This is why LinkedIn should never 'retire' a feature

Linkedin Axe Man

This is the now infamous LinkedIn Axeman. He appears in my status updates every time LinkedIn 'retire' a new feature

This is happening quite frequently as LinkedIn 'improves' the user experience. LinkedIn rarely explain why they 'retire' features, other than a standard corporate PR type message that talks about focusing resources into new areas to improve the experience. It is all in our supposed best interests, of course, even if we do not see it!

Most of us do not like change and to be fair, it is often needed.  I have often moaned about change; months later I find that I am quite happy with a shiny new feature!

I do think, however, there is a serious issue that occurs as a consequence of dropping features...

The risk is that members will become reluctant to use features because they are concerned LinkedIn will end support for those same features! (tweet this)

Let me give you two new features that are suffering because of this;

LinkedIn Contacts is a fantastic feature; it is effectively a free social CRM system built into LinkedIn. So, why aren't people using it? Well, what happens if I write notes, add reminders etc, and then find they have all disappeared because LinkedIn changed its mind, and decided that this was not the direction they want to go!

LinkedIn Publisher Platform LinkedIn wants us to abandon blogging on Wordpress, or our website and instead restrict our content to LinkedIn. What happens to our content if they decide that the publishing platform was not such a good idea after all?!

Interestingly, I'm starting to wonder if the publisher platform will mark the end of the status update feature. Updates are primarily links to external posts and LinkedIn want us to stay on their platform so the master plan is to get everyone posting their content on LinkedIn so that 'sharing is all within LinkedIn. I discuss this point in more detail in the latest episode of my podcast LinkedInformed. If you haven't subscribed already then have a listen at http://linkedinformed.com/ or search for LinkedInformed on iTunes or Stitcher.

Someone recently commented that the 'Apply with LinkedIn' button that can be used for job adverts has recently been abandoned as well. Another feature which people could have invested time and money incorporating into their website, only to find it is no longer supported. I wonder if these people will be more cautious to adopt similar features in the future.

I don't enjoy it when LinkedIn remove features but this is not my point, the real issue is that LinkedIn may find that they are 'shooting themselves in the foot' if they persist with this policy and that is significantly more damaging because members may stop using features and eventually the site altogether.

The cycle of introducing new LinkedIn features and then dumping them because no-one uses them is a self-fulfilling prophecy (tweet this) and LinkedIn need to address this sooner rather than later!

What do you think?

Less fighting....more feeding!

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Have you read Gary Vaynerchuck's new book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook?

If not, you really must. Gary is, in my humble opinion, the world's best authority on social media.

The basic premise is that you need to provide your audience - customers - followers with useful, interesting and relevant content 75% of the time and that earns you the right to ask for their business or something in return 25% of the time (the right hook).

This is such great advice because in my experience many LinkedIn users either;

1) Spring out of their corner aggressively swinging repetitive right hooks, failing to ever hit the target and eventually pass out due to exhaustion!

Or

2) Keep jabbing endlessly with no cutting edge until they too pass out!

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The only problem with this book for me is the boxing metaphor. Gary is a straight talking New Yorker who has achieved great things from humble beginnings by being a real 'street fighter' in the business world. So it makes perfect sense for him to relate his advice to boxing.

I however see things differently and a better metaphor for me would be based on a saying from old friend of mine;

"feed the pigeons"! 

Meaning that if you feed the pigeons, more and more will come and before long it will be easy to capture plenty of them....a little cruel perhaps but it has always stuck with me as a great metaphor for content marketing and social media.

The concept (via both metaphors) is pretty easy to grasp but harder to implement.

I think I have been guilty of feeding pigeons without taking any in the past and more recently, whilst launching my new 3 Day Start programme, I have probably been catching too many (or swinging too many right hooks) and potentially scaring off the flock that had gathered!

Its a difficult balance to find isn't it?

What do you think?

Have you ever been guilty of swinging your right hook too much (or a brutal pigeon massacre!)?

Do you find yourself surrounded by a happy flock of overweight pigeons whilst feeling hungry yourself?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter.

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LinkedIn's Disappointing Results for Q4 2013

Image LinkedIn announced their Q4 results last week which showed a 47% increase in revenue from the same period last year. I'm sure most of us would be delighted to deliver such growth (profit is less impressive as you can see in their earnings announcement) but for LinkedIn this represented another drop in sales growth, a trend which was the flavour of 2013 and one they are finding hard to reverse.

I can recall an ex boss of mine once explaining to me that actual figures (of anything) are much less relevant than the direction in which they are going. In business you are either going forwards or backwards and these figures prove that (despite year on year growth) LinkedIn's growth is going backwards.

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A closer look at the figures shows that the guilty party is advertising sales (marketing solutions). Premium upgrades have remained stable and talent solutions (the darling of LinkedIn sales) has increased its percentage of the overall sales volume but advertising has dropped from 27% to 25% of sales from the same period last year.

I must admit that I am surprised by this, I really thought that advertising would begin to increase its share of sales but the opposite is true. Maybe advertising on LinkedIn is just not proving to be a great ROI for marketers. I must admit I haven't met too many that swear by it (if your experience is different please get in touch, I would love to hear from you).

So it seems that LinkedIn's CEO Jeff Weiner has some serious challenges ahead and I am fascinated to see how he reacts to this - Wall Street was clearly not impressed with shares dropping by 10% on the announcement and whilst they rallied towards the end of the week, they still showed a drop of over 6%.

One early indication of their reaction has been the announcement that they will now be rationalizing their products/services, initially by dropping Slidecast and more notably LinkedIn Intro. Intro was a controversial mobile email service that was introduced in October last year and hit immediate issues with concerns over security. I can't say this is a massive surprise, after my initial excitement over the launch I reduced my use of the app and over time found I was very rarely using it. I assume this proved to be the case for many and so LinkedIn have decided that the effort involved in running it is not worth the return. I have to applaud them for this, like a football manager who buys a player who turns out to be a 'dud' it is better to cut your losses quickly rather than waste more time for the sake of pride! It will be interesting to see what happens to Rahul Vohra who was the architect of Intro (and Rapportive) - A bright, innovative and bold tech entrepreneur who is beginning to look a bit like a 'fish out of water' in the increasingly Wall Street driven 'corporate' world of The LinkedIn Corporation.

ImageOne thing seems certain, the LinkedIn Axeman will be working overtime looking at every initiative and product at LinkedIn and asking the difficult questions that are inevitable in a publicly owned company;

  • How does this increase our sales?
  • How quickly will we see a return?
  • How much resources will this require?

One thing I am quite sure about is that the real losers in this are likely to be us - the normal LinkedIn user (or member as LinkedIn like to call us). We have already seen some great features disappear with no explanation (Signal and updates on profiles to name a couple). What is going to be next?

