As an agency that preaches the importance of relationships, LinkedIn is the tool that makes it possible to sustain so many of them.
Working in advertising and communications, it seems like we are all expected to be experts in social media. So, we all sign up for a dozen different platforms and try to stay current with all of them as much as possible. After one day trying to understand Snapchat, I decided to stop trying to be fluent in all forms of social media and just continue to focus on the ones that make the most sense for me.
The one social media site that continues to be my most value relationship tool is LinkedIn. Maybe it is my age, or my line of work (I am highly involved in business development at our company), but this platform has been my professional lifeline in many respects.
I use LinkedIn as a replacement for my Outlook contacts. I tried to keep up my contact list when people changed jobs, changed email address, etc. and it was generally impossible to be completely current. Now when I am trying to contact someone who I don’t speak on a regular basis, I go to LinkedIn to find their current contact information – which seems to be about 99% accurate. If you are connected, there is a tab at the bottom of your contact’s title profile that says “Contact Info” which always has a current email, twitter handle, and many times a cellphone number.
As my primary social medium, I have maintained one strict rule about LinkedIn. I do not accept requests from people I have never met. If I have met you in person or by other electronic means, I will accept your invitation. The reason I limit this is because I believe if you are in my network, I should know enough about you to speak to others about you … or feel confident enough that if I reach out to you, I will get a response. I have over 1,400 contacts in my LinkedIn network and having some knowledge about each of them is the key to being able to effectively use my network to its fullest extent.
LinkedIn does a great job of notifying you when a connection has changed jobs or updated a profile or been given a promotion or won an award, etc. These are all great opportunities to reach out and reconnect with someone who you would normally not have a regular interaction with. This platform has allowed me to stay in semi-regular contact with former clients and colleagues who may have changed jobs, moved to another market or even changed industries. Recently, this little correspondence practice that I do over coffee each morning has resulted in two former clients reaching out with new business opportunities. But I assume that most everyone knows about this great service that LinkedIn provides and many of you reading this already practice this.
I have also used LinkedIn in some less traditional ways. It provided a great platform for a forum of like-minded people who were loosely connected to a company that I used to work with as a client. The client was in the appliance business and had formed a council of well-respected interior designers that they would bring into their showroom once a year for a couple of days to provide feedback on various new product ideas. After the second meeting of this council, I noticed that many of the designers were sharing information with each other about how to spec this item or who to call when you have this situation – most of which had nothing to do with my client’s company. But a bond had clearly been formed by these designers. They respected one another, didn’t compete with each other (they were all from different markets) and they so appreciated having an intimate group of like-minded professionals to talk to. I saw the opportunity to keep the dialog going between these 12 designers – both to form a stronger bond to my client’s business and to help them help each other. We formed a closed group on LinkedIn and this has been a great place for them to go and ask professional questions to the group and get quick and trusted advice from one another. The client has also been able to get faster feedback and loyal participation from the designers now for several years.
My favorite use for LinkedIn is to help folks that I have mentored. Many interns that I have worked with over the past 10 years at DGWB and Amusement Park have greatly benefited from the breadth of my network. If you are LinkedIn with me, you have access to all my contacts.
In a day of electronic job applications for even senior level positions, it is much more difficult to get the interview than it is to get the job. You must stand out enough from an online application or resume to get someone in HR or a busy executive’s attention. But if you had someone who has access to a key executive at the organization you are trying to get into … actually advocate for you … wouldn’t that significantly increase your odds of getting an interview? I can say that I have successfully helped at least a half dozen rising stars in advertising get interviews that have led to them to a new career position.
And the reverse is true as well. Many fellow colleagues at other agencies or client organizations have reached out to me to ask about someone who is in my LinkedIn contacts as they are considering hiring or doing business with them.
Yes, I use Facebook to mildly boast about places I travel to or to argue over politics with friends and so-called friends, but its value outside of being mild entertainment is limited. LinkedIn is my way of always networking and keeping my name or “personal brand” top of mind with a large group of people who I can truly say I know.