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Use RSS to Get More from LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a great tool for keeping track of your contacts, researching individuals and organizations, finding employment and employees, asking questions and getting answers, and better understanding the professional world. As you add followers, it can be a bit of a challenge to keep up with everything. Sure you can check out the weekly summary email of activity in your network, and you can periodically scan your home page to see what your connections are up to, but these methods are limited in their ability to provide you rich and useful information when you need it.

One way to overcome this problem is by using RSS to subscribe to the changes to your network with a service like Google Reader. By doing this you create an ongoing, searchable stream of data about everyone in your network. Because Google Reader allows you to archive old posts and easily search through them later, you can build a repository of data, day by day and update by update that is always at your fingertips.

I use this in 2 ways. The first is to scan through the latest updates in my RSS reader every few days to see who has moved where, who has been promoted, who is forging new relationships with whom, and which of the thousands of updates might be important for me to follow up on.  That might be a phone call, thank you note, email, or just some thought as to what might be happening in the world around me.  All good stuff.  The problem is that all too often I get busy, can’t check this for a few days, and the number of unread updates gets into the thousands.  At that point it becomes tough to really give this information the due diligence it requires, which leads me to the second way you can use this. 

Once you have read these items in Google Reader, they disappear from your unread items, but they still remain stored in your reader.  Thus, this becomes really useful if you want to search for information about a specific person or business in your network.  Simply enter their name in the search box in Google Reader and up pops every update, status update, activity, and connection this person has made since joining your network.  Not only that, but it can combine it with other places where they have appeared in your RSS reader – like blog posts or Twitter mentions if you track them. 

So if you are calling on that important client, you still want to visit their page to see the static background information.  That will tell you all about their past history, their connections, and their employer.  However if you want to learn more about what they are "doing" then you can use this method to better inform yourself. 

Again each of these updates is simply data.  Your ability to aggregate it and then do something with it changes it to information.  Understanding all this is akin to knowledge and actually following through with it is more like wisdom.  I encourage you to make wise use of your time by using this tip to better understand and help the people you serve.

What tricks are you using to get more out of LinkedIn?