I suspect that the much wielded phrase 'Members first' is going to be harder and harder to justify for LinkedIn as their shareholders demand to have their short-term objectives placed as a higher priority!

Interesting times are ahead.

Offline / Online Networking Workflow

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Over the last few years LinkedIn have acquired companies such as Connected and CardMunch as well as developing functionality on their platform to assist in bringing offline networking and online networking closer together.

I have always felt that the two should really compliment each other but its only recently that I have figured out how this can actually work in practice. By using a mobile app and a LinkedIn feature I have devised the following workflow which is really starting to pay dividends for me;

Step 1

Once you have met someone make sure you swap business cards (nothing revolutionary in that I know....stay with me here!)

Step 2

Take a snapshot of the business card using the CardMunch app on your iPhone and upload it, you could even give the business card back at this point!

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Step 3

CardMunch will do its magic and match the email address to a LinkedIn profile and send you back a digital record usually within 48 hours. From this record you can connect on LinkedIn but (as with all mobile apps) you can't personalise the message so I wouldn't recommend that. You can save the contact to your phone and send an email (see below) although you may wish to delete the horrible 90's phrase 'touch base' in favour of something less cheesy!

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Step 4

Now this is where it gets clever! Once the digital record has been received from CardMunch the new contacts profile (who at this point is probably not a connection) is automatically saved to LinkedIn Contacts on the desktop version of LinkedIn. Go to your LinkedIn account and click Network > Contacts and then change the 'sort by' field to 'new'

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Note the Cardmunch symbol on the right of the contact entry.

Alternatively you can find the new contact by filtering by 'source' and 'CardMunch' as below.

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Step 5

Now hover over the person you added and you will see the option to connect (see 1st pic in step 4), click on this and you are able to send the invitation to connect without the need for email addresses or a silly 'reason' as with normal invites. In addition you can personalise the message.

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Step 6

Now 'tag' the contact to categorise them in a way that makes sense to you (you can create up to 200 of your own tags). I use tags such as 'associate', 'prospect', 'customer' etc. This can also be done in the 'relationship' tab in their profile but the easiest way is from this page in Contacts.

Step 7 

Now you can go to the profile and in the relationship tab type notes in the 'How you met' section. The 'who introduced you' field is where you can (in theory) type the name of the connection who introduced you, creating a link to their profile - unfortunately this feature rarely works in my experience (I reported this fault about 6 months ago and nothing has improved!).

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As you can see you can also make other notes, set reminders and further tag in this section.

So there you have it, I have been using this workflow for about 3 months now and I am finding it a much more effective way of organising my new contacts met offline allowing me to be much more efficient in one of the most important aspects of networking - follow up.

None of this will cost you anything, LinkedIn Contacts does not require a premium account and CardMunch is a free app although it appears to only be available on iOS (iPhone).

What do you think? Is this something you could see working for you?

 

 

Showcase Pages - A Practical Use

It was mid November last year when LinkedIn launched their Company Showcase pages (see here) and since then I have been observing how companies have been using them...or not!

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The idea of a showcase page is to allow members to follow the specific brands and products they care most about rather than see updates that relate to the whole company. In a sense it seemed that this new feature was a hybrid between a company page and a products/services page in that it gave us the opportunity to share updates about a specific type of product in certain markets. LinkedIn have certainly used them this way by creating showcase pages for marketing, recruitment and sales products (see right). Each of these have very different markets and contact points.

So how are other companies utilising this feature? I took a look at the 12 company pages heralded as being 'best in class 2012' by LinkedIn and was shocked to find that only one of them (adobe) was using the showcase page feature...just one!!

OK maybe that list is a bit out of date so lets look at the 10 best company pages of 2013....errr just one again and guess who that was? Adobe again (who have over 3000 followers for each showcase page).

Below is the showcase page for their Creative Cloud product.

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So what is going on here?

Why are companies not using this feature?

I think it is because it seems confusing. Why have a showcase page about products when we already have products and why have one when we can target our main company page updates to specific 'audiences'?

Perhaps they have a point but surely the likes of Mashable and Hubspot have enough creativity to think of an effective use of this feature? I use a showcase page for my podcast LinkedInformed (I'm on my 3rd episode by the way and I strongly advise you check it out :-)). Its not a product but it seems that the opportunity to have people 'follow' it and receive updates announcing each new episode is an ideal use of a Showcase page.

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How about this as another idea....Recruitment!

 

This could be an ideal use of a showcase page. People generally follow companies for one of 4 reasons in my opinion;

  1. They are interested in your products/services and relevant information about them.
  2. They are a competitor 'spying' on what you are up to!
  3. They are a potential supplier i.e. they want to sell to you!
  4. They are interested in working for you.

Now if I fell into the first category and I was a potential customer of yours I would get pretty fed up if I kept seeing updates from you promoting vacancies. The problem is that from my profile you would not always be able to differentiate between a number 1 and a number 4 and so I would not be prevented from seeing vacancies by how you define your 'audiences'.

End result - I might take my business elsewhere and follow a competitor instead!

If however you could guide company page followers who want to work for you to a separate showcase page explaining that all vacancies will be promoted via updates from this page, then you have a solution...and a useful purpose for a showcase page!

What do you think? Are you using this feature and if not, why?

 

LinkedIn's New iPad App is a Game Changer for All.

Don't be put off reading this if you don't own an iPad - there is some important information here for anyone using LinkedIn to engage with those that might be using this app (and many people are). LinkedIn recently relaunched its iPad app, it's not an update from the previously hopeless version that was unstable and frankly useless. This is a completely new, built from scratch app....and its really excellent!

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In the UK, mobile is now responsible for 44% of visits to LinkedIn and this figure is expected to reach 50% early next year.

That 44% is based on a phone app that is nothing special and a truly terrible iPad app - imagine how much more traffic will come via mobile now that they have a really good iPad app?

This isn't just an interesting stat, it has a fundamental impact on how we should be using LinkedIn. When users access LinkedIn via either mobile apps they are visiting at significantly different times of the day. The graph below shows the amount of visitors at different times of the day (weekdays).

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The blue line represents the traditional desktop users, signing in first thing in the morning and peaking at that point but showing consistent levels of activity throughout the working hours.

The orange line represents visitors using the mobile app on their phone, the activity stays constant throughout the working day but also continues into the evening.

The most interesting line is the purple one which represents users visiting via the iPad app, lower numbers throughout the day but it then peaks late in the evening at which point it beats the other two and records the highest number of visitors at any time of the day. Presumably this happens because people relax on the couch after their evening meal and flip open their iPad!

This is a truly remarkable statistic and in my opinion, a game changer for LinkedIn users!

I have been advising delegates in my workshops for years that the most effective time of day to post a status update is first thing in the morning, this is not only when a high number of people are online but it is also the one time you know they are going to have eyes on their homepage and the stream of updates from their connections.

