Now is the Right Time for LinkedIn
The beginning of a new decade is the best possible benchmark. It is the perfect time to evaluate current business practices, set goals, and discard methodologies that aren’t working. The slate is clean. As we move into the 2010’s, there’s no better opportunity to take stock on how the use of Internet – specifically, the Social Media platforms – will continue to drive business.
LinkedIn is classified as the Social Media website dedicated to the pursuit of commerce. Conceived in 2002 and launched in 2003, it has become the largest professional network in the world. Growing at an astonishing rate of one million new users every twelve days, one wonders if this was what the site’s founder, Reid Hoffman, envisioned when the first venture capital dollars were spent. Today, LinkedIn offers the most expansive, flexible and economical ways for businesspeople to target prospective clients, cultivate job opportunities, and bolster their digital identities. Unquestionably, curiosity about LinkedIn – and how to use it advantageously – is piqued.
Assuredly, LinkedIn is not a passing fad and has gained momentum in the Court of Public Opinion. The site boasts users from all constituents of the Fortune 500 sector. Resistance to Social Media in general, especially at top executive levels, continues to diminish. It is now part of the boardroom speak, frequently meandering into high-gravity discussions on business development, strategic marketing, branding, and public relations. Many CEOs are now willing to explore the obvious upside of a LinkedIn presence.
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 one wishes to showcase. Essentially, the LinkedIn profile is a virtual business card, accommodating as much or as little information as the owner wishes to broadcast. The key to monetizing LinkedIn is in creating a compelling, robust profile that conveys expertise, attracting potential clients and strategic alliances to it, and leveraging the experience through diplomatic on-line (and off-line) communication. The profile is not an alternate destination for the resume or a few paragraphs of generic bio extracted from another source. It is, rather, a separate entity, possessing its own energy and conveying an authoritative voice. Ultimately, the goal of the LinkedIn profile is to create favorable associations in the minds of others about a person’s capabilities, qualifications, ethics and integrity. People, as the cliché goes, do business with those they know, like and trust.
LinkedIn extends and augments the activities of real-world business networking. Potential benefits include increased visibility, expanded reach to a targeted client base, introductions to qualified professionals, valuable insight gleaned from research, and advancing thought leadership in closely-knit on-line communities. Building a directory of “1st Degree Connections” is at the core of the LinkedIn philosophy.
Whereas connecting with others is the raison d’etre of LinkedIn, communicating with others is how the magic happens. The LinkedIn 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 thought leadership, share ideas, conduct market research, post articles, and disseminate brand specifics. There is an art and science to creating meaningful dialog on LinkedIn. One must obey the etiquette and protocol of on-line communication. Spam, political incorrectness, and shameless promotion are not condoned. Authenticity is everything. Content, as it is everywhere else on the Internet, is king.
In an era where word-of-mouth can dictate market share, LinkedIn also affords a marvelous portal for establishing credibility. Image is heightened through the posting of recommendations from direct LinkedIn connections on the profile. These testimonials, from clients, centers of influence, colleagues and friends, shape public perception. Nowadays, people are vetted to a greater degree on the basis of what others say about them than what they say about themselves.
In an era where business tends to become stagnant and commoditized, LinkedIn provides the machinery for differentiation. Traditional marketing has reached an impasse. Today, companies must effectively engage and communicate with customers at every conceivable touch point. There has been a tectonic shift in focus and values. Suddenly, creativity counts. For many, the strategic use of LinkedIn allows access to opportunities that may otherwise not exist and nourishes the relationships integral to the process. Still in its tip-of-the-iceberg stage, LinkedIn is an intangible force creating tangible outcomes. One can’t help but sense the gold rush is on and want to opt in. When it comes to the precarious nature of success, timing is everything.