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Linkedin ImageLinked in is a membership based site with more than 161 million subscribers: it grows by approximately two new members every second.  About half of the members are in the United States.  One purpose of the site is to allow registered users to maintain a list of contact details of people with whom they have some level of relationship: connections.  Users can invite anyone (whether a site user or not) to become a connection to grow a large (and supposedly professional) network. 

However, if the invitee selects "I don't know" or "Spam", this counts against the inviter. If the inviter gets too many of such responses, the account may be restricted or closed.  This list of connections can then be used in a number of ways: mostly for business-like networking and research.  Linked-in offers different opportunities to get noticed: this requires a little more finesse to make sure that you get your mileage out of participating in the networking process.

The information following on this website is intended to provide background on how we think Linked-In can play a major role in your advertising strategy by highlighting where the strengths and weaknesses are in this medium.  Keep in mind that an advertising strategy needs many dimensions to be effective.  Because of the nature of Linked in we need to be a little more low-key about advertising, but if you do this properly with using links to your website as optional additional information, it can be quite effective.

Linked In Communications

The feature LinkedIn Answers, similar to Yahoo! Answers, allows users to ask questions for the community to answer.  This feature is free, and the main difference from the latter is that questions are potentially more business-oriented, and the identity of the people asking and answering questions is known.  If you associate with the right groups you can have focused questions, or you can follow general questions to see where you can provide answers that contain a subtle reference to your website (if nothing else it is easy to add that link back via your personal identification that names your websites).

Another LinkedIn feature is LinkedIn Polls.  In mid-2008, LinkedIn launched LinkedIn DirectAds as a form of sponsored advertising, and revealed plans to opening its social network of 30 million professionals globally as a potential sample for business-to-business research.  It is testing a potential social-network revenue model-research that to some appears more promising than advertising.

In October 2008, LinkedIn enabled an "applications platform" that allows other online services to be embedded within a member's profile page. Among the initial applications were an Amazon Reading List that allows LinkedIn members to display books they are reading, a connection to Tripit, and a Six Apart, WordPress and TypePad application that allows members to display their latest blog postings within their LinkedIn profile.  A mobile version of the site was launched in February 2008, which gives access to a reduced feature set over a mobile phone.

In November 2010, LinkedIn allowed businesses to list their products and services on company profile pages; it also permitted LinkedIn members to "recommend" products and services and write reviews.  This is an area that may well be of interest to you, as a platform that features what your business has to offer.  In January 2011, LinkedIn acquired CardMunch, a mobile app maker that scans business cards and converts into contacts. LinkedIn plans to integrate this functionality into their services in the near future.  In August 2011, LinkedIn revamped its mobile applications on the iPhone, Android and HTML5. Mobile page views of the application have increased roughly 400% year over year.

Linked In Company Research

LinkedIn allows users to research companies that they may be interested in working at. When typing the name of a given company in the search box, statistics about the company are provided. These may include the ratio of female to male employees, the percentage of the most common titles/positions held within the company, the location of the company's headquarters and offices, or a list of present and former employees. 

In July 2011, LinkedIn launched a new feature allowing companies to include an "Apply with LinkedIn" button on job listing pages that allows potential employees to apply for positions using their LinkedIn profiles as resumes. All applications will also be saved under a "Saved Jobs" tab.  LinkedIn has been described by online trade publication TechRepublic as having "become the de-facto tool for professional networking", and LinkedIn has also been praised for its usefulness in fostering business relationships.

These are all good reasons for any business to explore how they can participate.  Since the information is mostly visual it makes sense to log-in to Linked-in to explore how they position the service for marketing purposes rather than for us to paraphrase or describe an incomplete opportunity.  It is generally believed that Linked-in has the higher quality of prospects that some businesses are trying to reach out to, but that depends a great deal on how you want to position the company in the public eye.  The network reach is worldwide and it is not unusual for company representatives to reach out for contacts around the world, which could give you an edge in specific product distribution.

Linked In For Journalists

Professional journalists can join the official LinkedIn for Journalists group where group discussions consist of LinkedIn news announcements and also tips in regards to how members of the press can use LinkedIn to find story ideas, scoops and sources, assuming they select the "send me a daily digest of all activity in this group" option if you want to receive announcements the day they occur.  As a journalist you can use LinkedIn Skills to uncover trends about the beat you cover. For instance, if you write articles geared toward the working mom, you might want to see what skills are on the rise or on the decline for childcare.  If you cover the mobile space, checking out the growth of Android as a skill might be of interest to you.  Here are the LinkedIn Skills pages for broadcast journalism and newspaper.

