I’ve been meeting a lot of new and fascinating people and it has reminded me about how much I use my LinkedIn profile as my ‘business card’ and why I think you should try it too.
I have used conventional business cards quite a lot in the past. I lived in Japan two years and business cards were of fundamental importance, including the way you presented and received them. I believe that they have their place. However, I think LinkedIn means they aren’t necessary for everyone, all the time.
Before I tell you why I think you should consider using LinkedIn either as your sole business card, or alongside the business cards you hand out, I need to give one important proviso:
You must have a full, current, professional LinkedIn profile first
This is crucial.
The last thing you want is to be pushing your LinkedIn profile in front of people if it doesn’t properly reflect your brand.
So, check out my article ‘The Three Things Your LinkedIn Profile Needs in 2018‘ first.
Presuming you are happy with your profile, these are the core reasons I think you should consider using LinkedIn instead of a business card:
1- You can connect instantly
If you so wish and you have a smartphone, you can choose to link to someone on LinkedIn immediately at an event. This saves time when you get back to your place of work, makes it less likely you will forget to follow up with an interesting contact and is a great compliment to the person you have just met.
2- You present ‘social proof’ about who you are and what you do
Anyone could make a business card with a completely exaggerated job title. With LinkedIn there is a chance for a new contact to see a bit of social proof about the things that you say you are an expert in. On LinkedIn you can receive endorsements, add publications to your profile, participate in groups and much more. If someone goes to my LinkedIn profile I am confident that there are a few things to back up the assertions I make about my areas of specialism. As long as you have a decent profile, that will be exactly the same for you.
3- You can see who you have in common
On LinkedIn you can see your common connections with your new contact. Sometimes I am amazed to find that someone I meet knows a lot of the same people that I do. Unless you and the person you have just met are going to go through a list out loud of all the common people you know, only LinkedIn provides this magic!
4- You can add more personality to your profile than a generic card
I’m proud of my LinkedIn profile. I’m not proud because I think it is perfect in every way, but I think it tells the story of me. LinkedIn gives me the chance, in a structured way, to tell my own story.
Of course there are some brilliantly creative business cards out there, but most of them are pretty boring.
5- You can reverse-engineer the careers of the people you meet- and so learn more
One of my favourite things in life is to learn about other people’s careers. I like hearing why they are passionate about what they do and I like to hear the stories that they tell about their work. Unless you have a very long conversation with a new person that you meet it is unlikely that you will learn about their career history in great detail. Once you connect on LinkedIn, you can learn more about what they have been up to in their professional lives. Sometimes you will see a surprising detail, like that you have an area of work in common that you didn’t realize or perhaps they worked in a field that seems unrelated to their current role, but that you can see must have given them some useful additional insights.
Perhaps especially if you are starting off in your career it can be intimidating to meet people with fancy job titles, which is all that you would get from a business card. LinkedIn shows you the twists and turns people have in their careers. If you meet someone whose career that you would like to emulate this is a powerful and inspiring tool.
These are my ideas- but what do you think?
Do you use LinkedIn this way and do you find it effective?