PDA expert Richard (Rick) Upton has a great list of tips for making effective use of the online social networking service, LinkedIn:

  1. Register your business and personal email addresses.
  2. Take the tour.
  3. Fill in your full and nickname.
  4. Fill in your profile.
  5. Join any applicable groups.
  6. Browse connections for people you know.
  7. Find contacts related to your most recent employer.
  8. Add more contacts using LinkedIn’s toolbar for Outlook.
  9. Add contacts for whom you know their email addresses.
  10. Add contacts for whom you do not know their email addresses.
  11. Learn more about LinkedIn.

Not to detract in any way from Rick’s excellent list, but reflecting on my own experience, I would make the list an even dozen by adding one more point:

  • Join and participate in LinkedIn-related discussion groups

There is no question that LinkedIn, with its membership now over 5.5 million, must be doing something right and providing valuable service. At the same time, I am quite sure that I would not have benefited from my LinkedIn membership nearly so much as I have if I had not participated in some of the associated discussion groups on Yahoo! Groups.

There are also official LinkedIn Groups, including alumni organizations, conferences, corporate groups, networking groups, philanthropic non-profits, and professional organizations, but the focus of this post is on the LinkedIn-related discussion groups such as those found on Yahoo! Groups.

For an understanding of how LinkedIn works and how to make better use of it, I have found it invaluable to be a member of Vincent Wright’s My LinkedIn Power Forum (MLPF), with its over 3,800 members and also of Jonathan Meath’s 1,800+ member LinkedInnovators.

And for those who want to know how to use blogging, podcasting and other ‘Web 2.0? technologies to leverage their LinkedIn-related networking, there is Linkedin Bloggers, a forum for discussing how blogging and related technologies, such as podcasting, video blogging (‘vlogging’) and wikis, can support their professional networking using LinkedIn.

First registered on May 22, 2005 by the aforementioned Vincent Wright and then handed over to me as founding moderator, LinkedIn Bloggers’ membership covers a range of practice and expertise in blogging, from full-time professional bloggers through to people who are just starting out with their first blog. There is now a team of moderators, with Dave Taylor, Dennis McDonald and Robyn Tippins as well as myself. Membership is a fraction of that of the other groups mentioned but the 490 we have reached at this posting is a healthy enough number, in my opinion, to get a good range of experience and commentary when issues come up for discussion.

Still, it would be nice if the membership were to grow enough in the next week by just 10 more members, to hit the 500 mark in time for the group’s first anniversary on May 22. Not a big deal, but nice :) The only formal pre-condition for membership is to be or become a member of LinkedIn, for which basic membership is free.

And for the Yahoo! Groups LinkedIn Bloggers, as for My LinkedIn Power Forum and LinkedIn Innovators, there is a corresponding LinkedIn Bloggers group in the official LinkedIn Groups – membership of the latter is open to anyone who is an approved member of the Yahoo! based bloggers’ group.

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Des Walsh is an executive coach. He helps business owners and entrepreneurs worldwide deal effectively with the feeling of being left behind or overwhelmed, or both, about social media – especially LinkedIn - and how to engage safely and effectively with social media to help grow their business. Connect with Des on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get Des’s weekly Social Business Bites (select snippets of his "best of the week" online finds).