LinkedIn also makes it easy for journalists to follow LinkedIn Company Pages and stay updated on senior level changes and new hires. Search for your beat companies’ profiles and click "Follow Company" to get regular updates on hiring, promotions, departures and job listings.  LinkedIn Advanced People Search helps you easily uncover experts and sources. Search by company name, company size, keywords, title or any other facet to find exactly the source you need. Click on the person’s profile and you’ll see if anyone in your network knows them and can introduce you.

What is good for journalists can also be useful for company PR initiatives to stay on top of what the competition is up to.  You can follow selected companies to find out when new information becomes available, and then explore that information to learn what it is that you need to know and/or respond to.  Time is of the essence if you need to act on a competitor initiative so that your website can feature corresponding initiatives even as you are working out the details behind the scenes.

Linked In For Research

If you're looking for references, ideas or even sources a simple LinkedIn Status Update can save you a lot of time. Try posting a question like, "Do you know any CEOs at companies with more than 1,000 employees?" to your network.  Pair your LinkedIn and Twitter accounts and those updates can go out to both networks at the same time.  You can build a network and keep it up-to-date by importing contacts from mail providers or desktop email applications.  Connections can make your job easier: when you view a Company Page or do an Advanced People Search, you'll see the degrees of separation between you and the people you want to reach.  With a personal connection or introduction, you can contact that company or expert you've been dying to reach.

Use LinkedIn Answers to generate product ideas. Ask generic questions that touch on the functionality people look for.  You can also ask specific questions on Answers to find exactly the source you are looking for.  Doing a LinkedIn Advanced Answers Search can help you get a new understanding of a product that may need to be freshened up. Type in “iPad” as a keyword and see what questions LinkedIn members have been asking about it.  The more responses there are to a question, the more likely it is to be a hot opportunity that people are passionate about.

Linked In Groups

LinkedIn also supports the formation of interest groups, and as of March 29, 2012 there are 1,248,019 such groups: the majority of the largest groups are employment related, although a very wide range of topics are covered mainly around professional and career issues, and there are currently 128,000 groups for both academic and corporate alumni.  Groups support a limited form of discussion area, moderated by the group owners and managers. Since groups offer the ability to reach a wide audience without so easily falling foul of anti-spam solutions, there is a constant stream of spam postings, and there now exist a range of firms who offer a spamming service for this very purpose. 

LinkedIn has devised a few mechanisms to reduce the volume of spam, but recently took the decision to remove the ability of group owners to inspect the email address of new members in order to determine if they were spammers.  Groups also keep their members informed through emails with updates to the group, including most talked about discussions within your professional circles.  Groups may be private, accessible to members only or may be open to Internet users in general to read, though they must join in order to post messages.  You can, if you want, organize your own group and have a forum where people that follow your business can exchange information and maintain contact – this may be more effective and valuable than trying to build that capability into your own website because of the greater exposure this gives your business.

Linked In Marketing – Part 1

Delivering messages without over-saturating the channel

“We love the fact that LinkedIn’s Targeted Status Updates let us focus our messages at a regional / industry level so that we can delight audiences with relevant content.”

Challenge à how do you engage followers and drive event attendance, while avoiding message oversaturation and reach regional audiences with localized content?

Solution à use LinkedIn Targeted Status Updates with narrow distribution of updates based on location and industry.   Empower local teams to create relevant content and increase frequency of updates to build buzz.

Why LinkedIn? à  precise targeting helps reach a desired audience  while relevant updates drive higher engagement and stronger brand loyalty.  Easy administration encourages user adoption and real-time results tracking helps marketers re­fine strategy

Results à 30% increase in engagement by followers, 30% increase in ampli­cation (sharing) of messages, Local social teams can customize messages for greater relevancy, ability to increase frequency creates more opportunities for engagement

Salesforce.com, the enterprise cloud computing company, has built a solid reputation for the quality of its events, including Cloudforce, which is staged in about a dozen cities worldwide every year.  “Our objective is to drive an audience to attend – not just in person, but also online, because we broadcast these events online,” explains Jennifer Burnham, director of content and social strategy for salesforce.com.

Linked In Marketing – Part 2

Besides using social networks to publicize Cloudforce, salesforce.com uses LinkedIn to spread the word about company news and updates: “Our followers want to hear more about the salesforce.com culture, our leadership, and social enterprise trends.”  The challenge for salesforce.com’s social strategy team is pushing out content and updates to followers without wearing out its welcome – especially for news aimed at a regional audience or a speci­c demographic.  “If we blast news out to the same audience over and over, we may oversaturate our followers with information,” Burnham says. “We don’t want to use social media as a bullhorn. We do like to go big when promoting our events, especially when we have incredible speakers to talk about, but the news may not be relevant to all audiences.”