Now we see a massive shift towards 8-9 pm in the evening as the most active time and most of these visitors are viewing on their iPad which is designed in such a way that the update feed is most prominent (see below)

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As a test I am going to publish and promote this blog at 8-9 pm initially followed by 8-9 am the next day and continue this schedule for the next few weeks to see how it makes a difference to the number of views, likes and comments.

Another important thing for everyone to know about the iPad app is that website and email links in your profile become active.

When you view a profile on the desktop version or the phone app, the links or email addresses that someone has put in their summary or work experience sections only appear as font (ie you have to copy and paste them into a browser or email)

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However on the new iPad app the links now become active.

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Again this changes my advice on the information you put in your profile, previously I was ambivalent about putting links in your summary - now its essential to have links high up in your profile.

The new app is far from perfect, LinkedIn have yet again made the decision to severely restrict its functionality, for instance you can't send Inmails from the app (although you can from the iPhone app) and many other essential features are missing but this is clearly a policy decision rather than a faulty design. Overall I am very impressed, I will soon publish a full and detailed review but for now lets give LinkedIn a big 'thumbs up' for a much improved app.

LinkedIn Charges Job Seekers!

I'm annoyed. Premium accounts are OK in principle, if you want to pay to use LinkedIn for business purposes then you can make an investment decision. Will you make more money if you pay for a premium account? If not then don't buy it.

I do however have an issue with LinkedIn showing vacancy ads to job seekers and then expecting them to upgrade their account in order to see the most important piece of information - what salary the job pays!

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Not happy with already charging the company to place the ad in the first place, they now want to make extra money by charging the applicant as well!

OK so job seeker upgrades are not the most expensive but its the principle of charging both the advertiser and the applicant that gets me annoyed.

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I have advertised vacancies more times than I care to remember in the past and one thing is clear - If you don't put a salary in the ad' - the response will be poor, so I can't imagine the advertisers being too happy about this move either.

This incidentally comes from a company who expect to generate a turnover in the region of $1.5 billion and profits of $364 million this year......it just seems an unnecessary strategy to me that will lose them far more friends than it will make them extra dollars in profit.

Rant over!

What do you think?

LinkedIn Intro - Security Concerns

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Following on from my last blog introducing this new app, it would appear that various security concerns have been raised so I thought I would share my thoughts on this matter.

In my opinion the internet is full scaremongers and security obsessed people who seem to be able to find fault with just about every new idea/product/advancement. I happen to know that Matt Alder is not one of them so when Matt raised security concerns in the comments of my last blog, I took it very seriously.

Matt's concerns were based on an excellent article by a very credible organisation called Bishop Fox which I strongly suggest you read.

Unusually for LinkedIn they responded to this article by issuing a statement on their blog which I also strongly suggest you read. This is very unusual for LinkedIn, in my experience they tend to keep quiet about negative comments from others regarding LinkedIn - unless they feel very strongly about it.

I must admit that some of the language they both use is 'over my head' but my thoughts on the issue are as follows;

  • I am not too concerned about email going through LinkedIn's servers, I am using Gmail after all which is clearly going through Google's servers so why should I trust LinkedIn any less than Google?
  • To use Intro you actually create a new Mail account within the mail app, this can easily be switched off. There appears to be no other reconfiguring of my iPhone going on but maybe this is hidden from me.
  • I did have to give LinkedIn my pin to set up Intro, I'm really not sure why this was necessary and that does cause me some concern but LinkedIn strongly refute the allegation that they change the iPhone's security preferences.
  • Bishop Fox are internet security consultants. It is in their commercial interests to write about such issues.
  • LinkedIn would benefit from collecting data about us - such as who we are communicating with via email.

I have therefore decided to continue using LinkedIn Intro (which is after all, very useful!) but only on a limited basis as follows;

  • The new Intro account is kept live in the Mail app on my iPhone but I do not use it actively and never send any emails from this account.
  • My primary app for email is the excellent Mailbox app which I have been using for some time because it has better features than the native Mail app in my opinion.
  • When I receive an email from an unknown source I simply switch over to the LinkedIn Intro account on the Mail app and check the very useful profile information of the sender.

I know its not exactly how you are supposed to use LinkedIn Intro but given all the issues, it feels safer to use it purely as a reference aid rather then as my main Mail app.

I am not suggesting you do the same, my only advice is to make sure you read both articles and make up your own mind.

Invitation Frustration

Firstly I must apologise for the lack of posts recently, I am currently busy writing a book (watch this space) which has been exhausting my writing energy quota. Poor excuse I know but there you have it!

Inviting someone to connect.

Here is the dilemma;

You want to connect with someone on LinkedIn so you click on the "connect" link on their profile, before personalising the message (which everyone should always do) you are required to state how you know someone (see below)

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The problem is that they are not a colleague or someone you played tick (you might have called it tag!) with at school, they are not someone you have done business with nor are they a friend. You do not have their email address (which is required for "other") and you do not share any groups with this person so it seems that your only remaining option is "I don't know X" which is also not true as you have spoken to them or met them briefly. So what do you do?

Some people decide to lie and opt for one of the first four options.

Some people decide that a less dishonourable lie is to opt for the last one. When they click on "I don't know" they are confronted with the following abrupt and somewhat annoying message;

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I won't get into why LinkedIn insist on this ridiculous idea of only connecting with people you already know, that's a different subject but it seems very odd that for people who are not friends, colleagues, classmates or customers/suppliers but who have met (at a networking event for instance) there is no suitable reason to pick.

There are various solutions that avoid having to go through this process as follows;

  1. Invite via a mobile app
  2. Click on the "connect" link in the "people you may know" section

The problem with both these options is that they do not allow you to send a personalised message, the recipient will get the lazy message "I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn" which most people agree is worse than saying you are a friend (when you're not)!

So what can we do?

Enter LinkedIn Contacts, LinkedIn's newest and best ever feature which saves the day!

Here is how its done;

Step 1

Go to Network and then click on Contacts

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If you haven't already done so, click on the yellow 'get started' link to launch LinkedIn Contacts

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Wait for Contacts to 'do its thing' and magically transform your LinkedIn account to a free, live CRM (Contact Relationship Management) programme.

Step 2

Go to the profile of the person you wish to connect with and save them to contacts by clicking on the star symbol on the left of their profile (see below)

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*UPDATE*

Since publishing it appears that some profiles are no longer showing this star, if this is the case you can 'save to contacts' by hovering over the triangle next to 'Send InMail" and save from there (see below)

save to conatcts 2

 

Now click on "Tag" and then "add new tag".

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You will only need to add a new tag once, from this point onwards you can use the tag you have created. In the box type in an appropriate name i.e. "connect" or something similar, then click save.

