Rapportive helps Gmail users make relevant LinkedIn connections

Every day, you access a great source of additional LinkedIn connections: your email inbox. There’s a good chance that many of the people who send you email would be good additions to your network, but you may miss the opportunity thinking you’re already connected or just because LinkedIn is out of sight, and therefore out of mind. If you’d like to change that, and you’re a Gmail user, it’s worth taking a look at Rapportive.

Rapportive, which was purchased by LinkedIn in 2012, gives you a snapshot of an email sender’s social media profiles–including, of course, LinkedIn–from within Gmail. That means you can see at a glance whether you’re connected to a given sender and you can start the connection process right from Gmail. Rapportive provides information about more than just LinkedIn: you can also see whether you’re connected to a sender on Facebook or whether you’re following him or her on Twitter–and you can even see the sender’s latest Tweets. Rapportive also allows you to add notes about a given connection that only you can see, much like the LinkedIn Contacts app.

Here’s an example (see screen capture below): Jon Nelson had emailed me the other day, and I noticed he and I weren’t connected (see red arrow). I clicked on the “connect” button, and Rapportive allowed me to customize the message.


Is it likely that I would have connected with Jon had I not installed Rapportive? Possibly.  But using Rapportive reminded me of the opportunity a lot more quickly than I would have realized on my own.

Want to learn more about Rapportive? Check it out here–and let me know what you think.


StayFocusd helps you change bad habits–and spend more productive time on LinkedIn

Bad habits: we all have them. As you get a little older, you realize the key isn’t eliminating them entirely. It’s more a matter of finding ways to mitigate them and steal back some time and energy for things that really are worthwhile.

That’s why I love the Google Chrome plug-in StayFocusd, an app designed to limit your time on certain websites. You’ll notice I didn’t say “eliminate” time on certain websites: part of the genius of StayFocusd is that you still can give in to the occasional urge to check out Facebook photos, watch YouTube videos, or check out the latest headlines on The Onion. However, by limiting your time on those sites, you’ll do so much less often–and be more aware of how often that temptation kicks in.

Here’s the catch, though: any time you avoiding spending on one time-sucking, unproductive website can easily be reallocated to another time-sucking, unproductive website–unless you have a plan. And that’s where LinkedIn comes in.

I’ve written before about how you can use LinkedIn effectively in just 10 minutes a day. Chances are, some of you reading this post already devote that much time to LinkedIn every day–maybe even more. However, there are probably some of you who don’t, and who have been trying to find the time to make it work.

You probably see where this is going.

So here’s a simple solution: take an honest look at how you spend your time on the web (there’s an app for that, too), and then use StayFocusd to reel it in. Maybe spend 10 fewer minutes on Facebook or Twitter and commit to spending that time on LinkedIn instead. Don’t assume it will be easy at first–you may even need to put an “appointment” with LinkedIn on your daily calendar–but know it is possible. All it takes is a little discipline…and a little help from your friends at StayFocusd.

3 ways to thank your LinkedIn connections

“Thank you” by Avard Woolaver on Flickr.

This time of year, nearly everyone–even unsentimental old cusses like me–gives some thought to what they’re grateful for. And if you’ve had any success at work in the past eleven months, there are probably a few professional connections on your “to thank” list.

Depending on the relationship, some of them will undoubtedly deserve a substantial gift or gesture. But what about the people you’d like to acknowledge without breaking the bank or overloading your schedule? There are three ways LinkedIn can help:

1. Endorsements. I’m not the biggest fan of LinkedIn endorsements, but they do have some value–especially when given to connections who don’t yet have many of them. Being among the first to give a connection a deserved endorsement will likely stand out more than one given to someone who’s expertise has already been well acknowledged by other LinkedIn users. Those just starting a career may be good candidates for this.

2. Recommendations. How do you properly thank those who already have dozens of endorsements? Give them a LinkedIn recommendation instead. Because it takes more effort to make recommendations, they tend to be better appreciated. Look for connections who have zero or only a couple recommendations and take the time to acknowledge what they do well.

3.Introductions. What can you give the LinkedIn connection who seems to have it all? Introduce them to someone in your network who may be in the market for their services or who may be a resource to them. Choose “share profile” on a connection’s profile to make the introduction, or download his or her profile as a PDF and email it to someone else. Either way, you’ll be helping two people in the same amount of time it would take you to help one.

The best thing about taking the time to thank your connections is that it doesn’t take much time at all–especially when you consider the potential upside in improved relationships. It’s yet another example of how, as the saying goes, it’s better to give than to receive.

Should iPhone users opt in–or out–of Intro?

In late October, LinkedIn introduced Intro, a plug in that integrates rich profile information with the iPhone Mail app. Offering much of the same functionality as LinkedIn property Rapportive, Intro is designed to make it easier for users to access rich information about those who email them.

