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LinkedIn Networking is Priceless, But It Isn’t Free

When it comes to social networking tools, the choices are vast. There are apps for just about everything, from Twitter to Facebook to Go Fund Me to various dating apps. But for the business side of social networking and connecting with potential collaborators, the gold-standard is LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is "the world's largest professional network with more than 433 million members in 200 countries and territories around the globe." Since its inception by Reid Hoffman in 2003, LinkedIn has grown from a website and virtual networking tool to a comprehensive career management and personal branding platform.

The success of LinkedIn attracted Microsoft, which recognized the value of LinkedIn and acquired the company for $24 billion in late 2016. Microsoft placed such a high value on the company because of its best-in-class professional relationship management functions and its content-publishing platform. But what was once an easy to navigate and (mostly) free website is changing its ways. Here is what you need to know:


1. The redesign
In the coming months, LinkedIn members will notice changes to the look and functionality of the site. The desktop version of LinkedIn will be more in tune with the recently updated mobile app, with messaging (also known as InMail) that works more like chat and less like traditional email. LinkedIn stated that the goal of the redesign is to entice users to spend more time actively engaging with the site.

2. Still a great networking tool, for a price
Most of LinkedIn's 433 million member base engages only with the free features, such as connecting with colleagues, career searches and posting their professional profiles. As LinkedIn makes the redesigned site available to more users, its new pricing initiatives will limit free users' ability to access advanced searching capability (for example, no more searching for a Duke grad who lives in Houston and is a CPA.) So while you may want to use LinkedIn to track down and reconnect with a former colleague or classmate you will be able to do so, for a price.

3. Your LinkedIn profile still matters
For any business professional, having a LinkedIn profile is essential not only for networking but for the opportunity to be found. Even if you are not in the market for a new executive role you may want to position yourself to Board roles and other opportunities. We have written previously that many executive search firms are investing significantly in the top level of access to LinkedIn rather than hire large teams of researchers. For candidates, it may be more effective to have a strong LinkedIn profile than to send your resume to a leanly staffed search firm where your resume may not make it into their database. Even if you are not seeking a new position, follow these rules and be consistent with your brand.

4. Just because it is expensive doesn't mean you should not invest
A recent feature of LinkedIn is the ability to pay to sponsor posts or to be featured on LinkedIn Pulse and Trending articles pages. This option may not be right for individual members, but it is of value to a business or not for profit organization who wants exposure for their thought leadership.

5. LinkedIn etiquette and pet peeves
It is also important to remember what LinkedIn is, and what LinkedIn is not. LinkedIn is a professional network. It is not Facebook, Twitter, a political platform, a dating site (yes, people do go there, which is clearly unprofessional) or a space for venting and sharing your personal thoughts. There are plenty of other tools for that.

LinkedIn's mission statement says "Our mission is simple: To connect the world's professionals to make them more productive and successful." It is as simple as that. So if you are a professional who uses LinkedIn, be sure to remember the purpose of having a LinkedIn profile so you can use it to your full advantage. Oh, and one further note: if you have a photo of yourself holding up a giant fish or hugging your dog, you should probably take that off and move it to Facebook. There is a time and a place for everything.

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