Is LinkedIn a Tool of Choice?






























































With all the raving about Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, the redheaded stepchild is often LinkedIn. Too few business folks know how to make good use of this powerful tool. Some have a profile because they have been told it is a good idea. Others, because they have heard it is a good job search tool. Yet, there are so many ways that LinkedIn can help you become a better marketer.

As the leading social media tool aimed at business executives, LinkedIn boasts 150 million users. As indicated in the infographic, most users subscribe only to the free version, with only about 8% who use the paid version with additional bells & whistles. Much has been written about the almost addictive level of engagement social networks enjoy; 12% of LinkedIn users spend 5-6 hours a week on the system, 26% are moderately engaged at 3-4 hours/week, and about 48% fall into the 0-2 hours category.

When people use a social media tool, one of the primary motivators is to connect and network. However, about 30% of subscribers have 100 connections or less. Another 30% have 300 or more; approximately 40% have between 100 and 300. While we could get into a point/counterpoint discussion for hours on the value of quality versus quantity of contacts, that conversation would seem to apply only to the choice of LinkedIn strategy between the two groups with the largest number of connections. The larger question looms as to why some, claiming that they have created a profile on LinkedIn in order to connect, have only made 100 connections or less.

Among favorite features, the Groups capability ranks highest, followed by the ability to search for people and the ability to be reminded of people we may know. Again, of those who join groups, fully 45% are members of 10 groups or less. It is important here to distinguish between members and participants. Most who are not “power users” of LinkedIn do not make the most of the Groups feature. By choosing not to read and respond to discussion board posts, the user decreases the value of the tool to themselves. When someone does use the search or people known features, they may not take the next step and ask for an introduction by someone who is able to help build the “triangle of trust” to the targeted contact.

The ways that LinkedIn has been most helpful to subscribers are numerous, but the top three are:

  1. Researching people and companies
  2. Reconnecting with past associates
  3. Networking to find prospects

If it is not your habit of using LinkedIn for these important business functions, you are missing out on a great opportunity. LinkedIn is a tool of choice for those who understand its value. For it to become powerful for you, learn it better and explore ways to make the features work for you.

How “professional” is your services firm?

Whether the billable workers are architects, CPAs, engineers, lawyers, or management consultants, there is a certain prestige that comes with being a professional services firm. The credentials on the wall, the exam that had to be passed, and the fees that can be charged for hourly work all distinguish these white collar technicians from those who procure their insights and performance of tasks often related to compliance.

In many of these firms, those without the primary certification–even those working at a director level–are misfits, not considered “professional” in their discharge of duties. In fact, the HR, marketing, management accounting, and similar roles are as accomplished in their respective fields as the billable personnel they serve. A healthy mutual respect would likely ensue and firms would benefit from the same array of expertise disciplines as a more general, “non-professional” services organization.

It is not uncommon for training and development, for instance, to be isolated to continuing education focused on technical skills to the exclusion of the softer, intangible skills that make for better managers, business developers, client relationship nurturers, and the like. When professional development includes fostering the “non-professional” competencies within the suite of requisite skills and roles of “professionals,” then services firms will have evolved.

From talent management and succession planning to emotional intelligence and employee engagement, there’s much to be gained from professional HR. Consultative skills, networking nuances, intentional brand building and thought leadership best practices can be modeled by the business development (or marketing) professional. And so on…

The time has come to either staff for these professional roles in house (which the regional and national firms are doing), or outsource the function on a fractional basis to competent providers (which needs to be done by everyone else.) Often,  the internal resource, regardless of firm size, is overtaxed perpetuating a stream of work tasks that existed before (s)he arrived and cannot carve out the time to address internal growth and development needs.

Find a solution!