While the announcement of Intro was met with the usual squeals of delight from both LinkedIn members and Apple afficionados, it also received a good deal of criticism from TechCrunch, among others. The backlash was so pervasive, in fact, that LinkedIn published a second blog post “to clear up these inaccuracies and misperceptions.”

All of this may leave iPhone users wondering whether they should opt in–or out–of Intro. Like almost every other consideration in today’s hyper-connected world, the answer depends upon your individual tolerance for sharing information with companies like LinkedIn. As “Mr. LinkedIn” Mark Williams pointed out in this post, it may simply require a shift in how you use Intro to avoid some of the most prevalent security concerns. Others may be better served holding off entirely until Intro is more mature. In any case, it’s worth reading up on both sides of the issue before jumping into Intro. As always, anything that’s “free” generally requires that we “pay” in the form of data. Whether the cost is too steep is ultimately up to you.

LinkedIn will introduce “block user” feature

“Keep Out” by Zach Klein on Flickr

One of the items I hear LinkedIn users asking for most frequently is the ability to “block” other members from viewing their profiles. Currently, it’s simply not possible. You can limit what people can see on your public profile, but there’s no way to restrict their access altogether.

Well, that seems to be changing. This Internet Evolution post details the work of Anna Rihtar, who has campaigned for a block user feature. As the story states, LinkedIn has confirmed that it’s on the way, although no specific date has been given.

Regardless of when it happens, it’s sure to be a welcome addition, bringing LinkedIn up to date with what has long been a standard on other social media sites.

How often should you change your LinkedIn profile photo? (The answer may surprise you.)

“New ‘Camera”‘” by Sherman Geronimo-Tan on Flickr

There’s no question that a photo is a must-have on your LinkedIn profile. What’s less clear, however, is how often you should change your photo. If you listen to the conventional wisdom, the answer would seem to be “frequently,” based on the premise that a new photo will attract new attention.

Well, this is another case where the conventional wisdom isn’t all that wise. While it may seem to be a good idea to switch your photo every now and then, the truth is that you should only do so infrequently. Why? Well, our eyes are drawn to faces–that’s just how we’re wired–but we’re even more drawn to familiar faces. And that means a profile photo that we’ve seen before will stand out from those that don’t register as quickly.

That’s not to say you should never change your photo. The key is to do so only when there’s a good reason to, not just because you think you should. For example, you should consider changing your photo if…

  • Your appearance changes dramatically. One goal of your profile photo should be to make it easier for your connections to identify you in the real world. If you grow a mustache, change your hairstyle, or put on or lose a considerable amount of weight, it may be time for an update.
  • Your photo doesn’t represent how you want to be seen as a professional. Since LinkedIn is a niche network, relevant only to your professional life, your photo should depict how you want to be seen by your professional contacts. If your photo is more relevant to your personal life–a shot with your spouse or at the beach, for example–you should choose something more LinkedIn appropriate.
  • You haven’t changed it in a couple years. This may sound like a contradiction given that I just said you don’t want to change it out too often, but it’s just as bad to never change it out at all. The fact is, our appearance changes subtlety over the years–more than we tend to notice–so there’s a good chance an old photo can look dated. Once a year is more than often enough if none of the variables mentioned above applies.

So, the next time you go to change your LinkedIn profile photo, make sure you know why you’re doing it. If you can’t say what’s motivating the change, it may be better to do nothing at all.

What LinkedIn CAN’T do–and how you should respond

“How to Decorate a Mortarboard” by TasselToppers on Flickr

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of college students and recent graduates. The conversation centered on the opportunity, as they transition out of college, to shift more attention toward using social media as a professional networking tool. And one of the best ways to do that, of course, is to put more time and effort into LinkedIn.

One question came up several times: how can you build a robust LinkedIn network when you don’t have much of a real world network? Time and again, my answer was the same: LinkedIn’s not a magic bullet. It works better in enhancing existing relationships than in helping you start new ones. That means young people are often better served by focusing on providing value to their current connections–however limited in number–and use those relationships as a bridge to building new ones.

Still, I told the group, there are a few things worth doing if you want to use LinkedIn to accelerate your progress toward building your network:

  • Ratchet up your real world networking and be diligent in following up with a connection request to everyone you meet. Request information interviews. Attend job fairs. Ask your professors to introduce you to people they know in the communities/industries of interest to you.
  • Join LinkedIn groups  in industries that match your interests. Be sure to provide value in those groups and over time you’ll build some relationships.
  • Consider starting a blog and use Linkedin status updates to share the content you create. Employers are absolutely going to look for experience, and a blog lets you demonstrate what you know (and demonstrate an interest in a specific subject matter area or industry).
  • Volunteer. Join nonprofit committees in your community and then connect on LinkedIn with those you meet. Try to align them with your professional interests as best you can, but be open to anything that gives you a seat at the table with more established professionals.
Unfortunately, there are few shortcuts when it comes to building substantive relationships. But if you make LinkedIn a complement to your other efforts, you’ll start to see results.