Get to know LinkedIn

It starts with your LinkedIn profile, the ubiquitous digital resume that lists your educational and work accomplishments along with any details you've chosen to add. Your profile is your professional face online—for better or worse, it's one of the things a potential employer would likely check if they're interested in you. As such, most people list their education and employment info with as much or little detail as they want. You can include documents and media to showcase projects you've undertaken, add descriptions of what you accomplished in each position, and link presentations from SlideShare—another LinkedIn company.

Then, there's the social part of LinkedIn. Instead of friends and family—or celebrities—LinkedIn's network is built around your colleagues and coworkers. You can find people you've worked with—or those you'd like to connect with professionally—and invite them to be connections on LinkedIn. Once they accept, you can message with LinkedIn's email-like InMail, which is free between contacts or requires a paid plan to cold-call new people. You can also browse your contacts' profiles, endorse them for skills or recommend them for work they've performed—and ask them to do the same for you.

Combine that with LinkedIn's search, which lets you drill through contacts—or people in your area, with the skill-set you're looking for, who attended specific universities or have worked at specific companies—and it's apparent why LinkedIn is popular with recruiters. It's the simplest way to filter through the world's resumes one at a time—especially if you're willing to pay for a LinkedIn Pro account.

But that's not all the business social network has to offer. The main landing page also shows Facebook-like social network updates, with space at the top for you to share links you're reading or projects you're working on. With LinkedIn integrations, you could share your company's blog posts and Twitter updates directly to LinkedIn for another place to spread the word.

Or, you could write directly on LinkedIn with its articles tool. Just click the Write an article link on the LinkedIn homepage, and you'll get a rich text blog post editor with space at the top for a cover image. There are prompts on the left side to give you ideas to write about, along with tags at the bottom of the post to help your article show up in search. It's a simple way to start a blog—or re-share your existing content—right inside your professional network.

It's easy to be jaded about the prospects of social media to help your business, with the increasing difficulty of getting your posts to show up to your users. But LinkedIn gives you a different proposition. It can help you connect directly with other professionals you respect, and then manage both your professional image and your blog right from the same place. It might be the simplest way to start marketing your next big idea.

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