5 LinkedIn tips for freelance journalists


5 LinkedIn tips for freelance journalists

Nicole Martinelli | June 03, 2011

As part of IJNet's ongoing series of tips for using social media, we took part in a seminar for journalists from social networking colossus LinkedIn. Here are our top five tips for freelancers.

Every month, LinkedIn holds a free live seminar for journalists. (For more opportunities like this one, sign up for our free weekly newsletter.

1. Get connections. Sounds obvious, but Krista Canfield, the Senior Manager of Corporate Communications at LinkedIn says 50 is the "magic" number for connections. Fewer and you don't have enough potential sources or editor contacts to take advantage of the site. In general, the more contacts the better, though Canfield advises connecting elsewhere with fans, unless they are potential sources.

2. Expand your profile. For freelancers, this can be crucial. If you have more than one job or title (freelancer and translator), Canfield says most potential sources don't mind, but make sure the titles are accurate and up-to-date. Specify the stories you cover and make sure job descriptions explain what the roles mean.

3. Go Stealth. Hide your connections so other journalists can't see your sources by changing your profile settings.

When using the Answers feature for sources or quotes, you can make the question private to your connections. If you're on deadline or need to cast a wider net, Canfield, a former reporter, advises avoiding asking direct questions in public that might give the story away. Instead of asking business owners in a certain area what they think of a new piece of legislation, ask about the challenges of running a business. See who answers, then take it private for an interview.

4. Track your beat and publications. There are two million company pages on LinkedIn, you can follow them with options to be notified when employees are hired, leave or are promoted; for job opportunities and company profile updates. Canfield says The New York Times recently broke a story about an acquisition by noticing on LinkedIn that all the members of one small company left for a larger one. Other potential story ideas may come from job ads -- are they suddenly hiring 50 people in Switzerland when headquartered in the U.S.?

For freelancers, following media organizations will help keep you updated on the revolving door. That new editor may be looking for some fresh pitches.

5. Find sources. If you need to find sources fast, search by skills. Skill search brings up key people within that community, plus the top locations, related companies, relevant jobs and groups.

Join groups -- as mentioned in our social media tip sheet, you can sign up for up to 50. In addition to joining the obvious ones, like industry associations, Canfield says joining groups with more varied interests (parents, tech obsessed, poker enthusiasts) can be a great resource.



Going Stealth

I've seen this advise before, but I think is totally wrong and an ill advice to journalists.
If you're on LinkedIn, part of you're expecting from your connections is sharing resources, information and relationships. That's why this is a social place, and that's what the web is about: a web of relationships. You give, you get: the more you give, the more you get. And the other way around: the less you give, the less you get.
There's a limited growth range, a very shallow ceiling when you shut down the view of your connections. When a LinkedIn user chooses this approach, s/he get the deserved label: a picking, selfish kind of connection. You're a far more valuable connection if you show me your connections. If you don't, you may not be worth to keep; I may keep you, and you may keep accessing my connections, but don't expect anything else.
The whole Internet has been built on the concept of openness and sharing, from the circulation of knowledge. We as journalists can get far more from openness than from closeness. I'm sure we can get a lot more scoops by proving ourselves to be a worthy, open, win-win LinkedIn connection, than by being a catch-all-give-nothing kind of connection.
In the end, it doesn't matter if your connections see who your other connections -and potencial good sources- are. Your LinkedIn connections may be just part of your sources, and is up to you to get most juice from them.
Whatever you do with your LinkedIn strategy is your win or lose.


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