Step 3

You will now see the new tag showing on the profile (see below), click on this and you will be taken into LinkedIn Contacts and a list of everyone who you have assigned this tag to (if you remember to delete the tag after sending an invitation then this list will only be the one profile).

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Step 4

Once in the list of contacts you can see (once you hover over the contact) a link to connect. Click on this and you will be able to personalise the invitation, without the need to state a reason.

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The best of both worlds!

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If you want to be tidy you can now go back to the contact and delete the "connect" tag (this can done in LinkedIn Contacts).

So there you have it. A bit long-winded? Maybe but I think it is a good discipline to tag everyone you are interested in any way. You can create up to 200 of your very own tags i.e. "prospect" or "potential employer" etc.

I hope that is of help to you.

The Inconvenient Truth About LinkedIn

Image Have you ever heard that saying regarding the internet

“If you don’t know what the product is… then it is probably you”?

This simply means that if you are using a productive and useful Internet site or app for free then you are probably paying for this with your information and data.

This is clearly true for Google and Facebook but is it true for LinkedIn?

This is a question that has been bugging me for a while. LinkedIn are a highly profitable organisation who make the vast majority of their revenue from corporate recruiting products (see here). So I have always assumed that their monetization strategy was somewhat different from Google & Facebook.

Maybe it was but now they are publicly quoted on the NYSE and have a responsibility to continually grow their profits, so perhaps the game has changed!

Being a big fan of LinkedIn I have probably been fairly slow on the uptake on this but just recently the penny dropped for me. Earlier this year something happened to LinkedIn that I could not explain. I have never really used the news feed function of LinkedIn called LinkedIn Today.

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I think it’s a great feature but I already have established ways of reading news and information so to me LinkedIn Today was unwanted ‘noise’ on my homepage. Previously there was an option that allowed you to switch the news feed off but this has now been withdrawn (much to my frustration!) and I couldn’t understand why.

Surely having an advanced feature to optionally switch the news feed off made sense? Most people wouldn’t use it either because they are not aware of its existence or because they want to see LinkedIn Today. So why would they remove it? The only reason that I could come up with is that LinkedIn have decided that it is important to know what we are reading. Why would they wish to know that? Perhaps this is the same thing as Google being interested in what we search for.... perhaps LinkedIn have a monetization strategy built around data collection. I then started to think of other features that we use that also give LinkedIn interesting data about us.

  • Following Thought Leaders. What does it say about us if we follow Richard Branson or Deepak Chopra?Image
  • Groups. By joining a group about leadership for example you are giving LinkedIn useful data.
  • Status Updates. Why did you ‘like’ an update and what does that say about you?
  • Background. Where you work, have previously worked and where you went to college and what you studied.
  • Who You Know. Perhaps this is why LinkedIn are so insistent that we only connect with people we know well?

....and the list goes on and on!

The fact is that pretty much everything you do on LinkedIn is potentially of interest to marketeers, maybe not in isolation but when you add them all together they become very interesting and most important to LinkedIn, worth paying good money for!

So should we be worried?

Well that is a personal question that only you can answer.

For me the answer is no, I think it's a pretty good trade-off to be honest. We get to use an amazing resource like LinkedIn for free, which when used correctly can help you grow your business and all you have to pay in return is your data....that sounds like a good deal to me.

Or am I being naive?

What do you think?

New Updated LinkedIn Profile Tutorial

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This is an update to my previous post 'How Important is your LinkedIn Profile?'

LinkedIn recently announced that they had reached over 200 million members, this coupled with the fact they have bypassed the 11 million mark in the UK reinforces the view that LinkedIn is now a pretty mainstream business tool in the UK.

It is for this reason that I believe your LinkedIn profile is more important than ever.

If you wish to grow an effective network, win more business or be spotted for that next exciting job opportunity then you need to ensure that your online presence is impressive and that you are creating the right first impression.

When someone looks for you online (directly on LinkedIn or even via Google), what do they make of you?

  • Can they see what you look like? (They won't remember you if they can't)
  • Is it clear from your headline exactly what you do and what you offer them?
  • Is it easy to make contact with you?
  • Can they see your full profile?
  • Do they know anyone that knows you?
  • Can they see impressive testimonials from people that are just like them?
  • Will they find you via keyword searching?

These questions and many more are answered in this online tutorial. Over two hours of screen video capture explaining every single section of your profile in great detail.

This tutorial has been updated to incorporate the new changes made by LinkedIn to profiles at the end of 2012.

Order your copy here

My 3 wishes for 2013

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It's that time of year when we look forward to the year ahead and make our resolutions and plan how we are going make them happen.

2012 was a big year for LinkedIn, especially in the second half of the year with many changes occurring culminating in the new look profiles which most of us now seem to have. I wonder what 2013 will bring for LinkedIn?

Here is a list of my top 3 wishes for LinkedIn this year;

1, A decent iPad app that actually works!

I use my iPad a lot and to me it is far more than a consumption device yet it seems to me that LinkedIn's app is primarily designed to read LinkedIn Today articles, group posts and updates. Things have improved recently in that you can now update your profile from the app but it is severely lacking in many other areas, for instance you are still unable to invite connections correctly. Anyone that has tried inviting a new connection from the app will have noticed that is does not give you the opportunity to personalise the message which is really poor practice and will lead to less acceptances. As a result I recommend all my delegates to avoid inviting from the iPad or any other mobile app.

My biggest complaint however is that the app is completely unstable. I have now stopped using it completely and prefer to use a browser because I was tired of the app crashing almost every time I used it! At first I thought this might be because I was using the original iPad 1st generation model however once I upgraded to the 3rd and then 4th generation models I found exactly the same problem. I have deleted and reloaded the app several times to no avail. My iPhone app is stable so it can't be related to my account, number of connections etc.

I have many apps on my iPad that I use frequently, most of which are developed by small independent companies with nothing like the resources of a large, profitable multinational organisation like LinkedIn and they are all significantly more stable, better designed and more frequently updated and improved.

There really is no excuse LinkedIn, the iPad development team need a hefty kick up the backside!

2, More effective communication tools

My mock up of how Skype integration might look!

The world has moved on from the days where email dominated all online communication, yes it is still the most used method in business but many people now consider email to be the problem rather than the solution these days and the younger generation just think its passé. So it seems somewhat outdated that LinkedIn still rely on a slow 'email like' communication method.

Inmails, 1st tier messages and group messages are all slow, unresponsive means of communicating. One of the key reasons Twitter has been such a success is that it offers users an instant means of 'live communication'. I would like to see LinkedIn implement some kind of instant messaging facility. This could be as simple as making the IM field in contact information a live link (see right) or building their own IM service into the network. My preferred option would be to see the integration of Skype as a way of communicating with first tier connections.

