If Facebook had a dad that worked in accounting, drove a Taurus and considered the OpEd section of the Wall Street Journal a “weekend highpoint”, that dad would be LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is the social network we point to when we want to say that the internet is serious business. It is the one example people use when trying to make an argument for expecting more than flying sheep and Parker Brother games in online communities. LinkedIn is about making (and exploiting) business connections. They must be doing something right, they turned a profit in 2006 with 5 million users. They claim 4 times that many users today.
How you can personally benefit You know a few people in your industry. You are already part of a business network that exists through conferences and gatherings, mailing lists and bulletin boards. LinkedIn makes it ridiculously easy to interconnect those business contacts that you have to an online profile. The big idea is that you can benefit from your network connectivity as an industry expert or by being introduced to other people in your field. In theory this uber networking could translate to a better job or a consulting engagement. There are job search boards and expert Answers sections that facilitate some of this for you, though it is possible to arrange things independently.
How LinkedIn makes money The business model that seems to work best for social networks relates to critical mass. Once something has grown large enough to generate its own buzz around a community, it can usually maintain a perpetual inflow of new users. It is the users, their connections and their self-identified business skills and responsibilities that LinkedIn monetizes in its business plan. LinkedIn sells introductions and InMail messages as premiere services, a easy sell for an HR department looking for new talent to recruit.
How your company can use LinkedIn This depends on how large your company is and how technical your customer base is. Most of LinkedIn’s professionals work in white collar management, tech sector or professional industries such as law and medicine. A large company working in any of these markets should consider looking at the Enterprise options for connecting with clients If you’re smaller, then the professional accounts are tiered to meet your needs. LinkedIn does support targeted advertising though their rate card is on the high end for online advertising. This likely reflects their belief in a unique audience of professionals, though an ad in a trade publication may be a better value for a comparable audience. Mostly, you want your sales people to have LinkedIn accounts and to start making connections. Sales leads that come through a recommendation network like this are worth the price of a professional account.
My take I don’t use LinkedIn personally. I have an account that I maintain modestly for my professional friends to connect to. I’m not in sales and my current professional engagements keeps me too busy to fish for work. So from the outside looking in, I see LinkedIn as just another place to keep your contact information. The likelihood that I will look here first for a business recommendation, professional recommendation, job or product offering is small. There are other places that do those things better. A deep user of the LinkedIn networking function may find unique opportunities that a surface user like me never will. My time just doesn’t lend itself to that level of involvement.