Is LinkedIn a Profitable Use of Business Owner Time?
Caution: I’m skeptically optimistic about LinkedIn as I think maybe at least a million other people are at this point.
I originally joined LinkedIn as a favor to my friends and associates so they could increase their online networks. Lately I’ve been giving worthy endorsements, so they’ll be viewed favorably as they find more projects and jobs. I know a bunch of people and with very little effort I currently have 59 connections and 172,000 people within three degrees of separation. So what?
But will it work as a source of projects, clients, and profits? Is it worth my time to get involved? Will LinkedIn be a profitable use of my time? How will it benefit?
Sorry I don’t know the answer just yet. But here’s my thinking process so far.
1. Connecting friends and associates online gives them something. They know I care, they get one more positive thing in their life, and they get to feel better. Giving them the endorsement they deserve helps build them as an authority in their field. So hopefully they’ll reciprocate if they think I am deserving. This is part of the give and you shall receive mentality, which has been very profitable for me so far in life.
2. It’s mainstream. As of October 2008, LinkedIn had more than 30 million registered users, according to LinkedIn at About LinkedIn. That sounds like something worth checking out. So you wouldn’t be part of some lunatic fringe that probably won’t go anywhere. Although a recent study showed 40 million people in America have tattoos and I don’t really want to join them!
3. It’s free at its basic level and so far I haven’t found any better way to spend my late nights and early mornings when I’m not writing my blog, writing my book, spending time with my family, or in general having a life. It’s a better use of time than watching television. When I think of something more profitable to do with those hours than investigating LinkedIn, I’ll do that. So no chance of becoming a social networking junkie nor much time or money wasted while you check it out.
4. It’s Professional. So far Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube occur to me like people with too much time and too few written business goals (sorry to offend). LinkedIn focuses on people and where they work and where they have worked, so it’s people with professional interests and professional connections. So that seems like something worth networking into. More like a Chamber of Commerce mixer which I have used profitably in the past to get clients.
5. Networking and particularly giving endorsements and referrals for me has been profitable in general. In my Professional Referral Exchangereferral group, we are strongly encouraged to give referrals so that we will get referrals. Over my 4 years of being in that group I have gotten over 15 clients and try to give 40-50 referrals each year. So I know the concept of giving endorsements and referrals works as a strategy for getting referrals and clients absolutely yields results. LinkedIn doesn’t seem too far removed from a real world referral group.
6. It is increasingly used by recruiters to post jobs and to search for passive candidates, people not actively looking for a job. It does allow me to look at job postings and find who I know who knows someone there. While I am not looking for a job, many of my friends are and it’s one more way I can help them.
7. According to Guy Kawasaki in Ten Ways to Use LinkedIn,” Most people use LinkedIn to “get to someone” in order to make a sale, form a partnership, or get a job.” Well that sounds exactly like what I want so HOW do they do that? You can network into a target company, or find people with the job titles you’re looking for. Same with job seekers.
8. Is LinkedIn where your target audience is? Well my prospects are professionals and small business owners so that seems like a no brainer. An example of reaching that target audience and food for thought using LinkedIn can be found in The Power of LinkedIn and The Speed of Trust by Paul Allen, Internet entrepreneur.
9. It helps build your credibility. People who’ve just met you don’t know if you are successful or good at what you do. If they check out your profile, they’ll find endorsements, where you’ve worked, groups you care about, and people you know. Intuitively they’ll feel more connected to you and that you are who say you are.
10. It helps build your reputation. When they see job history, areas of expertise, and participation in groups you’ll be solidifying your brand.
11. You’ll be viewed as insignificant if you are not there. According to Deb Dib, a coach who helps CEO and C-level executives find their next opportunities, in LinkedIn - What It Is and Why You Need to Be On It, “If you’re an executive and you don’t have a presence on Google, recruiters and employers are likely to dismiss you as a lightweight. Increasingly, if you’re not on LinkedIn, the same thing happens.”
12. It may be like a business card, an advertisement, or a brochure. We all use them, they’re necessary to prove we’re professional, but don’t expect them to make the phone ring. No one ever said, “Hey I have your brochure and want to buy from you.” In fact, when they finally do call you to do business, they seldom mention the last place they saw your name or the catalyst that had them pick up the phone or send an email.
13. Increases name recognition, website ranking, and link backs. Louise Fletcher in The 7 Mistakes You’re Probably Making on LinkedIn points out that LinkedIn is ranked very highly in Google. So if your name is part of your LinkedIn profile, you’ll be found on the web ranked more highly there than almost anything you can do on your own.
14. You can use LinkedIn to gain introductions. These are awkward because each introducer has to individually forward the introduction. However as you reach out to a new contact, every person who is between you and that contact gets reminded of your brand and message, and sees how you are approaching potential contacts. So it’s more name recognition with a slight multiplier while meeting a new potential prospect.
15. Recommendations help you build credibility, but you need to get recommendations consciously and strategically. Make sure they describe what you want to be most known for being good at. That is, recommendations about your brand and coming from people who aren’t employees or obvious family.
So bottom line, LinkedIn seems to supply name recognition, branding, ability to research people and companies you want to target, and online resume and references. If you know how to make profit from these things work in the real world, you should be able to extrapolate additional profits from the online world using LinkedIn.