This would allow users to send instant messages, make VoIP calls or conduct video calls directly from within their home page on LinkedIn. I don't think Skype is a perfect solution but it is widely used throughout the world (especially in China where LinkedIn has a challenge to grow its membership) and it has a built-in 'do not disturb' and 'not active' feature that will protect members from receiving unwarranted messages. I can't imagine Skype having any issues with this as it would surely be beneficial to them and LinkedIn already have a partnership with Microsoft (who own Skype) via their Outlook connector.

I suspect however that in line with LinkedIn's main agenda (data capture), they will want to develop any such feature themselves

This would be a game changer for LinkedIn in my opinion and bring them up to date with the latest communication trends.

3, Stop 'dumbing down' the LinkedIn experience!

Actually I am not against simplification per se as it increases activity amongst new and inexperienced users and this can only be a good thing but why does this mean they have to keep removing more advanced functionality? If you read LinkedIn press releases, blog posts and listen the Jeff Weiner's (CEO) speeches the language is all about 'simplification' and this seems to be a core focus for LinkedIn these days. This is fine but why penalize the very users who helped them attract the new users in the first place by removing more advanced functionality? The removal of many apps last year was a clear example of blatantly ignoring the wishes of experienced users who were enjoying and gaining benefit from using apps such as box.net, Amazon reading list and Tripit.

Whilst they have replaced some of the apps with their own media integration feature, the overall functionality of a LinkedIn profile has decreased since the changes. The inability to remove LinkedIn Today from your homepage is another classic example of this. Most users wouldn't even think to change this so why prevent more competent users from tailoring their home page to suit their needs?

The good news is that LinkedIn have definitely upped their game in continually seeking to improve the online experience (if not the app) and I am sure this will continue in 2013. I am definitely excited to see more changes in the coming year, it remains to be seen if my 3 wishes will be met!

What do you think of my wishes and what changes would you like to see in 2013.

Happy New Year to you all.

LinkedInterview #8

Introduction

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? 

LinkedInterview #7

Introduction 

My name is Steven Jones and I currently work for Ballard Dale Syree Watson which is a firm of independent Chartered Accountants, we are based out of Droitwich in Worcestershire with 5 partners and about 50 professional staff. My role is Business Development Director with responsibility for new client engagement, marketing and also the recruitment of our staff. We are a general practice who also have a specialist focus on the Healthcare and agribusiness sectors and are known for having particular expertise in the area of tax. Our clients range from micro businesses to £100 million turnover organisations.

When was your LinkedIn date of birth? 

17th January 2009

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

A really good way to keep abreast of what is happening in business both locally and nationally and an effective way of making new contacts whilst sat at your desk.

When do you login to LinkedIn and how often? 

I typically login at my desk about a half hour before I start work to have a read through the news and updates on my home page. I keep LinkedIn open all day but I will typically go back to it for another look at updates/news etc at lunchtime and again when I get home in the evening. I also run a group on LinkedIn for local businesses so I check this for new discussions and members before 8.30am every day.

How many connections do you have and why do you connect with someone? 

c2000 I have quite a wide network, partly due to the nature of our business and partly because I think it is rude to not accept an invitation. The way I see it is if you were at an offline networking meeting and someone came up to you and offered you their business card. Would you ignore them and walk away? LinkedIn is no different in my opinion. That said my home feed is a valuable real estate and if a connection was clogging it up with irrelevant posts, I would have no hesitation in hiding their updates.

The type of people I will target to connect with would be specialist Recruiters because they have large and relevant networks and I also target Accountants working elsewhere so that I can keep in touch and track their career progression

What features of LinkedIn do you use most? 

I consider myself to be a fairly basic user so most of my attention is focussed on reading updates and news on my home page. I also use groups a lot to network with local businesses and keep abreast of relevant topics for some our specialist areas (agriculture, healthcare etc). I also run my own group called the Worcestershire Business Community group, I started it about 6 months ago and currently it has about 180 members. I find this is a great way to communicate and engage with the local business community. I write a blog for my company (with help from colleagues) and feed this into the group, as well as posting relevant pieces into other groups where appropriate. I keep the group very open and like to encourage participation, I don't moderate the content prior to posting because I think it can be very frustrating for someone to have to wait to see their post when they have taken the time to contribute. Obviously I would remove anything inappropriate but this hasn't been much of an issue so far.  I accept everyone who asks to join, no competitors have as yet but to be fair I can’t see any harm in letting them in, it's a community and they are valuable members of that community so they may have something useful to contribute. It was quite challenging to get things going at first but I get a real kick these from seeing the members interacting with each other and gaining real benefit from the group.

I tend not to publicise the blog through status updates because I am concerned that I might be clogging up my connections home page feed with repeated posts in different areas of LinkedIn.

I occasionally perform an advanced search to find specific people who might be relevant to a certain article of piece of information that I may want to share with them.

What is your favourite feature?

I think I would say my home page really, its proved to be a valuable source of relevant information.

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

Plenty. I can think of several clients who I originally came across on LinkedIn, some via my group or other groups, some who I have found via a search and others that I have come across in the ‘people you may know’ section and begun to engage with and over time have started to do business with them. I would never approach a potential client and directly sell to them, for me its all about a basic introduction and an invitation to connect and this gets me on their radar. We have also recruited several key staff via LinkedIn either by a direct approach or via cascading information through groups. I also received a job offer before joining here via LinkedIn.

What new features would you like to see? 

It would be cool if LinkedIn had a video chat/conferencing facility, something like Skype integrated into LinkedIn or maybe even a Skype plugin. There would need to be some good privacy controls to avoid being hassled by people but this is easily controlled on Skype so shouldn’t be a barrier. As well as individual conversations you could also set up something within a group where a time was organised for a live presentation or discussion. For example this interview could have been conducted live and others would be able to dial in and listen - all via LinkedIn

Will LinkedIn still be important in business in 2020? 

I’m really not sure, technology is a ‘fickle mistress’! Just ask MySpace or Nokia. It's hard to know what is around the corner in social media, never mind in 8 years time! 8 years ago we didn't have Twitter and LinkedIn was hardly known.

My concern is that LinkedIn becomes saturated by recruiters and too dominated by people who use it purely to get a job or fill a job. I think it's a great recruitment tool but it is far more than that and I think it is important to ensure that people are still able to use it as a networking tool.

It strikes me that the key to Steve's success with LinkedIn has been the lack of 'selling' he does on the site, despite being a Business Development Director!

Steve has spent time and effort to build relationships, share news, run a group community etc etc. This is typical of the actions of a good 'Social salesperson'.

A big thanks to Steve for taking the time to answer these questions. If you feel you have an interesting LinkedIn story to tell please get in touch at mrlinkedin.uk@gmail.com

You're Stealing Our Contacts!

