There will come a time when, if people Google your name and you don’t readily appear within a couple of pages of search results, then you don’t exist.
We’re not at the point yet, but we are certainly heading down that path and LinkedIn – the social networking site sometimes referred to as ‘Facebook for suits’ – is where much of the online action is taking place in the business world.
Currently four million Australians are registered with LinkedIn. While this might seem on the small side compared to Facebook’s 11.6 million Australian members, the fact LinkedIn is confined pretty much to people in business, whether owners or employees, makes it all the more important to be a part of the network.
In its early days, LinkedIn was widely considered to be little more than a virtual repository for your resume, as well as a place to collate your business contacts. However, in recent years it has become much, much more than that. So much so that if you use the platform just for those two reasons, it’s like owning a top-of-the-range four-wheel drive and not taking it off the road!
How LinkedIn developed into an online powerhouse:
- The site has become much more social
Up until around eight to 12 months ago, LinkedIn was not the place you’d visit online if you wanted to interact with others. I’m not sure why, but for some reason LinkedIn members simply didn’t share or comment like they do now. Maybe people thought that being in business meant losing one’s personality and social skills? Whatever, that’s all changing now.
Today, LinkedIn is full of activity, with people sharing knowledge and information en masse, providing public commentary on issues and trends, and shining the spotlight on peers, colleagues and business contacts. Much of this has to do with LinkedIn redesigning the site so it’s more like Facebook in nature.
For example, refer to the name of a connection or company in the status update box on your LinkedIn home page and whomever you’ve mentioned will receive a notification alerting them to the fact.
- The ability to endorse skills and expertise
Another development that seems to have worked despite criticism from some quarters is the ability to endorse the skills and expertise of LinkedIn member connections.
LinkedIn recommendations – the testimonials you give people that feature on their public profile – are excellent signposts of credibility and great for one’s professional reputation.
Endorsements, on the other hand, are basically micro ‘ticks of approval’ that take mere seconds to give and therefore don’t carry the same weight as recommendations.
However, what the introduction of the endorsement feature has done is encourage LinkedIn members to get involved and to interact on the site.
- Groups set up around organisations
LinkedIn groups that have been set up around organisations, industries and topics of conversation can be hotbeds of interactivity and ideal places for business people to congregate virtually and demonstrate their knowledge and expertise by becoming involved in a meaningful way, asking questions, providing answers to other members’ queries and generally sparking people’s thinking around a particular topic of interest.
- Company pages are starting to take off
Company pages on LinkedIn are also starting to take off and have huge potential. These pages are similar in nature to Facebook brand pages where people can follow a particular company; in effect, they’re subscribing to your stream of information and content. The question is (a) are you using this feature, and (b) if you have a page for your business, are you adding genuine value by regularly updating it with interesting content that’s relevant to your target audience, not just a blatant plug for your business?
- The ‘go-to’ social website for the business world
There is no doubt LinkedIn’s strategy is to become the ‘go-to’ social website for the business world, with the idea being that it’s one of the first things you look at when you crank up your computer of a morning.
Feeding into this theory is the site’s content play around high-profile thought leaders, entrepreneurs and subject matter experts. They call them LinkedIn influencers – a growing coterie of high-profile people in business, media, government and the not-for-profit space who provide exclusive articles for the LinkedIn community. Subscribing to a few select ‘influencers’ will enrich your thinking and keep you up-to-speed with broader trends and developments affecting business.
The bottom line is, people will always check out others in advance of doing business or meeting with them for the first time. If a potential client or commercial partner checked out your profile, what would they find? Take that back a step: have you got a profile in the first place, and does it do justice to the professional ‘you’?