When is a social network not a social network?
I’ll tell you: when it’s a commercial, professional, academic, or business network, that’s when.
LinkedIn is all these things and more. People do use it as a social forum, to interact – no doubt about it – but its main reason for existence is its ability to connect people within the same commercial, academic or professional sphere, no matter where in the world they happen to work.
Yes, LinkedIn can change your working life.
Don’t look so dejected – work can be quite edifying if you get your connections right. Do have a look at what LinkedIn can do for you. It’s the people, you see. Business is about people. Commerce is about people. Academia is about people, and professional people know they need to understand people.
LinkedIn can connect you to people with key roles in your profession, industry or trade. If you are a writer wondering what to do next along your career trajectory, you can find similarly engaged writers who have already taken that leap. Chatting with them about how, where, what and who is second nature if you find a discussion group that suits your timeframe, game plan and business situation. Suddenly, you are giving as much as you get, sharing information about the publishing industry you wondered about. Suddenly, your knowledge is valuable, and you can share it. Suddenly, those knotty questions about manuscripts, publishers, formatting … they are all being answered in a casual but canny way.
If you connect with the right people, LinkedIn keeps you clued up on what they do. If an editor changes publishing companies, if a formatter moves to a new city, if a copywriter or publicist acquires a new skill, you are in the know. A simple weekly email keeps you abreast of industry changes.
Connecting on LinkedIn means prospects for your editing business learn about your moves and availability, if you so wish. It means you can find someone to format that manuscript in a hurry. Announcing news is a simple matter, with a number of options: tell the world through a discussion, or by writing it on your profile, from where it’s announced to your connections, or tell all your connections (or a selection of them) what’s important this month. Used discreetly and with acumen, your list of connections can be a source of information and a destination for your knowledge and news.
Some discussions on LinkedIn do have a mild social inclination. But most provide an invaluable trove of industry knowledge – a few with as many as 10,000 posts that mostly deal with hints and tricks, advice and caveats for which you would happily pay.
Register at LinkedIn, and put some work into your profile, which can list salient points from your resumé, the highlights of your education and employment, the covers of your books, excerpts and links to your recent blog posts. And much more. What’s so special about this, you might ask. You do this in other places, right?
Well – it’s viewed and used differently on LinkedIn. People within industries can use keywords and search for just your position or situation; just your kind of industry professional for a specific vacancy; just your style of blog; just your genre of novel; or exactly your style, content, or tone for a blog. It’s much less left in the lap of the gods at LinkedIn. It works.
When you have done yours, visit the profiles of your connections when you make them, and start to know and understand the different people with whom you interact on a regular basis: your field of endeavour will suddenly open up before you, and things will seem possible that before were just a vague hope.
No – I joined LinkedIn in October 2010, and made such good connections and acquaintances there, I feel some of them are friends. What else? Well – this regular column came from a LinkedIn connection, and a number of very good editing jobs, and a great deal of publicity for my fiction (which brought real sales)… not to mention a mountain of advice, encouragement, and real help. It all made publication possible for my indie collections – seven in all, which I released in 2011. I also landed a number of interviewees and interviewers for blogs, and found consolation and good wishes whenever I had good or bad news to share.
An author can do worse than find a niche on LinkedIn. So register and explore. Use the site wisely – it’s possible to become quite well-known for your style and manner of sharing advice. Treat it as part of your writing business, and you will find your professionalism returned in kind. Your industry questions can be answered, your academic angst can be soothed, and your professional prowess admired. I’d be surprised if you didn’t find your next professional step is to be found on LinkedIn.
What LinkedIn is not: this network won’t respond well if you use it as a great big receptacle for your promotional efforts. It’s not really a bunch of captive prospects you can fish for in a blatant way. It works better as a pool of like-minded and helpful people who will help and be helped, and who might become intrigued about you or so taken by your practiced stance that they will turn around and buy your books.
It’s happened to me.
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ROSANNE DINGLI, author of Death in Malta and According to Luke, has written quite a bit of fiction since 1985. Some of it is collected in seven volumes of stories that were awarded, commended and published in anthologies, journals, supplements and magazines. For more about Rosanne Dingli, visit her website, or her blog. [subscribe2]