A Manager of a recruitment business who is sick of consultants who leave the company and ‘take’ contacts with them via LinkedIn recently asked me what they could do to prevent this.

This is a pretty common question and an understandable concern, not just for Recruitment companies but for any organisation that is encouraging its sales staff to use LinkedIn in their role.

For what it is worth my thoughts on this are as follows;

This is what you can do

* When you recruit a new consultant or sales person ask them to download to a spreadsheet a list of all of their first tier connections (this is done via the contacts menu - see below right). Declare in a signed document that you agree that these connections are ‘owned’ by the consultant. * Encourage, support and train your consultants to use LinkedIn for both client and candidate generation purposes during normal working hours. * When the consultant resigns ask them to repeat the process of downloading all of their 1st tier connections onto a spreadsheet. * Insist that all connections made whilst in the employ of the company are disconnected with (spreadsheet 2 minus spreadsheet 1). Ensure this is done to your satisfaction before the consultant leaves. * Ensure that the above is clearly stated in their contract of employment.

This is what you should do

* Accept that connections are very different from contacts and relationships, a connection may be just a gateway to other users and not necessarily a relationship that in any way threatens the company. * Encourage, support and train your consultants to use LinkedIn for both client and candidate generation purposes. In other words, get the most out of their LinkedIn activities as a company whilst they are in your employ. * Encourage all consultants to ask their connections to follow the company and incentivise clients and candidates to follow the company page. * Ensure that any restrictive covenants in place are explicit in their definition of ‘contact’ including reference to LinkedIn messages. Make it very clear in exit interview that contact via social media and LinkedIn during the restricted period is a breach of contract. * Wish them well and stay on good terms.

LinkedIn are very clear in that they state that an individuals connections always belong to them, this is irrespective of when that connection was made or what type of account upgrade or corporate licence they are operating under.

If anyone tries to persuade you that the infamous Hays vs Ions case is a precedent that protects you then think again. My understanding of the circumstances of that case was that there was a clear audit trail of evidence showing that contacts were taken from the company's database to the individuals new company database via LinkedIn. This is very different to the vast majority of situations.

I know this is a difficult and frustrating issue but the bottom line is that good quality consultants & sales people build strong lasting relationships with clients and candidates. They did before LinkedIn and they still do now! Restrictive covenants aside, you really can't prevent those relationships from continuing after they leave your company.

If you really want to ensure security and retention of client contacts then perhaps you should employ lower quality consultants....then your problem is solved!

Please note, I am not a lawyer....nor do I wish to be so any actions you undertake should always be checked with your qualified legal advisors first.

LinkedInterview #6

Introduction

My name is Shirley Cooper and I have various roles - probably best described as a ‘portfolio career’ working as an Executive and Non Executive Director for a number of businesses.

My work involves developing commercial best practices at board level for a variety of businesses.  It's really exciting and everyday is different because it involves both commercial and not for profit organisations and I get involved with everything from global businesses to sole practitioners. All the work I do is generated by referral.

When was your LinkedIn date of birth?

April 2006.  I've worked in technology for the past 13 years so we were relatively early adopters.  It's a great tool to stay connected, re-establish old contacts and friends and indeed find those that have gone missing!

Finish this sentence “to me LinkedIn is……….”

...My professional address book!  I only link to people I have met and know.  So it's a truly great business tool to keep me in touch with what everyone is up to business-wise. Note from Editor; I have known Shirley for many years and she is one of the most active offline networkers I have met so when she says she only connects to people she knows...it is worth noting that she genuinely knows a lot of people!

When do you login to LinkedIn and how often?

Most days and now i have an iPad it's even easier. This is normally instigated by a message or invitation from someone and then when I am there I always have a look at what is happening on my home page stream, this can be very distracting because I am always fascinated to see what others are up to!

How many connections do you have and why do you connect with someone?

1413 connections which is lot but I do get to meet many people, LinkedIn has proved to be a great memory aid because people will contact me and I don't always remember them immediately but one quick look at their LinkedIn profile really helps me to remember them and remind me of the context in which we met. A photograph on a profile is incredibly helpful in this respect.

Whilst I normally only connect to people I have met and know (just a brief meeting is not enough to feel its appropriate to connect), on rare occasions I may accept an invitation from someone in "our network" (2nd tier) who asks to connect.

I was very privileged to be on the Board of CIPS (Chartered Institute of Purchasing & supply) and more recently I was the CIPS President, which introduced me to so many fantastic procurement professionals who I've had the opportunity to work with and connect.   Plus being in technology has introduced me to many technology suppliers and all the various other interests I have (see profile) so it has not been difficult to get to nearly 1500

What features of LinkedIn do you use most?

I look at the updates most days to see what my connections are up to and sometimes I might add a comment i.e. congratulating someone on a new role or commenting on a blog post, I tend to notice updates when they have links attached because they usually have some kind of picture which makes them stand out more.

What is your favorite feature?

I do like the updates.  Also when I meet someone for the first time, I will research on LinkedIn in to see what we have in common, and indeed what they look like, especially if the meeting is not in their office. I find the mobile apps are especially handy for this. I have always researched people who I am going to meet for instance the other people at my table at a function and in the days before LinkedIn this used to take a very long time!

I also enjoy checking who has been looking at my profile.

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

I run a women's procurement network group called the Blueprint Club through LinkedIn and we have over 150 members, this was originally started offline but we converted it to a LinkedIn group where it is much easier to run and we now attract members from all over the world.  We hold events from time to time and its an easy way to communicate to our ever-growing members.

What new features would you like to see?

There are probably features that already exist that I am not using fully, never mind new ones!

I am conscious I should be filtering my home page feed to see more relevant information.

Will LinkedIn still be important in business in 2020?

A lot has changed in the past ten years so who knows what the next 10 will hold.  Staying connected has always been relevant in business.  13 years ago when I moved south and joined Computacenter I loaded my address book onto Lotus notes address book but I have never used it since.  Now I have my addresses in iCloud (personal) and LinkedIn (professional).  I could not have imaged that back then so what next? I wonder if personal and professional contacts will merge or at least be kept in one place, this consolidation will help to make things better organised. That said I prefer to keep my personal and professional identities quite separate so I wouldn't want this to be any more than just a more efficient way of organising contacts. I am not a big user of Facebook but I do keep my ‘friends’ as personal friends and family and my professional contacts as ‘connections’ on LinkedIn. I’m not sure the younger generation see it like this though so maybe that will change in the future and if it does then LinkedIn will need to adjust to that.

