LinkedIn for the home-based agent: 9 million Canadians are now Linked together

It’s no secret that LinkedIn is one of the most prominent social networking platforms. But how exactly do you incorporate it into your career as a home-based agent?

To the rescue: Danielle Restivo, senior manager of global programs at LinkedIn. Over the phone from her base in London, England, Danielle shared some great insight and tips for you.

How long has LinkedIn been around? Since 2003. We now have 277 million members worldwide including nine million in Canada, which means we have almost saturated the Canadian market.

How is LinkedIn different from Facebook? It’s the context. Facebook is a personal-life context, while LinkedIn is all about your professional life. It’s a not just a place to go when you are looking for a job – it’s a great way to meet and learn from like-minded professionals and increase your client base.

LinkedIn really shrinks the world for you. Think of it as a place to network the way you would at a product launch or consumer show.

I love this idea as travel advisors are very familiar with networking at these events so it is easy to for us to do. So…what can LinkedIn do for you? It can help you connect with your fellow professionals to share intel, tips and strategies – really important for professionals who work from home and must from time to time overcome that isolation.

And it puts your achievements out there to potential customers. You can also add images and video to your profile to showcase your expertise (e.g. of you giving a presentation).

Don’t forget to always have your photo showing you as a professional – LinkedIn is not the place for your baby picture!

What should you include on your profile? Remember that your profile is a living, breathing personification of you. A photo is a must. Many profiles can benefit from more detail and your summary is very important as it tells the story of you as a professional.

Watch out for overused words (‘creative’, ‘strategic’, ‘service-oriented’). Really make it personal.

What sets you apart? Don’t forget to include awards, volunteering and certifications. Since many travel professionals volunteer and support charities why not consider a photo showing you doing something to give back, for example helping at a Rotary event.

How do you build your network? Start with people you know in the industry and request to be in their network. Then, just as you might Google ‘landscape architect Ottawa’ to find someone to do your garden, you can search on LinkedIn by key words. You want to build a network of fellow home-based travel agents – look for that.

A huge plus of LinkedIn is that when someone is in your network you have access to the people in their network. Ask your contact to introduce you to that other person, so it’s an instant personal connection with the right context rather than a cold call.

A wide network helps keep you up to date on what the trends are and what you need to be learning about. It’s a great way for folks who are home-based to stay current.

What if someone wants to join your network and you’ve never heard of them? This really depends on your philosophy. We recommend connecting to people you know and trust, as the quality of your network will increase exponentially.

Personally when someone I don’t know connects with me, I would respond along these lines: “I’m sorry but I don’t believe we’ve met, and I prefer to connect only with people I’ve met. Perhaps you could let me know what you’re interested in chatting about?”

Next month, we’ll continue our chat with Danielle and cover off how much time you should spend on LinkedIn, endorsements versus recommendations and the various LinkedIn membership options.