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LinkedIn: Reading Between the Lines

Yes, LinkedIn tells me lots about potential employees. But it's just as useful for getting the scoop on a new client or partner.
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For most industries, LinkedIn is now the de facto career management tool for professionals -- and if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, you don’t exist. Every profile leaves the reader with a distinct impression that can make or break a valuable connection. And that means LinkedIn profiles are a great way to gain insight into a potential client.

I’ll admit to stalking LinkedIn profiles of prospects or new clients to find clues for potential opportunities. Have they recently changed companies or been promoted? Are they posting job descriptions for new positions? Has a key member of their team recently left? Or are they so swamped they haven’t updated their profile in months? Sounds like they might need some marketing expertise!

So what does a potential client’s LinkedIn profile say to me?

Photo: In our industry of technology marketing and communications, you would think marketers would surely have a photo. If not, are they shy? Insecure? Too busy to post one? If they don’t have time to market themselves, maybe they’re also too busy to market their company, product or service. Hey, we can help with that.

Connections:  Unless you’re a cowboy or shepherd, professionals with more than five years of experience should have at least 100 connections. Someone who has relatively few connections may not have as many resources available, so with a quick glance, I can tell whether they have marketing peeps in their pocket or not. The right-hand column on LinkedIn shows me how I’m connected to the prospect, and more often than not, we’ll have several colleagues in common -- perfect for getting an introduction or starting a conversation.

Summary: The summary helps me understand who they are, what they do, and what they might need to be successful. Marketing executives should be able to create a great summary in their sleep. But if I can’t tell why you love what you do and how you do it better than anyone else, it might be time to bring in a ringer to help craft something more compelling.

Experience: In three seconds, I can get a sense of where a potential client is in the arc of their career. It’s easy to tell when someone prefers the relative security of large companies, or if they thrive on the adrenaline of launching startups. Either way, we know how we can support their efforts. Or perhaps they’ve been in the industry 20 years and might consider their own consulting business...and work with a talent partner like us.

Recommendations: This is the most exciting part of a LinkedIn profile. I can’t wait to scroll down and read their recommendations. The clients or partners I want to work with are well-respected leaders who also have a major “wow” factor. Some endorsements have lifeless, predictable phrases like “I worked with him at XYZ...,” as if they were written under duress. Or they can be genuine, passionate comments punctuated with energy like, “She wowed us with her creativity! What a breath of fresh air.” or “He’s the BEST. I’d work with him again in a heartbeat!” Read a few carefully and you’ll see truth between the lines.

Like most everything else in our crazy, busy world, we often scan and jump to conclusions. Take the time to read up on your next prospect, and find the invisible clues that can turn a simple contact a real, lasting -- and possibly profitable -- connection.

Last updated: May 9, 2012

RENE SHIMADA SIEGEL | Columnist | Founder, High Tech Connect

Rene Shimada Siegel is founder and president of High Tech Connect, a unique consulting partner for expert marketing and communications. After a successful career in Silicon Valley, she founded her company 15 years ago while juggling three kids under the age of five.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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