I wanted to interview Shirley because I know that she has been a very effective offline networker for many years. It's interesting to see how she uses LinkedIn as an aid to make her offline activities more effective such as;

  • As a way to remind her who someone is that she has met sometime ago
  • Researching the backgrounds of people she is going to meet
  • Running a networking group online
  • Keeping up with what is going on with her network

A big thanks to Shirley for taking the time to answer these questions. If you feel you have an interesting LinkedIn story to tell please get in touch at mrlinkedin.uk@gmail.com 

LinkedInterview #5

Introduction Theo Smith, I'm a Global Sales Consultant for Russell & partners who are a global executive search firm who have been established for nearly 20 years. We recruit individuals across a very broad spectrum of industries and roles and throughout the world. My role is focussed on business development so I am speaking to organisations throughout the world offering our recruiting services and expertise.

When was your LinkedIn date of birth?

January 16th 2009

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

....a world of opportunities, a key to one door with the chance to find many more keys . It's also my daily news source of choice, a daily networking facility and a platform where I can express myself. Whilst my focus is to gain new clients I do have a large network and often help in the sourcing of candidates for roles as well.

When do you login to LinkedIn and how often?

I use it on a daily basis, I login first thing and log out just before I leave for the day. My first activity is usually news consumption in the morning and I will use it for searching and networking periodically throughout the day. I do try to be disciplined and focus my time on LinkedIn in 3 time periods - first thing, lunchtime and at the end of the day although this isn't always possible.

How many connections do you have and why do you connect with someone?

2075 connections as of today! I have changed my philosophy of who I do and don't connect with over the years, previously my roles have been focussed in more niche areas so I built a network in line with that but now that I work at Russell Partners I need to develop a much wider base of contacts so I am a lot more open to connecting now. I will also connect with people who I have a common interest with, I don't just see connections as business contacts because I like to engage with people from all walks of business and life. Sometimes I might be in a position to be able to help them and sometimes vice versa.

It is very rare that I would refuse to connect with someone these days, even competitors. In terms of the people who I invite it tends to be CEO’s, VP’s, Director and HR professionals as they are my target contacts in organisations but I also target people with interests in politics, theatre and film because they are also interests of mine.

What features of LinkedIn do you use most?

LinkedIn Today for news feeds, advanced search for finding potential clients and candidates and groups for networking and direct messaging. I join lots of groups and I do swap and change them periodically, I think it is important to review your groups to check if they are proving to be of value and also whether I am contributing enough. Some groups I have joined purely to give me greater visibility, others because I want to be able to send a free direct message to another member(s) and I also join groups that I can actively engage in and add value to, sometimes this happens for a while and then I find interest in other areas ie marketing so I then join groups orientated towards that subject. I have recently left some recruitment orientated groups because the discussions and contributions became increasingly negative and I don't want to waste my time in such an environment where there is less value to me.

What is your favorite feature?

LinkedIn Today is definitely my favorite feature, it is remarkably accurate in feeding through highly relevant and up to date articles and posts to my home page and this is so much better than going to a site such as the BBC and sifting through lots of articles that are of no interest to find the occasional one that is. LinkedIn Today is clever in that it seems to learn what I want to see based on what I read so it just gets better and better! My only complaint is that they could provide a broader range of topics but I am sure they will in the future. Occasionally I will also ‘like’ or comment on articles I see, not every day but at least a few times a week. I do think it is important to only share stories that you have fully read and feel are of the right quality - I'm not sure everyone does this!

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

I have found it invaluable as a source of information, I have discovered new sectors and opportunities through LinkedIn that I otherwise may have missed.

I have filled roles in the past directly through LinkedIn, I can recall one occasion in a previous role where the client was an HR Director based in Germany but the role was based in the US and I successfully sourced the candidate from Hungary! All done through LinkedIn.

What new features would you like to see?

I would love to see a search  facility where you can exclude information from the result, for example geographically I would love to perform a search for a certain criteria anywhere in the world whilst excluding one country such as the US for example (as so many LinkedIn users are based there) but you can only select one country or all countries in a search which, for our type of business is restrictive.

Will LinkedIn still be important in business in 2020?

It's a really interesting question, nobody knows really but in 8 years time I expect it will be very different from now, it has already really changed the landscape for the recruitment industry so far but only in the developed world, in 8 years time will LinkedIn have had a similar impact on other industries and will it be more widely used in developing countries? Will it have completely turned the recruitment industry upside down by then, especially at middle management levels?

It is certainly a really exciting and interesting time and I look forward to seeing how LinkedIn continues to have an impact on us all over the next 8 years.

What I find really interesting about Theo's use of LinkedIn is the emphasis he puts on reading articles and gathering information via LinkedIn Today. This can be misunderstood as time-wasting but my experience is that professionals who read relevant articles on a regular basis become great networkers and develop stronger relationships within their network. Compare that to many of  Theo's peers who only ever post job vacancies, as a connection of Theo's I can vouch for the fact that he regularly posts interesting articles which A) Keep reminding me of who he is and B) Make him more interesting and valuable to me as a connection.

Another interesting tip from this is how he regularly reviews his groups and checks if he is contributing enough and whether the group is of value, I think this is a great lesson for us all (including me!)

LinkedInterview #4

Introduction 

Andy Neilson, Procurement Director for a company called Poole Lighting in Dorset where I have been since January this year. My career spans many years in Procurement and Supply chain.

When was your LinkedIn date of birth? 

12th March 2008

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

....My business networking tool, I don’t use Facebook at all but LinkedIn enables me to network with like minded professionals across many sectors and locations. It allows me to discuss best practice with other procurement professionals and it also allows me to ‘check out’ suppliers and potential suppliers. LinkedIn also allows me to network with people who have common interests but are from outside my normal business contacts for instance people who are also into Rugby, Golf, motorsport etc

When do you login to LinkedIn and how often?

I’m on LinkedIn every day, I login as soon as I get to work or if I am working from home almost as soon as I get up! I think I logged in at 6.30am this morning! I don't log off until the end of the day so it is literally on my computer all day long, in the background mostly but its always there and invitations ping through every now and then.

How many connections do you have and why do you connect with someone?

2294. I like to connect with a wide range of people who I can network with, I am keen to take on board other professionals views on a wide range of subjects and building a large network also helps me find more people on LinkedIn which is invaluable when I am looking to directly source and investigate potential suppliers. Its also important that other people can check me out and see/understand where I am coming from and what my expertise are. I think this helps to build relationships which ultimately helps me with my negotiations, I am not just a voice at the end of a phone line - they see what I am all about and who they are dealing with, my background, skill set, recommendations etc I find that helps with any negotiations. I try not to be ‘clever’ in negotiations, I am an honest open chap and I want people to see that I am authentic. They have something that I need and we agree on what that looks like in terms of product/service and price. I know they need to make a margin and they know I want to find a good deal, I work with them to achieve this and I believe this is reflected in my LinkedIn profile as many of my recommendations are from suppliers who have confirmed this. My view is that business is all about relationships and my LinkedIn profile serves an important role in that respect.

