What is LinkedIn and why?
The question still comes up: What is LinkedIn? Once that answer is delivered, sometimes to the satisfaction of the inquirer; most often, not, the other question is sure to follow: Why LinkedIn?
For purposes of definition, LinkedIn is a Social Media website dedicated to the advancement of business goals, the selling and marketing of products, services, and enterprises, and the pursuit of commerce. At the core of this dynamic is the building of an online community or “Directory of Contacts” that one, ideally, can leverage through appropriate, fine-tuned communication. From its basic building blocks to its more complex applications, LinkedIn embraces the same strategies that are deployed in the real world. Often referred to as a Social Networking platform, LinkedIn is more than just a wireless Rolodex. It is the largest professional network in the world. Use of LinkedIn is intended to augment – not be a substitute for – our efforts to engage and connect with others in the face-to-face realm.
Founded by Silicon Valley warrior Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn was launched in May, 2003. One wonders if the Stanford University-educated Hoffman could have predicted the profound impact that this humble but ambitious engine of connection would have on business processes. Highly profitable early on, LinkedIn is a body in motion staying in motion. There is no ebb, just flow. Statistically, the usage of LinkedIn is akin to a freight train out of control – approaching fifty million users worldwide, and adding approximately 1.5 million users each month. LinkedIn has gained momentum in the Court of Public Opinion. The site boasts users from all constituents of the Fortune 500 sector. It is now part of the boardroom speak, frequently meandering into high-gravity discussions on business development, strategic marketing, and public relations.
So why LinkedIn?
C-Level Executives, who have traditionally shunned Social Media sites, have started to pay attention to LinkedIn. Their indifference and, in most cases, avoidance has given way to curiosity. They have the perception that LinkedIn can somehow work for business, but that there is a learning curve and a requisite investment of time involved. But the success stories are real. LinkedIn is helping turn personal economies around and, concurrently, is helping scores of companies anticipate the big rebound that can’t happen soon enough. A quest for knowledge is underway. Many CEOs are now willing to explore the obvious upside of a LinkedIn presence. Potential benefits include increased visibility, expanded reach to a targeted client base, introductions to qualified professionals for potential partnerships and strategic alliances, valuable insight gleaned from research, and advancing thought leadership in closely-knit online communities.
LinkedIn is an interactive medium with well-defined rules of engagement. It is a level playing field. One is positioned and accessed on the site via a profile, which conveys expertise, skill sets, experience, value propositions, and anything else he/she wishes to showcase. In essence, the LinkedIn profile is a virtual business card, accommodating as much or as little information as the owner wishes to broadcast.
Whereas connecting with others is the raison d’etre of LinkedIn, communicating with others is how the magic happens. The groups provide an ample forum for exchange and the prime channel to expand one’s reach. Groups are joined on the basis of industry, target clients, alumni associations, previous experience, interests, and hobbies. Through the groups, one can assert expertise, share ideas, conduct market research, post articles, and disseminate brand specifics in a manner that stops just short of shameless promotion. There is an art and science to creating meaningful dialog on LinkedIn. Authenticity is everything. One must obey the ethics and etiquette of online communication. Content, as it is everywhere else on the Internet, is king.
© 2009 by J.D. Gershbein.