LinkedIn Targeted Status Updates reach focused audiences

When Burnham and her team learned about LinkedIn Targeted Status Updates, a new feature that delivers relevant content to a more targeted group of LinkedIn followers, they knew it would solve their social content challenge. Targeted Status Updates allow organizations with LinkedIn Company Pages to deliver status updates to well-defi­ned groups of followers, which can help increase engagement and improve brand loyalty. Marketers can target followers based on company size, industry, function, and geography, among other parameters.

Linked In Marketing – Part 3

 “We learned about Targeted Status Updates just as we were getting ready to promote our Cloudforce London event,” Burnham says. “We realized we could target a geographic area and create more frequent and tailored updates, mentioning local speakers and venues.”  Burnham worked with her UK social team to create a series of status updates about Cloudforce London, including news about speakers and sessions. Because content in these updates is more precisely matched to followers, salesforce.com can deliver updates more often and drive more engagement. “We felt comfortable talking more frequently to a targeted audience,” Burnham says. “We would not have posted as often as we did about Cloudforce London if we had not been able to use targeting.”

"We love the fact that LinkedIn’s Targeted Status Updates let us focus our messages at a regional/industry level so that we can delight audiences with relevant content," Burnham says.  “We can also target followers who are not employees, so we can reach beyond our core follower base.”  Burnham points out that she and her content team ensure that even when Targeted Status Updates are aimed at a highly speci­c audience, they’re still reaching a large number of followers. “We want to go somewhat broad, because you never know who’ll be interested in a given topic – if an update reaches too narrow an audience, we won’t get the engagement we need,” Burnham says. “However, for newer markets, we may start small – Targeted Status Updates will have a lot of value for these segments.”

Audiences for Targeted Status Updates can be chosen by company size, industry, and geography As salesforce.com is a global company, Targeted Status Updates also allow Burnham’s team to give control of content to regional social media managers, who can customize updates based on what they know about their specifi­c audiences. “The London team crafted the posts, so they were able to use language that they knew would appeal to local followers,” Burnham explains. “We’re ramping up our strategy for upcoming Cloudforce events in other regions, and we see a real opportunity in allowing regions to create their own posts, instead of always driving content from HQ.”

Linked In Networking

A contact network is built up consisting of their direct connections, the connections of each of their connections (termed second-degree connections) and also the connections of second-degree connections (termed third-degree connections).  This can be used to gain an introduction to someone a person wishes to know through a mutual contact.   In general, individuals will maintain selective lists, but there are opportunities for people to build huge lists of contacts that they can then reach out to for different purposes.

Users can upload their resume or design their own profile in order to showcase work and community experiences.  It can then be used to find jobs, people and business opportunities recommended by someone in one's contact network.  Employers can list jobs and search for potential candidates.  Business owners can similarly feature their operation with references to help Linked in members “discover” what you are about.

Job seekers can review the company profile of hiring managers and discover which of their existing contacts can introduce them.  Users can post their own photos and view photos of others to aid in identification.  Users can now follow different companies and can get notification about the new joining and offers available.  Users can save (i.e. bookmark) jobs which they would like to apply for.  You can filter jobs so that those in your local geographic area are featured.

The "gated-access approach" (where contact with any professional requires either a pre-existing relationship or the intervention of a contact of theirs) is intended to build trust among the service's users.  In particular when individuals participate in forums they will be followed and their contributions will influence how they may be seen by employers, as well as by prospective customers.  You need to apply some lateral thinking to benefit from the network by understanding how your objectives fit the norm.

LinkedIn participates in the EU's International Safe Harbor Privacy Principles.

Linked In Opportunities

Make sure your LinkedIn Profile is 100 percent complete. Include keywords like the business you are in or like to pursue in summary, experience and specialties sections.  If you follow a company, you can easily see if you're connected to current or former employees through your own network.  Check if anyone can introduce you or ask about freelance opportunities for you.  Get regular updates, including job postings, when you select the “Follow Company” option.

Own your professional brand and Google search results for your name by customizing your LinkedIn Public Profile URL.  Edit the link so it’s your firstnamelastname (or, if that's taken, lastnamefirstname).  Now you control what people see when they do a search for your name on search engines. This means people will always get recent information about you as you change jobs, switch beats, and update LinkedIn accordingly. 

When an article you wrote posts online, insert the link and a quick description in a LinkedIn Status Update. Pair your LinkedIn and Twitter accounts and those updates can go out to both networks at the same time. Include the links to your best work or favorite articles under the “Websites” section of your profile. Taking these steps will increase clicks on your story links.

With LinkedIn Reference Search it’s easy to find current and former employees- all of whom may have stories to tell. You can find someone that worked at Apple during the early years or uncover sources that were at Bear Sterns just before it collapsed. Simply fill in the company name and the years you're interested in to find the people who were there then.