In speaking with other business owners, LinkedIn seems to pop-up quite frequently in our conversations. The conversations tend to revolve around whether it’s a worthwhile tool.
General Networking and Marketing
A few years ago, LinkedIn made it extremely easy to ask to link with just about anyone. Granted, the more people you’re already linked with, the easier it is to invite anyone else to link, and considering that I already did know quite a lot of people through conferences and customers, I probably did have a strong base to build from. I will add that, as my network grew, it become even that much easier to ask other people to link. But even considering all that, the rule changes did make all this easier.
As such, I do find it pretty easy to connect with people who I might want to know. In some cases, possibly because I think I could learn something form them, other times, because I think we might someday share information, and yet others just because they look like they have an interesting job and I’m hoping I’ll hear more about it, at some point.
But, as I have always said, this does not tend to replace meeting people in-person at actual meetings. People are far more likely to talk to me if I have met them face-to-face. On the other hand, there do seem to be quite a few people who know my name, possibly from all my blogging and past writing for magazines, and are just curious to talk to me. So, once again, I think I might have an advantage because of that.
But I don’t know that I think this is a great place to do marketing. Going back to what I said about how easy it is now to invite people to link, it has also become easier to market to them, as well and, just as with any other place, people are bombarded with ads and with updates on all the people they know.
Because of the bombardment, here’s how I see it – if I want to keep up with what the industry is doing and what is going on with people, in-general, I watch the LinkedIn updates. If I want to keep up with a specific individual, I just contact them and ask what they’ve been up to. I do sometimes also check their LinkedIn page, but not everyone updates those, so it still comes down to individual contact.
There’s plenty that goes on in LinkedIn that isn’t that helpful to business, might be strange, and some that is even negative. Here are some things that I find annoying or less than useful:
- Being linked with seemingly unrelated things: On my list of strange things, I’ve been seeing updates that I was mentioned in a LinkedIn post. I went to look at the post and my name just seems to be listed as a way to bring people to read the post (along with other companies and names) and I’m not clear what my name (and others) have to do with the post. But people are “liking” it, too, for some reason, and I’m still unclear what I have to do with the post, despite the occasional updates I get on it.
- Being given lots of links, some of which could be harmful: Or, how about people who send you a link that tells you that you “have” to read it, and might even seem to be credible people, but who don’t tell you what the link is about. Unless I know the person, I usually don’t bother following those. Actually, even if I do know the person, if I don’t know what the topic is supposed to be, I’m often not that motivated to follow the link to find out. We’re all busy and, if you want any of us to read it, tell us why I should bother.
- Groups: While the group features initially seemed to offer a great place to host groups and manage discussions, I would not say that that is still the case, especially when there are so many tools now available to do that. When LinkedIn was in earlier stages, I started the first LIMS/Laboratory Informatics group in LinkedIn and, for some years, it was the largest such group in there. But I’ll admit that it was both the number of other groups competing for members plus the fact that LinkedIn’s tools didn’t help balance the workload of the task that caused me to eventually step down from the group and move on to other things. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I’ve participated in ANY of the LinkedIn groups.
- Statistics: Some of the statistics LinkedIn gives are interesting but not all of them are useful or complete. The main set of statistics that I use are those related to my blog posts. And, as I found out when I tried upgrading my membership to a Premium level, those statistics don’t change if you’re linking your WordPress posts to your LinkedIn account. You get the same vague set of statistics, regardless what membership level you’re at. As a different example, if you upgrade your membership, you will see more information about who has looked at your profile, where those people who don’t want you to know who they are can hide their information from you, but you still can see the total number. That’s not how the posting statistics work – you see some of the numbers and some of the information and there is no way to get more and no plans to change it (I know this because I asked).
- Scamming, which really does happen everywhere, these days: Most of you know this but if you don’t, please read this – people will use photos of people in the military, usually someone good-looking and with some impressive number of ribbons and medals on their uniform, and create phony profiles for them. They sometimes even use the real name of that military person for the account. Then, they’ll start linking with people and contacting them to ask for dates, with the ultimate goal being to scam money out of us. Not only have such people contacted me but I’d seen an entire investigative news story on it so, truly, I’m not just making this up. And, seriously, if someone asks you for a date from LinkedIn, it’s really not the right place for it so be skeptical (plus my spouse wouldn’t like me to start dating other people).
Recruiters can straighten me out on this if it’s not true, but it’s my impression that LinkedIn is a decent tool with which to look for a job or to recruit people. But, once again, with “everyone” doing it, it probably does make it harder and harder to make headway with it.
However, I think the people who have tried to recruit me into any type of serious position usually tend to know me from outside of LinkedIn (i.e., not the recruiters looking to fill some low-level job with any person who meets any of the key words, but people who are truly looking at experience level and trying to match that).
And, while I used to find myself a bit bombarded by recruiters, no longer seem to have that problem. I think I’ve been pretty clear with those who would contact me about what the situation is and the ones who used to contact me pretty regularly with work that wasn’t suited to me have probably realized it’s not worth their time. So, for a while, I was almost feeling that being in LinkedIn was just too much work with regard to the number of messages I received that had nothing to do with anything I was interested in but, these days, it doesn’t seem to be an issue.
While FaceBook still might (or might not) be important for companies who want end-consumers to buy their goods, such as restaurants, I don’t think people in our industry speak of it as a serious business tool.
I did have my own business listed in there, quite a few years ago, but found it was yet one more platform to maintain, just more work to do and for no real gain. One day, when I was deleting accounts from the multitude of social media platforms I’d joined upon one invitation or another but didn’t tend to use, and I finally just got rid of that one, too.
But, in the end, while there are companies in our industry that probably still post to FaceBook and use it for marketing purposes, I would venture to say that it’s not their top priority. And while we still have lengthy discussions about whether or not LinkedIn is useful, we never seem to have those discussions about FaceBook, leading me to think that LinkedIn still has some “life” in it as a business tool, but FaceBook not so much.