This is a rewrite of an article that I wrote almost 7 years ago as the LinkedIn product has changed dramatically and has been since purchased by Microsoft. There are definitely some pros and cons that I have seen over the years, but LinkedIn still is the premiere and primarily only true B2B social networking platform.
Linkedin is the best B2B online networking tool that I have seen or used. I have been using the site myself since 2005 and upgraded to a business account years ago (which was grandfathered on) since Microsoft purchased LinkedIn. I have seen some extreme complaints and price changes from those on the newer Premium Packages. Since I have been using this platform for over a decade, I thought I would provide some of my experiences and findings to those who are not as familiar with the platform.
Finding a Job or Finding Employees
When I first joined the site, it was more about it being the “new” way to network and I will admit I initially just stuck my profile up there and didn’t really think much more about it. At first, I was contacted by individuals I had worked with years ago and lost contact. It became a great way to get back in touch. Later on, when I went through a downsizing, it became a great tool for finding potential positions, networking with headhunters, and finding possible contacts within organizations that I had an interest. You will be shocked that once you have a reasonable network how connected you are to other individuals that could be influencers. I was then contacted by a headhunter who only used Linkedin for executive searches and I ended up landing the position.
There is also a great job search capability within the platform and has become the premiere platform for finding a position. I find my daughter and her friends (millennials) have embraced the platform as one of the key places to look for positions within businesses.
From the employer side, this is an excellent platform to use to post positions to find the right candidates for your open positions. The applicants come into you and can save you money in having to hire headhunters for your open positions.
As I used the tool more years ago, I began to think of new ways to use the tool in my job. In my last position before I started our business, I used Linkedin as a lead generation tool. I began profiling potential partners. By this time I upgraded my basic account to a business account which gave me access to InMails. This allows you to contact individuals that are not in your network. I began using the expanded Search to find and target the owner or decision maker at the potential partner and would contact them through an InMail. I have found that anyone I contacted utilizing InMails would respond to my mail which is about the highest response rate I received from any marketing or sales tool. I do find Linkedin does add greater credibility to a blind contact. I signed several partners who I initially contacted blindly through Linkedin. Prior to starting our business, I was looking for market information on start-up businesses and contacted several VC and Angel Investors to ask questions. Of the 15 that I contacted, I heard from 14. One even provided me his cell phone number to contact directly.
Some people seem to compete to add anyone as a connection which I believe really negates the usefulness of networking. The contacts that I have are either people I know personally or through business or those that I have had direct contact with on Linkedin. This could be through a forum discussion, question and answers, or direct contact discussions. What is the use of your network if you cannot even remember how you connected with them? I have called upon people in my network often and likewise have provided help and guidance to those in my network. I will admit I have become less stringent in the last few years in adding people that are either in my industry (other consultants and coaches) or professionals that are relevant for our business such as accountants, corporate lawyers, financing companies, business brokers....etc. I also will add business owners of businesses in Canada.
I do find periodically I do go through and do a purge of contacts as well which is easy to do, you just need to go to your contacts and select those individuals that you believe are not worth keeping in your network. I recently did that as have over 700. As I went through each one, the question I asked was there a good reason for this individual to be a contact that would benefit either of us. Out of 719 contacts, I got rid of 12.
If you decide to request a connection, write a note to the individual telling them why you would like to connect, as just receiving a blind connection request will get you ignored. Tell the individual why you would like to connect. This is something Microsoft has gotten right. It used to exist in the "old LinkedIn" and some developer or marketing person decided this wasn't needed and took the functionality away. Microsoft has now added this back to the product.
Within your profile, it is important to portray yourself in a way that is clear and professional. You need to ask yourself what are the reasons you want to connect with individuals on Linkedin and if those individuals clicked on your profile, would they be able to articulate what you want to portray and what you do. You have I believe 2000 characters to articulate information about yourself, as well as providing information about your career, experience, skills, and activities.
Another important profile option is recommendations. Do not be afraid to ask people that you have worked with, worked for, or have had as a customer with to write a recommendation for you. This truly adds credibility to your profile and lets others know what you are like.
Sharing Content and Blog Platform and Following People
LinkedIn is a Social Media platform, so you are able to share content both from your personal profile as well as your Company Page. They also have a blog platform where you are able to write articles. All of your articles and posts are attributed as well to your profile With LinkedIn, you are able to write articles which have a worldwide audience. Be sure to choose your tags wisely as well as the subject. This is important to gain credibility as a subject matter expert, especially if you do not not have your own blog.
On LinkedIn you are able to follow individuals even if you are not connected to them. It is important to follow people that you think are influencers and who write and share content relevant to your business. By doing this, their information will show up in your feed, thereby providing you with content you are able to share as well.
LinkedIn used to be the network with the best Company Page. This is no longer true as they have taken so much functionality away that all that remains is a basic posting site with analytics. As a B2B business, you should have a Company Page to put the basic information. If I were a betting person, I suspect that Microsoft will upgrade this portion of the product as Facebook has now taken on the features that LinkedIn started with. They are advertising their platform on Facebook which tells me they know they need to be the Facebook of B2B. There have been some cosmetic changes recently that have improved the Company Page.
You are also now easily able to add job postings to your company page as well.
I have joined several groups on Linkedin over the years. Some are personal such as alumni groups, others are areas of interest, and others are business related. I use to enjoy them and learn from them. What I have found is that real discussions are not taking place in many of the groups. They have become a huge advertising area for companies to push their products and services and really defeats the purpose of a group. I have seen too many where a person has asked a legitimate question hoping someone might help them and they receive 10 responses telling them if they contact their company they will help them. As a consultant this bothers me greatly. What they don’t realize is that by offering advice to someone they are developing themselves as trusted individual and expert and if that person actually needed a product or a service in the future, they most likely would come back to you or recommend you to someone else just providing a helpful answer. Do not be that person that spams groups. If you are going to join, participate. It will be interesting to see what Microsoft does longer term with the groups to possibly make them useful again.
LinkedIn used to have the worst advertising platform among Social Media platforms, but recently since the purchase by Microsoft, if you look at the advertising platform it is starting to look more like Facebook. You are able to boost content you have shared much like you can on Facebook. They also have sponsored InMail as well which goes to your target's mailbox, as well as dynamic, display and text ads which are very targeted very much like Facebook Ads.
I look to try LinkedIn Advertising again soon, now that they have new options for advertising outside the small text ads that were not useful and have never spoken to anyone that saw great value in running campaigns.
If you are considering using Linkedin, it is important that you provide both enough information on your Personal Profile aso that when you contact someone, they can quickly understand information about you and your company and see the value on the relationship even before reading through the message you sent them (remember to send that message) .
Linkedin is a valuable online networking tool. Nothing is the be all and end all and networking face to face is still very important, but it is a tool that you can definitely use to promote yourself, your business, your products, and aid you in finding new contacts, customers and partners for your business. I am excited to see what Microsoft will do next to add to the number one B2B social media platform for networking in North America at a minimum.
RK Fischer & Associates