Five LinkedIn Strategies You Haven’t Thought Of Before
This article originally appeared on my regular column on Forbes.com.
Last week a client asked if I could stay for a bit after our weekly meeting so he could thank me, not for a PR project, but to show me how he’d used a tactic I’d shown him on LinkedIn to put himself well on the track of securing a much more aggressive marketing budget next year. Wow!
First, a little about how people are typically using LinkedIn. We recently shared an infographic on the most popular ways people are currently using LinkedIn in our agency newsletter, Snappington Post. You can subscribe to the newsletter here. I’ve included that infographic below, which was the product of LinkedIn Trainer/Expert Wayne Breitbarth of Power+Formula. Wayne also offers ongoing LinkedIn Tips through his blog and newsletter that you can subscribe to here.
In quick summary, the overwhelming majority of current LinkedIn users (84.4 percent) are using LinkedIn’s free account. Only 15.1 percent pay for premium service. Groups are an increasingly important feature of LinkedIn, paid or free: 35.5 percent of users are in 1-9 groups.
The most used features people currently use and value are, as follows:
- Who has viewed your profile (70.6 percent)
- People you may know (65.2 percent)
- Groups (60.6 percent)
- Direct messaging (48.7 percent)
LinkedIn has been most helpful in 2013 for enabling people to
- Research people and companies (75.8 percent)
- Reconnect with past business associates/colleagues (70.6 percent)
- Build new relationships with people who may influence potential customers (45 percent)
- Increase face-to-face networking effectiveness (41.2 percent)
I use the Premium version of LinkedIn. But not everyone is thrilled with the service. Friend and fellow reporter Scott Mace, Senior Editor forHealthLeaders Media, shared the following feedbacks in response to our agency’s post:
My experiences are based on being a premium ‘Business’ user for more than a year. The tag function doesn’t work very well. You can only search on a single tag at a time, which makes it far less useful than being able to filter on matches of more than one tag. Tags aren’t incorporated into Advanced People Search at all. The RSS feed LinkedIn produced of your activity was a firehose with no options for filtering that either. The ‘Executive’ membership level which costs $75 a month doesn’t fix these shortcomings.
Now LinkedIn sends emails every day saying things like so-and-so has a new job, so congratulate them. But it’s all about visiting the site so they can push more ads in front of you. The ‘influencers’ emails they now send out are like so much spam in my mailbox.
In short, LinkedIn doesn’t let the user do any kind of serious data mining or query on their own social network and is becoming more of a distraction with useless email updates, and having the premium levels of membership doesn’t solve the problems. Considering how much time I invest in building my LinkedIn network, and how much wealth that is generating for the company, I should be getting a better return.
I don’t disagree with any of Mace’s points. However, I have personally found LinkedIn’s best uses lie in the creative strategies practitioners have devised on their own, thus my recent favorite five tactics, to wit:
1. Scoping the Competition
This is the strategy my client accomplished last week. He had asked me the week prior, as he prepared for annual budget planning, if there was any way of assessing just how large his competitor’s marketing team and budget might be?
I opened LinkedIn and ran a search on the company’s name and any job titles that contained marketing or communications. Voila—the search produced an immediate list. As he began to peruse their titles, I suggested he temporarily change his privacy restrictions to make his views and searches anonymous. Within a few minutes of searching we were able to see how many results appeared for people currently employed in the company’s entire base and of those, how many are working in marketing. While not every employee is registered on LinkedIn, surely, he’d arrived at a reasonably close estimate of the percentage of the company’s employees who are working in marketing, which would equate at least somewhat to the level of the company’s percentage of revenue devoted to marketing efforts as well.
As may be expected, a search of employees both past and present was also helpful in illustrating a fairly significant level of churn. How long do employees typically stay at the company in question? With a bit more calculation, now we know. Some of the former marketing employees had gone into private consulting practices. Extra helpful. Subject to the confidentiality aspects of their prior employment, of course, the client knows which consultants might be especially beneficial in helping him scope out his own future competitive plans.
But my clever client showed me how he’d taken the results a step further: he’d created a simple Word document that outlined the competitive company’s full department, by job title. Next to it, he placed a column to illustrate the corresponding people and roles in his own team. The result was a picture worth more than a few thousand words. The difference was profound. He was able to inform his management team that he recognized it would not be possible to fill the resource chasm in the space of a year, but would strongly suggest the addition of four strategic new hires, and flipped his screen to show the comparison with the addition of the four new positions, in blue. He’d made his case with a single image, and indications are strong that his proposal will be entirely approved. A smart strategy.
