I just got an introductory question about LinkedIn from a training participant, and realized that many of you might be asking similar questions. I thought I'd share my answer with you all...
Mary Grace's Question:
What brief overview can you give me about LinkedIn? I am not yet on, but keep getting invitations to connect with folks on it. Do you think this might be a good means for me to find adult ed instructors? I think I get the general gist - it sort of seems like Facebook, but for professional connections - am I close?
Regarding LinkedIn, yes, you are right. In essence it has the capacity to be a social network like Facebook for professional connections. Some people use it this way- they connect what they are posting on Twitter to their LinkedIn account, post what they are doing, etc.
However, I don't think this is really the best way for us small nonprofit staff to use LinkedIn. You should think about it as the most true form of online networking. Essentially a place to collect contacts, more like a constantly updating Rolodex. With one great addition, you have access to all the Rolodexs of your contacts! As a fundraiser, that makes me salivate. That capacity allows me to peer into my Board member's contacts (as well as other core supporters). I can play the "who knows this person" game that so frustrates us at fundraising committee meetings before the meeting even gets started. I can see who knows the Bank President or that Board member at the local foundation and approach that connection directly to help me make an ask or get an introduction. Fantastic! This translates well into your situation. If you know of someone in the community who you think would be a good candidate for a instructor position, you could find them on LinkedIn and see who you knew who knew them and ask for an introduction.
On the basic level, LinkedIn is a way to publicly post your resume. When I worked as a contractor that was extremely valuable. My current clients would recommend me to a potential client who would check out my resume even before contacting me. It was a nice way to promote my skills and experience in often a much more personable way than a website. You could definitely use LinkedIn as a way to double check the references of potential Adult Ed teachers, and search for skills that you would like to cultivate (for example, looking for people who worked as a web designer to potentially lead a "Basic Websites Class")
Nonprofits are also more and more using LinkedIn as a way to facilitate online discussions and forums. There are likely ways you could use this to your advantage, such as creating a forum for adult education concepts and best practices, but I don't think that makes sense for your organization right now given all of the other things on your plate! On the flip side, I am sure a forum like the above exists, and it might be worthwhile joining to gain access to a network of Adult Education professionals who can help you answer your tough questions. See this search for some examples: http://www.linkedin.com/groupsDirectory?results=&sik=1312852057634&pplSearchOrigin=GLHD&keywords=adult+education
For a more detailed description as to what nonprofits can do with LinkedIn, I'd check out this well-done blog post from Community organizer 2.0: http://www.communityorganizer20.com/2011/06/15/linkedin-for-nonprofits/