I joined LinkedIn, the business social networking site, in September when I started working again. I’ve been a regular ever since. I posted some thoughts about how writers can use LinkedIn on Freelance Success, a freelance writers Web site, and people found them so helpful, I’m sharing them here.
Here’s how writers can use LinkedIn:
To reconnect with former colleagues from various places you’ve worked on staff or as a freelancer. If you’ve kept email addresses of old buddies in Outlook or another contact manager, you can import those into LinkedIn and see if they’re also members. If they aren’t, their email addresses are right at your finger tips to invite them. If you’ve created a detailed LinkedIn profile that lists places you’ve worked, you can go to the LinkedIn Home page to see how many other people at those companies are members and invite them to join your network. In my case, one of the ex-colleagues I asked to connect with is now an assigning editor at a couple news Web sites. She immediately offered me assignments and I’m writing a couple stories a month for her.
As a contact manager for all of the editors and editorial staff you work with. Most of the editors at publications I’m writing for are on it, as are their bosses, art directors, etc., so it’s kind of like a company directory.
As a contact manager for sources and potential sources. As I work on stories, I ask sources or the PR rep who set up the interview if they’re on LinkedIn. If they do, I ask them to join my network. If they don’t, I evangelize a little about the benefits and ask if I can introduce them to the service by inviting them to join my network. In most cases they accept. By doing this, I’m building up a virtual Rolodex of sources for future stories.
To find sources. Now that my contact list is in LinkedIn, I send group emails to subsets of the list when I’m looking for company examples in a certain industry or on a specific trend or issue. LinkedIn lets you slice and dice connections list by geography or industry, which makes it easy to put group emails together. You can also hand pick a group of names to send a message to.
To find potential sources. In LinkedIn’s Answers section, use the Keyword search function to find potential sources for stories by name, company name, etc. When I find someone that looks like they could be a subject matter expert and they have an email address listed on their LinkedIn profile, I send them a message directly. If I find someone I’m connected to indirectly, I’ll ask my 1st degree connection for an introduction. I always show my 1st degree connection the contents of the email I’m sending to their friends so they know the reason for my inquiry. I’ve found a few story sources this way, and in most instances, I’ve also added these people to my connections list. If I have no connection to that person, I might visit the company’s Web site and look up the PR contact in the “Media” or “About Us” section for a phone number.
To improve my work processes. I’m refining how I operate my freelance business, and information I’ve gleaned from fellow LinkedIn users has helped. In the long run I think this will effect my bottom line by increasing my productivity. For example, I’ve just finished reading a book on organization and time management, Take Back Your Life! Using Outlook to Get Organized and Stay Organized, by Sally McGhee (Microsoft Press), that I heard about on a LinkedIn Answer board. Another example: when I started working again, I wanted to go green by eliminating printing out interview and research notes before writing a story. I posted a question in the Question and Answer section asking how to do this and got a bunch of great suggestions, including one that I use all the time now – a Word feature that tiles two files horizontally on the screen at the same time, one for notes and one for writing.