An Introduction to LinkedIn: In Restrictions a Gold Mine
BY Maisha Walker
"I've been trying to find a way to use Facebook in a more professional manner and I've found it — it's called LinkedIn."
Inevitably many users have an "aha" moment when, after spending a quiet afternoon digging a little deeper they stumble upon some feature of LinkedIn that they find immensely valuable. At that moment they become converts, thirsty for knowledge about how to do more. This is what happened to my friend of the quote above. But many businesses never get there.
LinkedIn is a far less frenetic tool than most of the other social networking sites. As noted by blogger Sam DeReign "On LinkedIn, I am able to share the things I am most proud of — accomplishments that show what a capable person I am in the workplace. My contacts on LinkedIn aren't going to tag a photo of me attempting to do the Cha-Cha Slide after a bottle of wine." Thanks to LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman for hipping everyone to this simple but spot on blog post. It is LinkedIn's subtlety which makes it powerful.
So how do you use LinkedIn effectively to help your business in ways you cannot really do on Facebook? As with all of the social media tools, there are three keys to unlocking the value in LinkedIn. Since LinkedIn is designed specifically to be used in a professional context, I think it is worth investigating them here in more depth.
Note: I will be sharing your stories - stories of how businesses have used LinkedIn effectively. If you'd like to share yours to be noted in my future article submit your LinkedIn strategy here.
LinkedIn Tools — the applications you can use on LinkedIn to help you spread the word about what you do.
The LinkedIn profile — arguably the most important LinkedIn "Tool" not only because it is central to how everything else on LinkedIn operates but because of the important role it plays in branding you and your business. It has the ability to tell the world about your professional life in a way no other tool or social networking site currently can match.
I remember when I first discovered LinkedIn back in 2004. I had spent a considerable amount of time with social networking sites from many perspectives:
as a usability advocate
as a programmer (anyone remember PERL?)
as a traffic and engagement analytics advocate
as a customer service advocate
as a strategist & business advisor
and perhaps most importantly
as a professional participant. I've spent (and spend) many hours in online communities digging into the dynamics of online interactions and understanding how things like a particular stated mission, a prominently placed button, a set of carefully designed restrictions, usage recommendations or "rules of play", the absence of certain features and the presence of others can completely shape how a particular social network is both perceived and used.
With all of that experience when I stumbled upon LinkedIn back in '04, it was easy to see that it was different from all of the other online communities that were popular at the time. LinkedIn was attempting to mold restrictions in usage, interface design choices, and a carefully selected but limited feature set into a social network that actually stuck with it's stated purpose - to be both perceived and used for professional networking and nothing else.
Their success in sticking with this stated purpose, and limiting the site's functionality around that purpose is what enables you as a business owner to use LinkedIn as perhaps the most significant tool in your social media marketing tool box. It is this context of (usually) subtle limitations that gives the three keys I describe above their great usefulness on LinkedIn.
There's a lot to cover, far too much for a single post, so next week I begin breaking down those keys one-by-one.
In the meantime I'm giving you a homework assignment!
Below is a screenshot of my LinkedIn profile with the areas of most interest highlighted. Take the next week to start investigating LinkedIn. There are probably gems there that you didn't even know existed. Come back with your questions, strategies, tactics and stories.
If you've had particular success with LinkedIn and can describe results/back it up with real data, let me know. I will be highlighting a variety of companies as examples. You can submit your LinkedIn strategy here.