The Usefulness of Linkedin

I saw this question on Linkedin the other day, and it intrigued me:

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We receive Linkedin Invites, we accept but has it been fruitfull? Are we able to get business and help each other?

Day in and out we try to multiple our network, we receive invites and we accept. Guys, have you been able to discuss Synergies? The whole idea has to be thought of again, we should make attempts to understand each one’s business, the value they can add with their services to our company and vice versa.

People plz put in here your best thoughts.

Cheers
Vinod

My answer follows:

Absolutely. I have done a couple hundred thousand dollars in business the last couple of years through people I met or who found me through Linked in. LI is a multipurpose tool:

1. Knowledge Resource, (Where you can pick the brains of some of the top people in any business)

2. Network (Where you can meet and grow your network of professional people, and even get back in touch with old colleagues)

3. Job Board (Where you can get yourself out there in front of people who can hire you or employ your services

4. Club (Where you can just kick it with like minded people or industry colleagues.)

And probably a few others things as well. Hell If I was single, I might even use it as a dating resource with all of the beautiful intelligent women I have met here….

The bottom line is that it is many things to many people I use it for all of the above, and have my linked in profile as part of my email sig. With the economic downturn and CNN and other news outlets pushing networking, many newbies are flocking to the site, without a clue as to what to expect, etiquette or how to use the resource. A good example is the recommendation feature. I often ask clients and others who are familiar with the quality of my work to recommend me. These recommendations are GOLD when people look at your profile, but many simply don’t understand them. I know people who would have no problem talking for an hour about my work if use them as a reference, but they WILL NOT take 10 minutes to write a quality recommendation. I know others who have joined my network, whom I have never worked with or even know personally… Who will ask me for a recommendation. This is a person who is either unethical or simply does not know how to use the system.

LI is also an excellent way FOR YOU to promote your company or services. Because I accepted your invitation to my network does NOT mean I will forward your brochures to everyone in my extensive network, or that I have time to introduce you to everyone in my network including third and fourth level contacts, that is where the groups come in handy.

I have started a number of groups myself, everything from Outsourcing specific groups to fraternity alumni groups. Sometimes such groups are a great way to Network at a higher level, and top reach specific interest groups.

Many of the other members have stated profound truths about LI. It is a great resource, but it is not Magic. It will not bring you business just because you join, or build an impressive list of contacts. The POWER of LI is clear to those who are willing to work the network. I used to get offended when an offshore BPO rep would come to me, want to pick my brain and for me to, “introduce them to clients.” They never seemed to understand that it took me 25 years of hard work to build my reputation, and that I was not going to risk that reputation by working as an unpaid salesperson for their organization. Now I realize that these approaches were compliments to my resume of success in the business.

Instead of blowing those people off, I try to help them to understand how to get what they want and the importance of being willing to invest in getting it. Therein lies the key to using LI, NETWORK by being supportive of others, even when you can not directly help someone, try to give advice and to be a good Networker. We can not always offer a member of the Network the job or opportunity they need, we can be a resource.

For me what is important is that people learn the etiquette involved. In these sometimes desperate times, it is understandable that people are sometimes desperate and may ask for more than is reasonable (I certainly view asking me for a reference when I don’t even know you as being so). Sometimes helping those people means just kindly educating them and therefore helping them to be a better networker.

Finally I would say what is is you expect out of the people who’s invitations you accept.

Linked in has become a very powerful tool for me in developing an international network of colleagues, potential partners and clients. I do think however that some people join the Networking site with the wrong idea about what it can do for them. In desperate economic times, people who have never networked before, seize on the opportunity to NETWORK their way back into a job. Some people are lucky enough to experience just that, but it is just as likely that you will meet people who are in the same boat.

I look at Linkedin as a long term investment. While as a long term user of LI, I have built a strong network and used it to find engagements and to add value for my clients and other networkers, I look at LI as only PART of a strategy, not a means to an end.

The greatest and perhaps least used power of LI is the KNOWLEDGE! Global expertise that one can draw on at any time. I can actually point to my own participation in Questions and Answers, as the point where I really started to benefit from LI. By taking time to answer questions where I thought I could add value, and asking thoughtful questions, other professionals began to notice me, and my own opportunities started to grow with my network!

Today I am a respected member of the community, who has a fairly extensive network and several successful Linked In Groups. To see my Linkedin Profile, go here.

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