LinkedIn has a lot of powerful features that I’ve used to build my company. I’m not suggesting that I have found some secret “dark LinkedIn” that no one else knows about. Simply that the way LinkedIn has served me is a case study in how it can catapult startups like mine into orbit.
LinkedIn, of course, has its own Help Centre and third-parties have also weighed in on the best ways to use the tool. But my success isn’t even really about the technical aspects, it’s about using the search tools effectively and being proactive online and offline with the valuable business information I gather.
Explaining LinkedIn’s Components
For a lot of entrepreneurs, LinkedIn is a tool for finding talent and connecting with colleagues. It’s, among other things, effectively a replacement for the old paper resume.
After this HR component, the most familiar aspect is probably the Updates feed, simply because of the real estate it takes up on the site. This literally provides an endless stream of business-related commentary and posts kind of like a Facebook for business.
Recommendations and endorsements are sort of an extension into the business world of the show-and-tell civilization we live in now. Except instead of providing feature to ‘like’ the selfies or albums of your summertime adventures, LinkedIn provides a platform to ‘like’ and show off your professional skills thorough Endorsements.We used to end resumes with the phrase “References available on request.” Now, references are on demand, on our LinkedIn profile page.
LinkedIn’s Benefits and its Faults
Like many technologies, LinkedIn has its faults.
Four people are suing the company over a component in the Premium package that lets potential employees generate lists of people who have worked in the same places as you at the same time. This means some people, when considering hiring, are not going to the HR department at your old office, but instead to former co-workers who are not bound by anything more than their own honor in sharing their personal opinions of you as an employee, colleague, and friend (or foe).
Such is the double-edged sword of easily available information.
On the plus side, this invaluable tool has allowed me to connect with experts that I would never have been able to find on my own.
How LinkedIn Helped Me
So how did it help me? Our project is all about amalgamating multiple industry sectors – free-to-play online and mobile gaming, e-commerce, loyalty rewards among them – and my core team’s competencies couldn’t possibly extend to each of these areas. In fact, we are primarily marketing and “ideas” people with a track record of making things happen in a range of business, non-profit and social enterprise sectors. We needed to find the experts in each of the market segments we are targeting. LinkedIn allowed me to do this in ways a pre-LinkedIn entrepreneur could only have dreamed.
Seeking Out the Experts
I sought out experts in the various fields where we needed intelligence – predictive analytics, data mining, digital delivery, SEO, SEM, user-acquisition, among others. I didn’t let modesty or the fact that we are a startup dissuade me. Using LinkedIn Premium’s phenomenal InMail system, I reached out to the top people I could find in each field.
The reaction was overwhelmingly positive. When you ask for advice and assistance, it is a rare individual who does not offer some support. I had plenty of people politely say they weren’t in a position to help. But, more commonly, I had people redirect me to even more relevant experts. I had people critique our ideas and suggest crucial improvements. I had others spend hours on the phone or Skype with me, sharing their years, sometimes decades, of wisdom. Just because I asked.
Above all, it is in this way that I have put together teams of advisors, consultants and contractors who comprise some of the best minds in their respective fields. The impact on our business has been spectacular. We have been able to advance farther, faster than we had anticipated, with the help of the best people we could find. And we could never have found them without LinkedIn.
Of course, if this makes LinkedIn sound like a sure shot to turn your business into a mega-success, I should note: it gave me the names and profiles of the people and, through InMail, their contacts.
I had to tenaciously cajole and hound my contacts and then convince them of our company’s value proposition. So, it does take work. And like any tool, LinkedIn is only as effective as its user.