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Barry MacQuarrie
CPAs — Itís Time to Get LinkedIn

Hereís why.

February 4, 2010
by Barry MacQuarrie, CPA

I remember a few years ago when people started talking about LinkedIn. There were a few trail blazers that were trying out this new social networking application. Now, it seems like I am talking to people about LinkedIn on a daily basis. A typical conversation goes something like this, “I keep getting requests to join LinkedIn. What is it and do I really need to sign up?”

In October 2009, LinkedIn reported on their blog that they have over 50 million users. The report stated, “When LinkedIn launched in 2003, it took 477 days — almost a year and four months — to reach our first million members. This last million took only 12 days.”

LinkedIn has established itself as the premier social networking site for business professionals. If you haven’t already signed up, I suggest trying it today!

This article will outline the first steps for getting started on LinkedIn.

Getting Started on LinkedIn

It is very simple to sign up for LinkedIn. Simply navigate to www.linkedin.com, enter your name, e-mail address and select a password. LinkedIn will prompt you for your employer, industry, zip code and educational information.

The system also offers a tool that allows you to search for existing LinkedIn members using your contacts that may be stored in your Yahoo, Windows Live Hotmail, Gmail or AOL account. Until you create your LinkedIn profile, I recommend skipping this step.

Just like that, you’re using LinkedIn!

Important First Steps

The power of LinkedIn comes from being connected to other professionals. These can be fellow employees, college classmates, colleagues from your state CPA society or friends from the chamber of commerce. Each of these connections will lead to other contacts and the potential of new business referrals.

To get started, select Edit My Profile and enter your personal profile information. I would recommend add or update the following:

  • Your Picture.People find it easier to recognize a face than to remember a name. By adding our picture to your profile, you will make it easier for others to find you especially if you have a name that is as common as Susan Smith.
  • Your Headline. This field is automatically assigned by LinkedIn and can be changed. Use this field to provide a short summary of your professional expertise.
  • Employment Information.You can enter information about your positions with your current and former employers. The system will automatically try to connect you to a company profile that may have been created by your employer. This can be helpful when your start adding connections.
  • Educational Background.You can add information about your educational background including degrees, dates attended, activities and societies. This information can also be used to connect to others.
  • Web sites. By clicking the Web sites button, you will open a screen that allows you to enter information about your Web site, your blog or your company’s Web site. This screen also allows you to enter information about Groups, Associations, Honors and Awards that you want to appear on your profile.

Additional Settings

Once you have added your initial profile information, it is important to customize your LinkedIn account. The first place to start is the settings that control how others can contact you. The settings can be accessed by clicking the Edit Contact Settings hyperlink while on the Edit My Profile page. Using the Contact Settings page, you can control how others users contact you and the types of opportunities that you would like to receive. You should set these options to fit your individual needs because LinkedIn is a popular recruiting site.

Next, click the Edit Public Profile Settings hyperlink while on your Edit My Profile page. This will open a page that allows you to set a custom URL (Web address) for your profile page. By default, LinkedIn assigns you a URL that includes your name and numbers. Most people change their URL to their name or nickname. This makes it easier to reference your public profile in your e-mail signature and on your business cards.

The Edit Public Profile Settings page also lets you control the amount of information that is visible on your public profile. Your public profile is exactly as it sounds, public to anyone on the Internet. Depending on your view of privacy, you may want to limit the amount of personal or professional information that is available on your public profile. You can see your public profile by clicking the View My Public Profile as others see it hyperlink at the bottom of the page.

Finally, you have the option to enter additional personal information. There are fields for a phone number, address, IM (instant message) address, birthday and marital status. These fields can be found at the bottom of the Edit My Profile page.

Security — Last But Not Least

Look at the upper right portion of your LinkedIn page and you will see a hyperlink called Settings. Click it and you will discover a whole list of options for controlling various settings for your account. I strongly recommend that you spend time reviewing these options.

Do you care if others see your connections list? Do you want to be invited to participate in market research studies? Do you care whether market research firms have access to your profile data?

You can use the options on the Settings page to control access to your information. It is important to review the default setting used by LinkedIn when you set up your account and add the necessary restrictions.

Just Like That

Just like that, you are up and running on LinkedIn. LinkedIn can be used to increase your visibility, connect with others and develop business opportunities. Just think; there are over 50 million potential connections already using the site.

My series of articles on social networking will continue next month and will, once again, focus on LinkedIn. The article will provide strategies on how to connect to others and offer advice about LinkedIn Groups, Recommendations and Settings.

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Barry MacQuarrie, CPA, is the director of technology at KAF Financial Group. MacQuarrie has extensive experience working with CPA firm technologies. He also has expertise in workflow, process improvement, disaster recovery planning, security and paperless office technologies.