2. Job scoping/background checks
Yes, we fairly well all use LinkedIn to accomplish background checks, but consider the call I recently received from a regional tech company. It wasn’t a recruiter, but an internal executive who phoned.
“I need to make a PR hire that will really ‘wow’ our senior executives,” she said. “Of the resumes that have crossed my desk, I know that three of these individuals have prior connections to you. I’d like to hear your unvarnished reactions to each.”
Bear in mind that I knew nothing of the position she had opened prior to the call and that I hadn’t been listed as a reference for any of three prospects. In fact I’d never even worked at the same company as one of the three. I gave her my feedbacks. In one of the cases, the individual had been a prior employee who had departed impulsively and badly. I might have shared that information, but I never got that far. As she heard a bit about the juvenile choices the individual had made here and there—the things a young employee thinks the boss doesn’t hear about or won’t matter—she replied, “Say no more. I wouldn’t touch this employee with a 100-foot pole. He won’t be getting a call.”
In a word: LinkedIn.
3. Advanced People Finder
LinkedIn is increasingly becoming an advanced database for finding people who are difficult to locate. (Facebook is increasingly serving this purpose as well.) There are myriad examples emerging, but I’ll mention just two.
A friend who works for a legal office is managing the affairs of a deceased client who presumably died without heirs. Using only LinkedIn and Facebook she has uncovered the track to at least four living heirs so far—maybe more. Imagine the implications.
In the second example, my young daughter, a student in a secondary education program, came home distraught one evening after a troubling confrontation with one of her instructors.
“She said she was going to report me to the Dean of Student Affairs!” I had no idea the full extent of the situation, but my daughter begged me to not be an interfering parent or to be causing a scene.
Within minutes I had determined the job history and length of experience of the instructor in question. And I was also able to locate by job title, guess who? The Dean of Student Affairs, who received a discreet message of concern from me via LinkedIn InMail. He responded. There was more to the story, of course, but without a formal meeting—in fact I have still never met the dean nor the instructor to this day—he was able to look into the situation and to bring about an appropriate response. Issue resolved.
4. A Sales Reinforcement
This is a Ken Krogue, InsideSales.com strategy. (Ken is a fellow Forbes Contributor, and as disclosure, his company is a client of our agency as well.) Instinctively I’ve used it as well, but in seeing how well he’s employed the strategy I’ve now declared the method immortalized.
Upon meeting or conversing with any new business associate or contact, or even being referred to a beneficial resource or contact, I immediately follow up with an invitation to connect on LinkedIn.
As Krogue tells it, a sales cycle will typically, statistically, require a total of six contacts before a prospect is ready to tip over the edge. Creating the LinkedIn contact (as well as an immediate email follow up message to a first conversation), will instantly move the number of contacts from a first meeting from one interaction to three. Halfway to goal. Brilliant.
5. Extra Clever Uses for LinkedIn Polls
I have not yet made expert use of LinkedIn Polls, but the strategy bears mention in that it’s a particularly brilliant use of LinkedIn. With credit toCorey Eridon of HubSpot, you can use LinkedIn polls to
- Obtain quick opinion results for column and blog fodder. Dry for blog or column topics? No more. An original data tidbit in response to a salient question is invaluable news and interesting content.
- Obtain product and service feedback. As you consider new product features or ideas, how will the market respond? Ask the question to your group or followers on LinkedIn and you’ll save yourself immense resources (and perhaps will hear some interesting new ideas as well).
- Conduct immediate market research. There are great data providers available, but perhaps they’re not addressing precisely the information you need. The response to a targeted question could be a wonderful enhancement to provide you with just what you need, on the fly.
- Tweet poll results to generate additional group followers. By extending the results of an interesting poll to Twitter, to Facebook, and to other arenas in addition to your current LinkedIn group you can readily interest additional people—the right people—to join.
- Use polls to generate offers. You know you need to provide an offer to generate leads, but you don’t know what will interest your prospects? Run a poll. Let the community tell you what ebooks, whitepapers, crowdfunding awards, etc., will interest them and the topics they’d like you to cover.
Have I convinced you yet? Whether you love LinkedIn’s newest offerings or you’re still on the fence, think about the LinkedIn resource like a great children’s toy—the foundation is there, but 90 percent of the “play” is in the child, or in this case, in the community participant. It will likely be the clever side uses you identify for the foundational resource that will benefit you, the savvy LinkedIn user, the most. And with thanks to Wayne Breitbarth of Power+Formula, here’s his LinkedIn infographic below: