LinkedIn is the world’s leading professional social network. With more than 200 million subscribers, the platform has become the premiere online space to network, job search, research industry topics, and join business interest groups. For public health organizations, there are a number of features and tools within LinkedIn that should be used to help expand your network, reach target groups, and expand your resources and expertise. The following outlines the opportunities and challenges within public health associated with each feature.
Create a Profile
Everyone on LinkedIn needs to create a personal profile to interact on the network. Establishing a profile is an excellent opportunity to showcase your public health background, projects, and skill set. With a profile, you are able to join discussion groups, receive updates from connections and industry experts, job search, and be recruited for positions that fit your expertise.
The challenge with creating a profile is that it requires regular updating. As a representative of both your own personal brand and that of your organization, it is important to ensure that the information you relay is reliable, accurate, and consistent with others in your field.
Build a Company Page
Company pages allow organizations to tell their story and connect individuals to their brand. With this platform, public health providers can highlight the latest news and updates, upcoming events, as well as products and services. Establishing a presence on LinkedIn that showcases your agency’s expertise and promotes the resources and tools unique to your organization helps further the mission and helps your organization reach its governmental and private partners and stakeholders.
The challenge with developing a company page is that it can be resource-intensive. Someone should be updating and monitoring the information daily, as well as responding to any feedback from the page. In addition, the best company pages are those that include relevant, up-to-date, and engaging information. If your organization’s clearance process is rigorous, it could hinder the process for adding timely information to the page.
For public health professionals, joining LinkedIn groups is an excellent way to network with colleagues and partners from the same industry. You can join discussions, get updates from other public health professionals about the latest news and events, as well as trade best practices and lessons learned. LinkedIn members are able to join up to 50 groups, and, currently, more than 1,400 public health-related groups are available within the LinkedIn professional network.
Organizations that choose to start groups may benefit from LinkedIn as well. Create a LinkedIn group and solicit feedback about your projects and campaigns, provide relevant information to other public health practitioners, and ensure the discussions about your public health campaigns are informed and helpful to your partners and stakeholders. LinkedIn allows for the creation of both open and private groups, which makes it easier to facilitate small or large discussion groups. Also, LinkedIn provides the ability to view the “Top Influencers” in the group. If you know the connections that are moving your discussions along, this could help with dissemination of important information, both in and out of the LinkedIn sphere.
The challenge with groups is that they can also be resource-intensive. To keep people engaged at the federal, state, local, and private levels, you have to constantly update with new discussion materials that are interesting to those groups. Another challenge is ensuring that someone monitors the group discussions on a regular basis to keep the conversation consistent and relevant. There is also a danger of irrelevant or inappropriate comments being posted in the discussion group page. It is easy to delete comments and individuals from a group, but it is a challenge to continually monitor the activities on the platform.
LinkedIn is rich with recruiting aids for any public health organization. One particularly helpful tool is the advanced search function. It allows you to search for LinkedIn subscribers by industry, titles, region, and language. Organizations looking for international candidates can narrow their search by using key categories. Advertise positions using LinkedIn ads is a great way to gain additional attention to an open position. Advertising through LinkedIn discussion groups or on a company page is also an easy way to spread the word about jobs. If your organization needs a little more help with recruiting efforts, LinkedIn does offer Talent Solutions. With this service, LinkedIn consultants can do the heavy lifting and help your agency find the right candidates for your job openings.
Your organization should consider your budget when thinking about what recruiting tools you would like to use on the LinkedIn channel. To add a career tab to a company page, your organization has to subscribe to a premium membership. There are also some costs associated with both LinkedIn Advertising and Talent Solutions. Determining a budget, therefore, should be a part of any strategy around using LinkedIn for your organization.
Use the LinkedIn Tools
There are a number of tools within the LinkedIn platform that your organization may find useful. LinkedIn polls, for example, allow users to pose questions on other social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. Public health professionals can use this medium to get a quick pulse on various subjects.
If your organization decides to pose a question, it should probably be assessed through your internal clearance process. As mentioned before, this may prevent the timely posting of polls. This may also affect your response rate, as polls on hot issues are more likely to promote a response.
LinkedIn and its third-party partners also created mobile tools that help with strengthening connections. Cardmunch, for instance, helps you organize contacts. Business cards can be scanned into your phone and then connected to your LinkedIn contacts. ProInsights, a third-party LinkedIn developer, designed a mobile app that creates infographics based on LinkedIn profiles. This is a creative way to illustrate your organization’s expertise to partners and stakeholders.
Of course, the challenge with any mobile tool is that there are many devices, with many operating systems, and serving different levels of mobile users. You should research the availability of each application based on your mobile technology. If your organization decides to use the tool, training on the applications should be made available.
As of April 2013, LinkedIn is the third largest social network in the world, and it is continuing to grow. If you are not currently harnessing the resources of LinkedIn for your organization, you should certainly be researching the possibilities. For more information about the platform, particularly for public health purposes, check out CDC NPIN’s SlideShare presentation and webcast In the Know: LinkedIn and SlideShare for Public Health. How is your organization using LinkedIn for public health purposes?
By Tracye Poole