November 05, 2009
/ by Guest Contributor
As I start my day each morning, I spend about 45 minutes reviewing the e-mails I have received from my LinkedIn contacts. Some are requests to connect, some are e-mails from individuals asking questions or inquiring about my company’s services and some are from the LinkedIn groups to which I belong. I repeat the same routine in the afternoon. I regard the 90 minutes or so that I use as one of the most important exercises of my working day.
Although it seems like a lot of time to spend on one social media application, it is a very productive use of 90 minutes. I find that with LinkedIn I learn more, make better contacts and am contacted by more prospective clients than any other application – with the possible exception of my blog. There’s no spam, no silly games and no time-wasting requests to become a fan of someone you’ve never met.
That’s why I called LinkedIn the Facebook for adults. It is Facebook without all the superfluous noise. No LinkedIn users will tell you what they had for breakfast or post a video of some cute thing their cat did. They will ask for opinions on a proposed marketing plan or for an introduction to the CMO of the company they’re pitching.
LinkedIn defines itself as “an interconnected network of experienced professionals from around the world, representing 170 industries and 200 countries. You can find, be introduced to, and collaborate with qualified professionals that you need to work with to accomplish your goals.”
According to its Website, LinkedIn:
· Has over 50 million members in over 200 countries and territories around the world.
· A new member joins LinkedIn approximately every second, and about half of its members are outside the U.S.
· Executives from all Fortune 500 companies are LinkedIn members.
Like any successful venture, LinkedIn was started because its founders saw a need for a social network for those moving beyond Facebook and MySpace.
“Before you turn 25, your social needs tend to be in the foreground,” LinkedIn co-founder Konstantin Guericke told BusinessWeek.com in 2006. “You want to be cool, express yourself, focus on your friends. I am in my late 30s. I am married and have two kids. My social needs aren’t that great. My professional needs are in the foreground.
“It is harder to reach people in my age group than it is to reach younger people, who are much quicker adopters of technology. But once you do, the network effects are stronger. And even though a younger audience is easier to get, it’s also easier to lose.”
Building that audience and interacting with it is the key to LinkedIn. LinkedIn audiences tend to be very loyal, according to a number of studies. They are also much more serious than the users of other social media sites. These are people who want you to get to right to the point. It is why I belong.
Getting started with LinkedIn is simple. Access the site and fill out the required profile section. You will not be providing any personal information. LinkedIn doesn’t want that information. It is instead looking for a professional biography – what your current position is, where have you worked before and your educational background. It also asks for professional memberships and accreditations. Links to blogs and Web sites can also be listed.
Right away, you can see where the value comes from. Anyone looking for someone in your field can search on LinkedIn for you based on any number of criteria. The last numbers I saw said 80 percent of companies looking to fill a position go to LinkedIn first. It is easy to see why. A person’s professional life is laid in the site.
In March, CNNMoney.com reported, “Employers also increasingly rely on LinkedIn to recruit and vet their potential hires. Drew Patterson, vice president of marketing for Kayak.com, used the site to find two of the five employees he hired last year, paying $195 to list his job posts for 60 days. In addition to his fellow Harvard alumni and former Columbia Business School classmates, Patterson considers LinkedIn among his most useful job networks. ‘LinkedIn is great because you have some sense of where this person is and how they fit into your world,’ he said.”
Joining LinkedIn is free. The company provides four levels of service ranging from free service to its Pro Service. The Pro Service costs $499.95 a month. The level increases from level-to-level.
LinkedIn has three areas I believe set it apart from every other social media site. The first is the ability of people to list recommendations from their colleagues and co-workers. Generally, the recommendations are unsolicited. In fact, they should be. I feel it is breach of LinkedIn etiquette to ask for a recommendation unless you know well the person doing the recommending. It is not uncommon for two people to recommend each other. Potential clients or employers can review a person simply by going to their LinkedIn
The second way is through LinkedIn groups. There are thousands of groups on LinkedIn. Each group is geared toward a particular industry, discipline or area of interest. Some of the groups have 15 members while others have thousands. The advantages in the groups are two-fold: you can find people who work in your industry and network with them; and the groups give you a chance to demonstrate expertise in your field.
This is very important. Social media marketing demands that you show expertise. You can do that in the groups by participating in discussions in those groups. Answering a question or posting a comment allows you to demonstrate your knowledge.
The third way is the ability to contact a person through LinkedIn. There is no need to provide your own e-mail address. That blocks spammers from bombarding you with annoying, unsolicited email.
There is another advantage to LinkedIn. Having a LinkedIn profile increases your Google search rankings. That’s important because it makes it easier for those looking for a potential company to work with to find you.
Although LinkedIn tool is not the only tool in the social media toolbox, it is one of the most important. It can be the key to a successful social media campaign.
Jeffrey J. Cole worked as a reporter for 25 years in central Illinois, upstate New York, suburban Detroit and Milwaukee. He has also worked in public relations for almost a decade, representing a number of Fortune 500 companies. He now operates his own public relations firm, JJC Communications LLC. The agency handles a wide variety of public relations practice areas.
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