Monday Mornings with Madison


Linking Is 21st Century Turbo-Charged Networking

One of the most common questions that the marketing department is asked these days is about LinkedIn.  The question, which comes in varied forms, basically boils down to this:  “How can I use LinkedIn to benefit me?” Doubters ask “Can using LinkedIn really help me?”  Social media beginners ask “How do I get started on LinkedIn?”  Salespeople ask “How can I use LinkedIn to make more money?”  Executives ask “Is it really important for our business to be on LinkedIn?”  Why so many questions about LinkedIn?  Perhaps it is because LinkedIn is now the biggest professional social networking site in the world.

How big is LinkedIn?  Last week (Monday, September 26, 2011), President Obama participated in a Town Hall on Jobs and the Economy hosted on LinkedIn.  That’s right.  LinkedIn members were invited to submit questions for President Obama to answer live.  Networking with the President of the U.S.… it doesn’t get much bigger than that in the world of social media!

LinkedIn’s meteoric success is impressive considering that less than a decade ago, in 2002, Reid Hoffman started LinkedIn in his home living room.  At that time, it was little more than an idea.  The site officially launched on May 5, 2003.  By the end of the first month in operation, LinkedIn had 4,500 members in its network.  Today, Linked In is a publicly held company with over 1500 full-time employees and a diversified business model with revenues coming from hiring solutions, marketing solutions and premium subscriptions.  LinkedIn was also the first social media site to turn a profit, with a bottom line in the black as far back as 2006.

Recent LinkedIn Stats

  • In 2010, there were nearly 2 Billion ‘people searches’ on LinkedIn. 
  • In August, 2011, LinkedIn touted having over 120 million members in 200 countries.
  • New members join LinkedIn at a rate faster than two new members per second.
  • Site members include executives from ALL 2011 Fortune 500 companies.
  • LinkedIn’s corporate hiring solutions are used by 75 of the Fortune 100 companies.  
  • Only about 12% of LinkedIn members are either students or recent college graduates. 
  • Over half of LinkedIn members are located outside of the U.S.
  • LinkedIn is currently available in 9 languages. 
  • More than 2 million companies have LinkedIn Company Pages.
  • According to eBiz MBA’s Top 15 Most Popular Social Networking rankings globally for September, 2011, LinkedIn ranked #3, after Facebook and Twitter.

Let’s start with the most basic question.  Should every professional or business person have a profile on LinkedIn?  Yes.  Unless you are Bill Gates or Warren Buffet (or some other billionaire tycoon), you probably should have a profile on LinkedIn.  Why?

1.  Network – Find and Be Found

The focus of LinkedIn is professional networking.  Thus, more executives consider the site acceptable, useful and relevant.  It is preferred over other social media sites such as Facebook, which is social but not necessarily geared to professionals.  While other professional social media sites have sprung up (more about those coming soon), LinkedIn continues to be the networking site of choice for most professionals. 

While other social media sites provide opportunities to get in touch, the search functionality of LinkedIn has people and companies that aren’t always found on other networking sites.  For example, most people use their real name on LinkedIn and list the actual company for which they work.  That makes them easier to find.  On other sites, people sometimes use handles (made-up names that reflect their personality) and nicknames (other names by which their friends know them). Because it is easier to find people on LI, more people can also find you. 

Even for those who don’t like LinkedIn or social media in general, it is clear that many other people do use this site.  When a potential client or employer wants to know more about you, they are likely to turn to LinkedIn to validate who you are as well as your experience and knowledge.  Because it is so ubiquitous for professionals and companies to be on LinkedIn, absence from LI may raise questions about whether you or your company are current and relevant.

2.  Control Reputation

Because of the volume of users and pages, LinkedIn profiles usually come up first in a Google search for any individual’s name.  When someone looks you up, they are likely to see your LinkedIn Profile before other listings that mention you.  While you can control what your LinkedIn Profile says about you, you cannot always control information about you that Google finds on other sites.  This is reputation management 101.  It is always preferable for you to control what people read about you.  A LinkedIn Profile is a vital part of your online reputation and your ability to make a good first impression.

3.  Acquire and Share Expertise

As of July, 2011, there are over 900,000 Groups on LinkedIn.  Each group has its own Discussion Board, News Board, and Jobs postings.  Answer boards have over 2,000,000 answers to a variety of questions.  Subject matter in Groups and Answers covers a wide variety of topics, providing something of value to almost anyone. These Groups and Discussions also give anyone with a niche area of expertise a forum to showcase their talents and speak to others specifically interested in that topic.

4.  Manage Career

Social networking is a career insurance.  Again, unless you are Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, one can never have enough career insurance. This is true for those looking for a job, those happily employed, and those who are owners of their own company.  A social network is insurance for career growth.  Companies are organic entities whose needs change.  There is no guarantee that a company or job will be there 10 years or even a year from now.  Remember our Lessons Learned from Borders case study last week?  Even for those who work for companies now considered ‘too big to fail’, there is no assurance that any job will be around forever, especially given the volume of mergers, acquisitions, downsizing and layoffs that abound. 

LinkedIn provides a place for a person to find potential companies and recruiters as well as be found by them.  Even for those who are completely happy in their jobs or are totally confident in their company’s future, it can’t hurt to have a profile on LinkedIn.  It provides a great place to look for talent when hiring. 

5.  Communicate

One of the easiest ways to keep others abreast of professional developments is by sharing an Update on LinkedIn.  By having one forum in which to connect with all past coworkers, college mates and business associates, a simple post can be disseminated to a lot of people with little effort.  Got a promotion?  Changed jobs? Published an article or book?  Appeared in a newspaper or program?  Developed a new product or service? Attended a great seminar or conference? Anything worth sharing can be quickly and easily posted and shared with dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people at one time. 

Surprised that there aren’t any tips for how to use LinkedIn for business?   We’ll get to that.  But the first step is to be on LinkedIn (personally) in order to make use of it.  Tune in next week as we examine wrong and right way to set up a Profile on LinkedIn!

Quote of the Week

“Networking is an essential part of building wealth.” Armstrong Williams

© 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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