LinkedInterview #8


My name is Carl Whalley and I run a business called Otamate which offers mobile phone software and services, focussed mainly on Android

When was your LinkedIn date of birth?

November 2007, I can remember exactly where I was at the time I was invited to join. A colleague who sat across the desk from me told me about LinkedIn and invited me to join, there were a few business networks around at the time and LinkedIn didn't seem particularly special but I thought I would give it a go. It did start to gain traction around that time and I started to find more and more people who I knew (mostly from the tech community). November 07 was also a significant month for me in that Google Android launched that month. I knew Android was going to be a big deal and I wanted to be ahead of the curve and become known as a Google Android expert - when I looked at other peoples profiles on LinkedIn they appeared to have badges on them - in the tech community it was badges like Microsoft or Apple etc I soon realised these were LinkedIn Group logo’s so I looked for a Google Android group (merely so that I could have the green robot ‘badge’ on my profile!). I couldn't find one so I decided to create my own! I downloaded the logo (Google have an ‘open source’ attitude to most things so there were no trademark issues to consider) and started inviting people to join - by this time I had figured out that there were more benefits to running a group than just having the ‘badge’ on my profile! This was the first and only Google Android group on LinkedIn for 11 days when another group was created by someone in the US.

Finish this sentence "to me LinkedIn is………."

In my business it is simply the ONLY way that I can achieve what I do. LinkedIn is THE key tool to keep in touch with such a wide range of people that I deal with, I actually tell people that the only way to keep in contact with me is via LinkedIn. I don’t use Facebook or any other social network and I even discourage email now because I can only manage my workload in one place and for me that place in LinkedIn. People often assume that LinkedIn is all about getting a new job but for me its about winning business, I get 100% of my projects through LinkedIn and I have never been busier!

When do you login to LinkedIn and how often?

First thing every morning every day and I am on it all the time! Both online and on mobile (Android of course!) Managing a group of this size is a full time job, I will literally be on my phone and managing the group whilst waiting to pick my daughter up from school.

How many connections do you have?

1144 at the moment, I get plenty of invites every day but I accept very few.

What features of LinkedIn do you use most?

My focus is mostly on my group (see left), it has grown to over 70,000 members now. I currently get about 1 member request a minute! It grew steadily to start with and I had to work very hard to get new members but once I started to get some momentum, it really took off. Things were different then as there were few very large groups, these days there are over a million groups on LinkedIn and many ‘super groups’ with over 50,000 members. It is much harder to attract members these days as people tend to gravitate to where other people are and there are plenty of big groups to pick from. I recently read an article that said that all of the big groups on LinkedIn were started before 2009 and that any groups since have struggled to build extensive membership. Every month I send out a newsletter to all members of the group. This is not a piece of marketing but a useful newsletter that is designed to provide interesting and helpful information to the members. I decided early on that if this was seen as spam then I would not be given a second chance so I have always ensured that the content is relevant. As a result I see real spikes in group activity when I send out the newsletter. The timing of when this email is sent is also very important. I very rarely use any other features although on a few occasions I have sent Inmails to people which have worked quite well.

What success (if any) have you had from using LinkedIn?

All of the business I get is through LinkedIn, 100% so the benefit to me is enormous! This is partly because of the nature of Android and the fact that it is constantly changing, people who join my group are keen to keep up with developments and so they really take notice of my monthly newsletter. Just being the owner of a group is not the key point, its what you do and how often you communicate relevant and interesting content to your members - that is what builds your reputation as an expert and that is what allows me to win lots of business. I have now got involved in developing the Android Academy which provides a qualification for Android developers and this was following an approach via LinkedIn . The qualification allows employers to judge a potential employees level of competence and for individuals to better market themselves. Just recently we have started running this in China which is likely to be massive for us and LinkedIn will continue to be my main tool for marketing the Android Academy throughout the world. Click here for more information on the Academy.

What new features would you like to see?

I would like to see more downloadable content possible for groups. This may only be relevant to my group or similar ones but I would like to see a separate area in groups where downloadable content can be sold - like an app store within a group. The problem with Google's app store is that it is simply too big and developers really find it hard to get their apps noticed. This would give developers a smaller community to promote their app (or product) to. Something similar is already being done on Facebook so it is very achievable.

Will LinkedIn still be important in business in 2020?

I can’t see anyone else challenging LinkedIn in the future, they are so far ahead of any other business networks their positions seems unassailable. Maybe they could be taken over by a massive company who cock things up but I think its unlikely.

I really enjoyed interviewing Carl who talks with great passion about LinkedIn and the success he has enjoyed with his group. To be honest the above information is only about half the content we covered during our chat but I had to cut it down considerably to make sure it was a readable size. 

This gave me an idea - perhaps I could arrange a live webinar where you can hear me talk live to Carl about his experiences in growing this amazing Android community. I could make it a LinkedIn group management training session, live over the web. What do you think?