I was quite a late adopter of LinkedIn. I joined the site in 2008, 11 June to be exact. LinkedIn had already been around since 2003. I remember clearly that during the first months of joining LinkedIn, I just logged in to accept invitations and that was pretty much it really. I probably logged in once a week or so, nothing like keeping my profile open all day long like I do now.
There are a number of reasons why still I use LinkedIn today. The platform has grown in leaps and bounds since I joined it. In this article I discuss why the social platform is very important to me. Initially I was very skeptical about LinkedIn, just as I was with Facebook. I dismissed it as another fad but how wrong I was. In fact I later became so enthusiastic about LinkedIn after seeing its benefits that I became the LinkedIn champion at work, training and coaching colleagues as well as giving general advice around LinkedIn. I then left to start my own Linked Coaching Company.
The biggest reason I use LinkedIn for is professional networking. In its own words “The mission of LinkedIn is to connect the world’s professionals to enable them to be more productive and successful.” This is one of the main things that sets LinkedIn apart from other networks like Facebook and Myspace. I also use Facebook for business but to a much lesser extent. I use Facebook mainly to keep in touch with family and friends but LinkedIn is my main tool for networking with other professionals. From the word go LinkedIn has been clear about its main focus and it has stayed true to this. I do not expect it to ever move into the personal social networking.
Some Basic Stats – LinkedIn currently has over 150 million users globally and is growing at a rate of at least 2 users every second. In Africa LinkedIn has over 4,8 million users while in South Africa there are around 1,6 million users. The site continues to grow very rapidly. With LinkedIn now a listed company, it has a much stronger media presence and I expect the growth rate to continue.
My profile on LinkedIn is an extension of my brand. LinkedIn gives me a platform to expose and passively or actively promote my brand. With each passing day my brand is evolving and LinkedIn gives me the opportunity to manage this.
Value Proposition – As part of my branding I use LinkedIn to show what I can bring to the table. LinkedIn reflects my key strengths as a professional and my specialties. Before people even pick up the phone to talk to me or email me, they already know what I do through my LinkedIn profile.
My online and ever-current resume – I have found LinkedIn to be quite handy because all at once it enables me to providing a living resume or cv, a business card through my contact details and my values as a professional. Through LinkedIn I have been able to get recommendations from past and current colleagues regarding my abilities. These may of some use to someone considering working or interacting with me.
Step up from email – I found that in some ways LinkedIn overcame some of the challenges I had with traditional email. LinkedIn makes it possible for me to keep track of any correspondence with anyone on the site, I can file and organise my connections as I please, store contact details, make notes on contacts and forward profiles of connections to fellow connections. What’s also convenient for me is that everything is stored online. LinkedIn also gives me the opportunity to integrate with Microsoft Outlook. There is even a LinkedIn plug-in that I can use with Firefox.
Keeping in Touch – Due to the demands of our jobs and everything else really it’s becoming more and more difficult to keep in touch with other professionals. LinkedIn keeps me posted of developments in other professionals careers, for instance when they are promoted or move jobs or have significant changes in their career. I receive updates every week of significant changes made by my connections to their profiles.
Following companies – Through LinkedIn I can follow companies an interest in and keep track of developments there such as important announcements, job advertisements etc.. There are companies I would like to do business with, companies that I might want to partners, companies that I compete with. LinkedIn gives me an opportunity to stay updated with what’s happening at these companies.
My Company Page – Through my company page, I get to showcase and market my corporate brand. Other members on LinkedIn can see what my company does. There is an overview of my company, its products and services as well as recommendations given for the individual services. My company page is LinkedIn to and cross referenced to my personal profile. Through a link on my personal profile I can access my Company page and vice versa.
Access to Groups – LinkedIn gives me access to various groups of experts. Whether it’s banking, recruiting, or social media LinkedIn gives me access to professionals before whom I can readily post questions or discuss any important issues and receive feedback and answers promptly. Working and living in Johannesburg, I am very keen to network with other professionals in the same region and on LinkedIn I have found several.
Source for Business and Customers – I have found LinkedIn to be very handy when doing business development. In my business I now get most of my leads from LinkedIn. It gives me the ability to search to for potential customers, business partners or contacts using various criteria such as Title, location, years of experience, industry to mention but a few.
Jobs – This is one reason that might be of interest to a few people. I have found LinkedIn to be great for job hunting. In fact I have found my last 2 jobs through LinkedIn contacts. When I joined a local headhunting firm I started using LinkedIn a whole lot more to find senior candidates. However, LinkedIn differs greatly from traditional job sites in a number of respects that I will touch in other articles. It took a while for me to be convinced about the benefits of LinkedIn. Like with everything else practice makes perfect. Take baby steps if you are going to try it and see what comes out of it.
LinkedIn now has a lot of competition on the professional social networking front. There are now the likes of BranchOut (a professional networking tool that sits on the Facebook Platform), Xing, SkillPages, RenRen, BeKnown, Viadeo to mention but a few. However, I think LinkedIn is head and shoulders above the rest.
Are you on LinkedIn and how is it working for you? I would love to hear about your LinkedIn experience!
By Bruce Mubayiwa
LinkedIn Coach and Trainer