All of my current supply base are in China and whilst there are some cultural differences, it still comes down to relationships and basic good manners and when they read my profile it is welcoming and open and that sets the right agenda. I have developed countless relationships where the starting point has been LinkedIn. Unfortunately the Chinese are not yet massive users of LinkedIn, they love Skype and I regularly receive invites to connect on Skype, some of the more forward thinking ones connect on linkedIn but many of them are just not using it yet. I haven't worked much with the Chinese prior to this role and I am learning that they like to network in person or at least via a video call on Skype and LinkedIn doesn't provide that facility, which is a pity.

I get plenty of invites from sales people and from recruiters who are keen to do business with me and rightly so, I have no problem with this. With regards to recruitment I believe LinkedIn has become the main tool for recruiting and job hunting, no longer would anyone consider going to the Daily Telegraph in search of a job!

What features of LinkedIn do you use most? 

'Whose viewed your profile' is one thing I look at most days, I guess I’m just very nosey but it's always interesting to see who has been checking me out! Company profiles are an important resource to me as well when assessing suppliers and the advanced search function is also important in that regard.

A typical situation might be that I might be looking to source a freight forwarding supplier for example so I would use keywords and search LinkedIn to find profiles relevant to what I am looking for, once I find someone interesting I look at their company profile and go through the list of employees to find the most relevant contact - such as the Sales Director. Alternatively I might find the companies first via a Google search, then look them up on LinkedIn to then find the relevant contacts profile as above. LinkedIn searching gives me the ‘purest’ set of results though. The profiles I find are not found because they have paid Google or an SEO company and what I get is great information about real people - as opposed to their web sites.

So what do you do when you find the Sales Director, what is your next step?

I would normally contact them by inviting them to connect, 9/10 times we would normally share a group but if not it can get difficult because LinkedIn gives me no easy option in terms of giving a reason for the invitation. I often end up using the ‘friend’ option which I am not comfortable with but we haven't done business and I don't know their email address so it's all I can use. LinkedIn doesn't give me the option to say ‘I am thinking of doing business with you’ which seems crazy to me. It seems that all the reasons are historical rather than progressive. I see LinkedIn as a way of networking and getting to know new people, this is why it is useful to me so I will invite strangers so long as they are relevant. The crazy thing is that LinkedIn limit the amount of invitations I can send out which seems counter-productive to me because it's a networking site! I mean why would I want to network online with someone who sits 2 foot away from me? I want to network with people who I don't know who share their knowledge and experience with me and vice versa - because that's how you improve.

I am a great believer that good networking is about helping others and a large network helps me do that. A good example today is that a recruiter who is a connection has posted an update saying they are looking for a senior Buyer in London with experience in fashion which is great so I will have a quick look and then send the recruiter a message saying ‘check out so and so who is one of my connections’ I have done that on maybe 30 occasions just in the last month! I know I am in a position to facilitate the connection and I know it is helping both parties - there are plenty of good people out there struggling to find jobs and if I can help I will and I can only do that because I have an extensive network. I have even seen people in the ‘people you know’ section who are stating that they are seeking a new opportunity and I invite them to connect for no other reason than I think my connections might be able to help them and why not? Why wouldn't I offer help when I know it could be really beneficial to them?

What is your favorite feature?

'Company search' and 'whose viewed my profile' are my favourites, ‘whose viewed’ is something I check every day and I am interested to see if the number is going up or down, that is less professionally beneficial...but interesting all the same! I have noticed that the connections I make attract similar types of people to view my profile. As an example I am connected to a number of elite athletes, this started as a result of my interest in rugby and rugby related groups on LinkedIn and has spread from there. I had an ex pro rugby player recently who contacted me to ask my advice on moving from sport into business, I didn't know him but I was more than willing to offer him some advice and he could see we had common contacts so he felt OK about approaching me. We had many conversations about how to approach his job search and now he has ended up in a role as a recruiter. This was really bizarre because this was a guy I was used to watching on TV! There are plenty of rugby players on LinkedIn, not many footballers although Gary Speed the Welsh Manager before he sadly died was a big LinkedIn user who was also a connection of mine.

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

Well my current job came from a direct approach from a Recruiter on LinkedIn which is one example, I wasn't openly looking and my profile didn't say anything to encourage a recruiter but the timing was good and the opportunity exciting, the recruiter did a great job and was very professional, he had read my profile and didn't just send me one of those dreadful messages that they have obviously sent to many people. I always make sure my profile is up to date and looks good because I am very aware that it is my first impression. Obviously I checked out the Recruiters profile before replying to his approach to check he looked credible etc - that reminds me I had another approach recently from someone who had a profile with little or no information within and only 1 connection! I’m sure he was a nice guy but a profile with no information and few connections just makes me question whether they are real!

Another example of success is a recent exercise I undertook in investigating running reverse auctions. I have some experience of running reverse auctions but not in China and I imagined it could be a nightmare if not done properly so I needed to find organisations who had the right experience to run them for me. A quick search on LinkedIn gave me several names of companies who were exactly what I needed so I went from sitting at my desk with a blank sheet of paper wondering where to start, to a situation where I had proposals from 3 companies who knew exactly what was required. This took no time at all and was a major help, without LinkedIn that would have been a much harder task.

What new features would you like to see? 

Because I deal with the Chinese the incorporation of Skype or some sort of instant messaging and video call facility would be really useful as previously mentioned, I use Twitter a lot as well and its big advantage over LinkedIn is its immediacy, LinkedIn communication is more like email and frankly, email is a bit old-fashioned these days!

I do believe LinkedIn have got it wrong by seeing a network as something in the past, they should design more functionality around using it as a way forward to build new contacts and relationships

Will LinkedIn still be important in business in 2020? 

I cant see it going away, why wouldn't we be using such a valuable tool in the future? I can only see it getting bigger and bigger to a point where it replaces Google as a business search facility and becomes an invaluable networking resource to many more people. LinkedIn has made my job so much easier in the last 4 years and I am sure it will for many more people in the future.

 

I loved this interview, Andy is a great networker and dispels the myth that procurement professionals are aloof and difficult to access. Andy is a true networker who looks to use his time on LinkedIn to help others as well as himself in his role when sourcing from the far east. I especially liked the way that he believed in having an open, informative and easy to find profile made his negotiations with suppliers more effective because this created an atmosphere of trust and co-operation. His ideas on integrating Skype into LinkedIn are also very interesting.

Another point worth considering is how Andy sources suppliers by undertaking keyword searches. Imagine if you were a supplier providing reverse auction services/expertise in the far east and you hadn't taken the time to optimise your profile with the relevant keywords and phrases. A major opportunity could be missed!

Andy was too modest to say this during the interview but it is worth noting that he has previously been a recipient of a CIPS (Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply) award for the quality of his work.