedIn profiles to 100%, as well as the organizational profile.

Start with your goals

The key to using any social media platform effectively is to use it to meet your goals. Decide first why you (or your organization) would want to use LinkedIn (such as finding collaborators, funders, or colleagues). Once you know why you want to use LinkedIn, how you will use LinkedIn follows. For example, if you want to use LinkedIn to connect with foundations then you might:

  • Search for people who work at those foundations.
  • Join groups that they have joined and participate.
  • Ask for introductions through mutual LinkedIn connections.
  • Use LinkedIn Answers to ask a question about contacting foundations.

Identifying your goals will dictate your LinkedIn strategy.

Optimize your personal profile

One aspect of optimizing your profile is completing it fully. Be sure to include your photo, a summary of who you are, keywords and interests, and a summary of what you’ve accomplished in every position. It’s also important to have at least five recommendations, since you can search LinkedIn by number of recommendations.

Use the “advanced search” option to understand how you can be found, and include those in your profile. Some of the search parameters are by industry, geographic location, number of recommendations, and position titles.

Optimizing your profile also means placing important phrases and keywords within your profile. Think about 10 to 15 keywords and keyword phrases that describe you professionally. Specifically, place keyword-rich content within the summary, specialties, and interests sections.

Optimize your nonprofit or company profile

If your organization doesn’t have a company profile, create one on LinkedIn. Identify the 10-15 keywords that best describe your organization, and integrate them into the company profile for the profile to be search-ready. If your organization has a blog or Twitter presence, be sure to add those to the company profile to personalize the organization.

Here are five things you can do to optimize your organization’s presence on LinkedIn right now:

  • Identify 10 – 15 keywords that describe your organization and its interests.
  • Set up a company profile.
  • Feed blog posts and Twitter into the profile.
  • Highlight products or services using the Products/Services page.
  • Assign someone to update it regularly.

Take advantage of the power of groups

Real connecting happens within groups. Search for groups related to your profession and industry. I also recommend joining groups your professional colleagues belong to as well. If a group is inactive or not valuable, leave. If it is, spend time within the group answering questions and offering help. When you find yourself in an interesting discussion, invite your colleagues to connect with you personally on LinkedIn after the discussion has concluded. I tend to see the same group of people commenting on group discussions, which helps me to know them through our participation.

When groups are managed by nonprofits, and the discussion is about the nonprofit or a specific cause, they tend to be inactive. I looked at many public nonprofit-administered groups while researching this presentation, and most were very inactive or not lively. (I cannot comment on private groups, though.) I suspect that cause-specific or nonprofit-specific groups aren’t very active because LinkedIn users want to discuss professional issues, not organizational mission. I also think that mission-based discussion has limited appeal while industry-based discussion has much broader appeal and basis for discussion. Additionally, LinkedIn is not best used as a platform for recruiting people to become direct stakeholders; there are other platforms much better suited to cause-focused discussions.

There appears to be two exceptions to the inactive nonprofit-administered groups rule: One is Autism Speaks, which has a very lively LinkedIn group, though I’m not able to comment on why this is the case. The other exception seems to be professional associations. For example, the alumni group of the Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust (a youth business mentoring program) is a very active group for business class alums to connect with others and possibly do business together.

LinkedIn Answers

LinkedIn Answers is both a wonderful research tool and means to find new connections. By subscribing to the RSS feed of a certain category of questions (such as Social Entrepreneurship), you can stay up to date on the latest industry discussions, and also answer questions yourself. If your answer is selected as the “best answer,” you win the “best answer” designation, which enhances your professional credibility. Also, questions reach the entire LinkedIn community, not just your personal connections.

Here are five ways to take advantage of LinkedIn Answers:

  1. Set up RSS feed subscriptions for your area.
  2. Stay up to date in your field of expertise.
  3. Become an expert with “Best Answers in” designation.
  4. Ask the questions you really want to ask.
  5. Search Answers for great information, insights. potential collaborators and colleagues.

Other LinkedIn goodies

I love looking at what’s going on in the LinkedIn labs. Most recently, I’ve enjoyed LinkedIn Maps (visualize your own network) and Signal (trending news stories shared by your connections) from the labs. Check back each month for new labs products.

Resources

Joanne Fritz of nonprofit.about.com published a great article with many tips for nonprofit professionals using LinkedIn. Fast Company also published an article with five LinkedIn tips you didn’t know. Read the excellent Net2 Think Tank discussion about using LinkedIn for change. Allison Fine interviews Amy Sample Ward and Estrella Rosenberg on how nonprofits can use LinkedIn on the December Social Good podcast. LinkedIn has a nonprofit learning center you can visit, as well. Drop in on the informative weekly LinkedIn Twitter chat at 8pm every Tuesday, hosted by @LinkedInExpert and @MartineHunter.

If you’d like to watch the recorded webinar that I presented with Darim Online, you may view it here.

What is your LinkedIn tip? What is the most useful thing about using LinkedIn that you’ve found?

Republished from Community Organizer 2.0.

Related

Highlights of LinkedIn’s new program for nonprofits (Socialbrite)

LinkedIn for NonprofitsDebra Askanase works with nonprofits and businesses to create engagement strategies that move people to action. She is a social media strategist and partner in Socialbrite. Visit her profile page, see her Community Organizer 2.0 blog, follow her on Twitter, contact Debra by email or leave a comment.

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