Divya Gugnani LinkedInThis is part of our success story series where users share their tips and tricks on using LinkedIn more effectively. Today’s user experience story comes from Divya Gugnani, a venture capitalist and principal at First Mark Capital who provides companies with strategic and operational guidance to achieve their visions. Read more on one of her more recent sponsorship deals she closed, with the help of a LinkedIn connection.

I’m a LinkedIn evangelist, and as a startup CEO, I’ve become an even bigger fan. I love all things social media and happily ride the Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and Yahoo! Buzz wave. What makes LinkedIn different and incredibly helpful is the instant access to my professional network with an easy to use interface. As a former venture capitalist I used LinkedIn to source deals, check references for management, and connect with entrepreneurs. Today I run a media company in the culinary space, Behind the Burner, where we leverage a network of over 250 culinary experts to package their best tips, tricks and techniques in the form of short videos, articles and blogs. We also offer tools and ingredients the experts recommend at a discount. We actively virally market our food and beverage tips learned Behind the Burner and I take this same sharing approach on LinkedIn.

I’ve networked and participated in various entrepreneur, startup, food and wine enthusiast groups on the site, from ONEKO Internet Entrepreneurs to Slow Food to Food Service Professionals Network. People regularly send me inMail for culinary how-tos, restaurant insights, small business questions and entrepreneurial advice. Sometimes these interactions result in new business relationships.

Last month, Michael Gross (CEO of AJ Madison) one of the country’s largest e-commerce appliance retailers, reached out to partner with us on one Behind the Burner’s video segments through LinkedIn. He wanted to further market his appliance brand and we were considering doing a piece on summer grilling, and so we made a deal. They sponsored the segment and offered a e-commerce deal so our members can enjoy free shipping on appliances through Labor Day and as a result, they got a great professional, widely syndicated video segment highlighting their high end outdoor grills and how to use them.

I also use LinkedIn to generate buzz about my new business and keep my personal and professional network up-to-speed on my culinary happenings. Adding my profile link in outgoing emails adds credibility and the extra qualification nudge with certain requests. Your LinkedIn profile is like a mini resume, that snapshots your skills, experience and offerings and I like being able to subtly sell my expertise, as well as investigate other people’s potential by reviewing their profiles. This has been great resource for recruiting new talent, including writers, videographers, graphic designers and interns.