In my previous post, Which B2B Social Network is the Most Valuable? I referenced the research we did through the DealmakerIndex and it was very clear that LinkedIn is valued a lot more by B2B professionals than any of the other outlets in the Social Universe. There has been much written about LinkedIn best practices, but just this week Dave Stein at ES Research put together his thoughts on LinkedIn and some observations about how it is used.
I liked very much what Dave had to say, and with his permission I have included his thoughts here. The comments in [italics] are my additions.
In Dave’s words …
- I use LinkedIn to help clients with blind reference checking of candidates for sales and sales executive positions. Recently a client took my advice by looking at who I was connected to that might, in turn, be connected to a VP of Sales candidate they were getting close to hiring. Bingo. I was able to introduce the CEO with a number of close contacts who generously spent a lot of time with my client. The candidate never knew the conversations took place. He was hired last week.? [It is always very important to check references, and LinkedIn is great place to select references you might want to check, other than those offered by the candidate.]
- I always look someone up on LinkedIn before speaking with them the first time, or after not speaking with them after a long time. Amazing how things change for people. New company, new position, new contacts. Conversations are so much more productive when you get a fix on the other person’s perspective.?[I’d suggest that to really get inside someone’s head, Twitter is a better place to get a feeling for who someone is. LinkedIn tends to be less spontaneous, and consequently provides less insight.]
- When someone I know contacts me to network their way into a new position, I’ll often suggest they look through my connections. I’m generally willing to make introductions, although recommending them is out of the question for me if I haven’t worked with them directly. The book makes another point. Don’t wait to start networking when you’re looking for a job. Take the time to build a network based on mutual value before that need arises. I completely agree with that.
- I cull my connections regularly. I’m not a collector of connections on LinkedIn. In fact I think those that are miss the point of real networking. I believe it’s the quality of the relationships that determine how networked you are, not the number of names you can collect. For that reason I don’t accept connections from those whom I don’t know, have not been recommended to me, or with whom I don’t have something in common. I (almost always) send a reply which explains my position, assuring them that my unwillingness to connect with them isn’t personal. I expect some get offended anyway, or think I’m odd.?[I couldn’t agree more – it’s about connections, not contacts. If those who you link with have a massive network, but you are not really connected to them, then it dilutes the value of your network, as they keep popping up as the link, and that sometimes gets in the way of people who you really now, and who might really help.]
- I feel the system is being abused when someone wants to connect with me, but can’t take one minute to overwrite the ubiquitous, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Take a minute and tell me what I can do for you, or even better, what you can do for me, or even better than that, what we both can do for someone else. ?[LinkedIn’s recent practice of continuously suggesting new people to connect with is partly to blame for this I think, but if someone does not write a personal message, then I’m with Dave here.]
- Salespeople who are not looking for a job should construct their LinkedIn profiles centered on the value they have delivered for their customers through each of the positions they have held. [I think there is an opportunity to provide a quick overview of the value your current company provides, or how you can provide value to customers based on your current company’s offerings.] Those who are looking for a job should stress sales performance.
- I’m not big on recommendations. I have a few that are important to me, but I don’t publish others. I think they are, for many, part of a profile-expanding quid pro quo approach. In those cases, I don’t even read the recommendations.?[It is amusing sometimes when Fred recommends Jane, and Jane recommends Fred – but I don’t know who Fred and Jane think they are kidding. Seriously though, recommendations are typically solicited, and are not reviews, but compliments that are asked for, and as such have little value.]
- I’m a little miffed at LinkedIn. There is no iPad app. I don’t keep up with iPad app development news. I wonder when the iPad app will happen. Anyone know??[I found this LinkedIn iPad app. Can’t comment on it though, I’ve not used it.]
- I’ve used both LinkedIn ads and job postings. The job posting facility worked very well when ESR was searching for another analyst last year.? [I’ve used LinkedIn for job postings regularly as we have found some great candidates that way. However, you do have to trawl through a lot of chaff.]
- The groups and discussions are all over the map. Some groups are tightly controlled. That’s good. Others are like the wild West. If I want to get updates on new discussions from some groups, I get barraged with spam. If I turn off the notices, I’ll surely miss that occasional important discussion I need to know about. With all that said, I spend some time each week commenting on others’ posts.?[Much of the activity on groups seems to be consultants selling to consultants, or vendors promoting their wares. Occasionally though you can find good groups that are tightly controlled and conversations are more meaningful.]
- By all means, have someone read through your profile. I have a problem with professional profiles that contain very noticeable grammatical errors and misspellings. I’ve seen some profiles where the names of companies have been misspelled by those that worked there.
- I don’t quite get it when people don’t include a photo in their profile. Do they know how to import one? Do they have a photo? Do they care?
- Finally, if you’re going to ask me for a favor, please don’t include me on a Linked in (or any other) distribution list. Especially don’t begin the mass email with, “Since you are someone I trust and respect…”
Beyond Dave’s excellent points, there are few questions I’d ask …
- Should you always try to connect on LinkedIn with new prospects? If your competitors are watching you, you might need to be careful.
- Should companies enforce a standard description of the company for all of their employees, or is LinkedIn more personal?
- Is there an optimum number of connections you should have on LinkedIn? Can you really have ‘connections’ with 5000 people?
As ever, I’d welcome your thoughts and comments.