I found myself LinkedIn shaming a colleague this week while in Japan and felt bad about it. By LinkedIn shaming I mean trying to make someone feel foolish or inept for not joining LinkedIn.
It was a surprise to me to learn that some people view LinkedIn as just another social media service or application that is intrusive and annoying and not worthy of serious attention. I abandoned those thoughts about six years ago when I was involuntarily forced to seek a new employer.
Six years ago, if you asked me about LinkedIn I would have said it is a mildly interesting application that isn’t very important to me and which I use occasionally. At that time I had a couple hundred “links” and found LinkedIn to be a mild annoyance. Today I have 9K+ LinkedIn connections and 12K+ LinkedIn followers. (I have 15K contacts in Outlook.)
LinkedIn has become firmly embedded in my daily routine.
It was originally conceived and perceived as a tool to stay in contact with business associates and friends as they moved between jobs. Today it has become one of the top if not THE top headhunting tool as well as a critical sales prospecting device and business intelligence application.
To me, LinkedIn participation is mandatory.
Once you have joined, it is my advice that you hide your contacts/connections.
I have no advice regarding choosing a premium account other than to say – it is expensive. If I were a salesperson I might feel differently about having a premium account. I prefer to keep it friendly.
There are some useful tools if you obtain such an account, such as seeing who is viewing your profile, gaining visibility into other people’s connections and searches, and the ability to send direct messages to “members” with whom you are not “linked.” All of those things are useful but not critical.
Once you have joined, I strongly recommend sending LinkedIn invitations to everyone you personally meet. It seems pushy and annoying, but that is simply what is done today. I used to hate it myself, but I long ago got over that.
There are a variety of ways to invite people – either using the automated tools or with a personal message. I used to send personal notes. Today, I just click the “invite” button. If you do not abuse the use of invites (ie. do not invite people to connect if you haven’t met or do not know them!) you can simply look up someone you have met and send them a connection invite.
There are lots of nitty-gritty details that I am not going to get into. Invite people to connect if you have met them (or talked with or exchanged emails with them) unless you do not want or never expect to see them again.
Uses of LinkedIn:
- Finding contacts – LinkedIn is extremely useful for finding, identifying and contacting executives, whether they be information sources or potential customers. (Also useful for remembering faces and determining if someone is a man or a woman.)
- Keeping track of contacts – LinkedIn allows you to follow your contacts from job to job – which is quite useful when an existing contact or customer moves to a new company. (Send them an InMail to get their updated contact info – after you congratulate them.)
- Making yourself visible – The first place most people look today to find someone is LinkedIn. You need to be in LinkedIn to be visible. There are certainly some fields (medicine? law enforcement?) where a lower profile is preferred. Like it or not, we are all in the business of selling ourselves. It’s called capitalism.
- Sharing your work – LinkedIn is a platform for sharing your publications with your business network using the “share” window. That window can also be connected to Twitter and/or Facebook.
- Discovering new companies – LinkedIn has been perhaps most useful to me as a means to discover new companies and for being discovered. The more connections you have the greater the visibility you have to the world and the easier it is for the world to see you.
- Competitive intelligence – LinkedIn often reveals competitors linking with existing clients and customers linking with potential partners or suppliers. These links can mean someone got a demo or they may reflect strategic alliances taking place. Hard to know for sure, but better to “know” than not to know. (More and more stories keep cropping up in the business press based on journalists conducting LinkedIn searches to gain insight into recent hiring activities.)
- Discovering mutual friends/contacts – Again, this stuff just happens as a result of the heightened visibility.
- Inside sales – LinkedIn allows me to extend my reach into organizations as it suggests additional potential contacts based on my existing roster of contacts. It also helps me – in this same process – identify new companies by its connection suggestions.
- Raising your company’s profile – Your organization should have its own LinkedIn page. LinkedIn has taught me a lot about where my co-workers have come from prior to joining the company for which I work as well as where they tend to go.
- Keeping up on competitors – I link in with competitors, so I can see what, if anything, they are posting on LinkedIn to publicize their work. I can also see who THEY are meeting, if they leave it visible.
There are many more uses, but 10 provides a certain symmetry, so let’s leave it at that.
Finally, to make LinkedIn truly effective it is incumbent upon you to feed the LinkedIn engine with your contacts. This means meeting as many people by phone or in person as you can in your daily dealings and travels and assiduously entering those contacts both into Outlook and sending LinkedIn invitations.
Let me just add, that connecting with many people is not in any way disingenuous on my part. I can count on one hand the people I have met in the past 30+ years that were reluctant or refused to connect. In any connection it is impossible to anticipate who will be more valuable to whom as a connection. Connectivity between people is a force that exceeds the bounds of technology.
And it’s free.
Roger Lanctot is the Director, Automotive Connected Mobility at Strategy Analytics. He is a member of a Steering Committee for the Geneva (Switzerland) Auto Show and a Board Member for the Los Angeles Auto Show. Mr. Lanctot is a graduate of Dartmouth College and is a member of the International Auto Press Association. Roger can be followed on Twitter.