Many social networking websites have a business aspect, even if that’s not their primary purpose – after all there’s always buyers and sellers looking to do business. But there’s one social networking website that is specifically made for businesses and professionals – LinkedIn.
Like Facebook, LinkedIn is in a rapid growth phase. With 120 million members worldwide, and 2.3 million in Australia, LinkedIn grew 17% from January to July 2011. Many LinkedIn users are educated professionals in middle and upper management.
One of the basic uses of LinkedIn is as an online resume. It’s always available, can be kept up to date easily, and can be found by businesses looking for particular skills and experience.
Businesses (called companies) can have their own profile page, which others can follow. This is similar to how Facebook business pages work.
It’s the unique way the networking system operates that has given it the status of a trust network. When making a new connection, LinkedIn will ask how you know the person – you can’t just connect with anyone.
Your profile page shows not only your direct connections, but those who are two degrees away (connections of connections) and three degrees away (connections of connections of connections). If you want to connect with someone in your extended network (2nd and 3rd degree connections) you need to get an introduction from a 1st degree connection. It’s this referral system of networking which adds a level of trust and reliability to the network.
To connect with someone outside your network, you can use a premium paid option called InMail, which will send a professionally presented message to the contact.
There is a comprehensive search system, allowing you to find people by industry, location, company, relationship and more, making it a valuable market research tool.
To reinforce the trust factor, there is a recommendation system, whereby individuals can add recommendations to the profiles of their connections.
LinkedIn has a whole section devoted to connecting job seekers and job vacancies (www.linkedin.com/jobs). There are also paid options with extra benefits like introductions to companies you’re seeking employment with, and what they call ‘talent filters’, which allow highly targeted searches.
For up to the minute trends and news in your industry, have a look at LinkedIn Today. Presented in the style of an online newspaper, it presents the latest news from your industry and network. Stories that appear are determined what is most popular, so you get the best of what’s happening right now.
Answers is a section where you can ask questions and get answers from those in your network. You can read through questions and answers from others, and you have the option to supply your own answers.
If you’re still wondering whether it’s worth being on LinkedIn or other social networking sites, consider that your competitors and customers already are, or soon will be, and that’s probably the most compelling reason why businesses need to make the move, or have a good reason not to.