Whether you want to find fresh ideas, a new job, more customers or just network to expand your universe, you’ll find it at LinkedIn.com.
Chances are good that by now you’ve at least dipped your toe into the swirl at social networking sites. But while Facebook (where you can “poke” your friends, play games and post photos on your profile and comments on your friends’ “walls”) and Twitter (where you can broadcast 140-character messages into a public information stream) get a lot of media attention, don’t overlook one of the strongest business social media sites: LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is a professional contact database launched in May 2003 by Reid Hoffman, formerly of PayPal. Its members can create a profile and network with its current 53 million members in 200 countries. Members include executives from all Fortune 500 companies.
Why Be Linked In On LinkedIn?
“That’s an easy one,” says Dan Ball, CAS, national accounts manager for supplier Advance Corporation (UPIC: ADVANCE).
“Prior to being part of LinkedIn, my only communication with my friends and fellow colleagues was through e-mail projects or e-blasts. The communication seemed to go in extreme waves. We’d talk with each other six to eight times a week, then go three weeks without any communication.
“With LinkedIn, my contacts have been much stronger both on a business and personal level. It amazes me how in the middle of a LinkedIn conversation, I’ll hear, ‘Oh, yeah, Dan can you help us on a project?’”
“Of course,” Dan says with a smile, “I’m more than willing to help out.”
Five Quick Ways To Maximize Your LinkedIn Participation
A question I often hear in my conference presentations is, “I’ve signed up on LinkedIn. What’s next?”
Though LinkedIn does not come with a user’s manual, you don’t need to be a computer whiz to derive immediate benefits from the site.
Here are five steps to get more out of your participation on LinkedIn. Across the top of the screen in the LinkedIn screen shot below, you will find the Groups, Jobs and More links.
Groups—To network with as many people as possible, join as many relevant groups as you can. For instance, I have joined alumni groups for the three colleges I attended, for the current and former companies for which I have worked, and for my business interests (such as keynote speakers). I have also created groups and have asked others to join.
There are currently more than two dozen groups serving the promotional products industry including Advertising & Promotional Merchandise (1,411 members at press time), PPAI Industry Professionals Networking (991 members), Advertising Specialty and Promotional Products Industry (491 members) and Regional Association Leaders In Promotional Products (18 members).
You may never know when members of these groups can help you, or more importantly, when you may be able to help them.
To get started, simply click the “Groups” link at the top of the screen.
Jobs—Let’s assume that being a brand manager is a position worth pursuing. I could click on the “Jobs” link at the top of the screen and, using the keywords “brand manager,” search for jobs in that field among the five million jobs currently posted on LinkedIn without going to a different website.
If you are an employer, you can also post jobs here. LinkedIn claims its jobs receive on average 35-plus applicants.
Companies—Let’s say you have been trying to get into Procter & Gamble to offer your products and services. With a multinational corporation such as this where do you even start? Click on the “More” link at the top of the screen and then on “Companies.”
I did that, then entered the keywords “Proctor & Gamble” and clicked the Search button. Under the company profile, I noticed that a second-degree contact was listed, along with the name of my direct contact who knows her. Using LinkedIn, I could then request an introduction through my direct contact.
Also listed are 22,100 current P&G employees who I am related to through one or more of my Groups. (Now you see the benefit of taking action under Step 1, “Groups,” above.)
To get started, click at the top of the screen on “More” and then “Companies.”
Answers—Here you might be able to assist a fellow member. For example, a current question is: “I am seeking an offshore firm to handle insurance verification for a chiropractic office. Can anyone recommend a firm with whom they have proven success?”
Perhaps you are the one who could assist this LinkedIn member by clicking the “Answer” button. Even better, you might be able to click the “Suggest an Expert” button and recommend someone who you are actually seeking as a client.
If you are stuck, you can ask your own Question on LinkedIn. Many professionals find that spending time on LinkedIn answering such Questions for those who actually have a need can be a more efficient way to look for new business than to spend money advertising or time cold calling others who may have no interest.
To begin, click at the top of the screen on “More” and then “Answers.”
People—By clicking on the “Advanced” link at the top right of the screen, you can search for LinkedIn members by criteria such as:
You might be interested in approaching all CEOs in the area to offer your services. You could then do a keyword search on the title of “CEO.”
Next, look to see who is a direct or even a second-degree contact. (A second-degree contact is a direct contact of one of your connections on LinkedIn.)
On a second-degree contact’s profile, you could click the “Get introduced through a connection” link. This will send an e-mail both to your connection and the second-degree contact.
On average, you will get a positive response from one or both of the contacts about 70 percent of the time. This percentage is a lot higher than if you tried to reach the second-degree contact on your own.
I currently have 141 connections. LinkedIn tells me I have more than 20,400 contacts that are just two degrees away. In addition, I have more than 1,802,400 third-degree contacts. (A third-degree contact is a connection of one of my second-degree contacts.)
In other words, the total number of LinkedIn users I can contact through an introduction is more than 1,823,000. That’s the power of LinkedIn.
To begin to build your connections, simply click the green Add Connections link at the top left of your screen.
Success Lies In 99 Percent Information And One Percent Promotion
Ken Kelsey, partner at Livonia, Michigan-based distributor KelseyPromo (UPIC: KELSEY), started the LinkedIn group PPAI Industry Professionals Networking for PPAI members in late 2008. He sees it as a place to share ideas on promotional campaigns, products, conduct discussions, share ideas and ask questions. The group has since grown to nearly 1,000 members.
“LinkedIn is becoming the defacto business networking site,” he says. “I think it has a lot of hidden potential. What I like about it is I can go in and find out information about new customers there. And when somebody moves to a new company, you get a message, so it’s an easy way to keep your network current.”
Kelsey currently connects with people who might be able to help him in the future with a customer or potential customer. “One of the problems is that you don’t just get all your customers, you get others who want to connect with you, too,” he says. One of the challenges, he says, is deciding if he should just keep his network open to business associates or open it to anyone who wants to connect.
“Some people try to connect with as many people as possible. They think connecting with more people makes them look better. I don’t think that’s true. With LinkedIn you shouldn’t be connecting with people you don’t know. People will start to understand that better down the line.”
A man with a different perspective is Guy Kawasaki, the original Macintosh evangelist. “The key to social networking tools is to have lots of connections. It’s a numbers game. The more people who are connected to you, the more opportunities you have. But people don’t connect with you because you are promoting yourself to them. People connect with you because you are informing them.”
Kawasaki concludes by saying, “You need to be informing people 99 percent of the time and then one percent of the time you can promote your company.”
Ted Janusz is a professional speaker, author and marketing consultant who presents “Web 2.0 – How to Harness the Power of Social Networking to Grow Your Business.” Janusz has been invited to appear on the Geraldo show on FOX News Network. A speaker at the 2008 International Association of Administrative Professionals conference, he has also presented dozens of Creative Marketing Conferences across the country for Rockhurst University and was a keynote speaker for the 2009 Independent Computer Consultants Association conference in San Francisco. Janusz was selected by eBay to conduct “eBay University” seminars nationwide. www.januspresentations.com