Developing Your LinkedIn Strategy

What’s holding you back from getting the results you want out of LinkedIn?

I am going to talk here about how to figure out what you should be doing and what you shouldn’t. There are four steps, but this won’t take long.

Understand what LinkedIn is

LinkedIn is a database of 550 million people and 19 million companies. Embedded in that database is an active social network of maybe 50 to 60 million people who use it once a week or more often. Understanding these figures is critical to using LinkedIn effectively.

Understand the 7 basic “things” you can do on LinkedIn

  • Use your profile as a reference check

LinkedIn is a great place for people to reference check you. They hear your name, wonder “who is this person?” and immediately go to Linkedin to find out. In many cases, your LinkedIn profile is the first impression you make with someone else.

  • Increase your reach

Your reach is how many people are aware of you.

  • Establish or improve your credibility

Once they are aware of you, you need to establish yourself as a person to be reckoned with, someone who knows what they are talking about, and is knowledgeable in their field. Credibility gets you included when people are considering their options. You want to be on that list.  

  • Be the pointy end of a lead gen program

You can make offers on LinkedIn and generate leads. I call this the pointy end as usually you need a backend to collect the leads such as a landing page on your website.

  • Search and find people and companies

LIke I said, a searchable database of 550 million people and 19 million companies. Everyone and everything is in that database. You just need to figure out how to find what you need to find.

  • Research people and companies

Now that you have found them, you need to review the information on LinkedIn and let it help guide your tactics. There’s a lot more here than most people think.

  • Contact people and exchange messages

Well, it is a social network, isn’t it?

LinkedIn is outstanding as a reference check, and for search and research. It is good for credibility and reach. LinkedIn is completely hit and miss for lead gen and for contacting people and exchanging messages.

What do you need LinkedIn for? What are you looking to do?

Ask yourself, “Am I weak or need improvement in any of the seven areas above?”

Do you need to becoming better known? That’s reach.

People have heard of you but don’t have much more information? Credibility. Need sales leads? That’s reach + credibility.

Need prospects? Search + research + contact people.

Select the things on LinkedIn you need to do to help solve your problems.

For the areas you selected ask, “Do I know how to do these things?”

If you can’t say to yourself, “I know exactly how to do that, quickly and effectively”, get help. And it never hurts to test your knowledge and assumptions about what you can or can’t do with someone who knows their stuff. Someone who can teach you how to get better results or to use a LinkedIn feature effectively will both save you time, and help you get better results more quickly. There are lots of people out there who can help you. There are generalists and there are specialists, such as those that work with LinkedIn users on their profiles. My specialties are search, research and how to contact people.

So if you are unhappy with your LinkedIn results:

  • Figure out the gaps in the results you are getting now.
  • Figure out whether LinkedIn can actually help close those gaps.
  • Get help if you need it.

This isn’t rocket surgery.*

(* a combination of rocket science and brain surgery. Very difficult.)

A Reminder To See LinkedIn As It Is, Not Like You Wish It Was

Never forget that LinkedIn is first and foremost a database. A database of somewhere around 550 million people.

I call it a database because the majority of LinkedIn users rarely use it. The last public results from LinkedIn said 22% of users logged on at least once a month. That was eighteen months ago, and I have seen nothing in the intervening time that persuades me that that percentage has gotten much bigger.

If the 22% figure still holds, that is around 115 million people accessing LinkedIn at least once a month. How many people are showing up two or more times a week? Half that? 60 million?

I have seen wild claims that there is a much higher active component on LinkedIn, including one claim (in January) that LinkedIn now had 500 million daily users. If “daily user” means “did not close their account today”, then I suppose that’s true, but otherwise, no.

I don’t believe these claims of increased usage for two reasons. The first is, they don’t pass the smell test. In order for me to believe that LinkedIn now has, say, 120 million daily users, the first thing I need to ask myself is, “what has changed in eighteen months that makes LinkedIn at least twice as attractive for users?” Answer: not much. Lots of good incremental feature and usability improvements, but twice as good? No way.

The second reason is if daily use had doubled – or tripled or quadrupled – I really think that LinkedIn and Microsoft would have mentioned it somewhere. Most companies don’t radically improve what is arguably one of the most important metrics they have and keep quiet about it.

The upshot here is that embedded within that big 500+ million person database is a tiny active social network. Well, sixty or so million people isn’t tiny, but compared to Twitter, or Facebook it is.

Where am I going with all this? Simple. LinkedIn is an unmatched resource for searching for people, and it’s an unmatched resource for doing research on companies, the people that work at those companies and their relationships. It is not as good for reaching out and contacting those people you find, because there is a big difference between “member” and “uses LinkedIn a couple of time a week or more.”

See LinkedIn as it is, not like you would like it to be, and you will use LinkedIn more effectively.

Is There Any Value In “Your Weekly Search Statistics” ?

Had a look at my Weekly Search Statistics for last week. I had appeared in 256 search results for the previous week. Let’s take a deep dive and see what we can learn from what LinkedIn told me about “My searchers.”

Where your searchers work

My searchers for last week work in

  • a travel business and
  • a supply chain company

And that’s it. I appeared in 256 search results last week and apparently all of those searches were performed by these two companies. This immediately makes me question the validity (not to mention the worth) of these statistics.

What they do

The top five business titles were

  • Executive director (that’s flattering I suppose, but exec director of what?)
  • Salesperson (that’s good, salespeople are typical clients of mine)
  • Process specialist (what type?…don’t leave me hanging here…)
  • Business strategy (not sure I have ever met a business strategist)
  • Business owner (okay lots of these are clients)

Okay this is minorly helpful, but some context as to what they were searching for is needed. Luckily I can turn to…

Keywords your searchers used

“WHO”

That’s it. “WHO”, all capitalized. No other search term apparently was used in searches I showed up in. Now, I can draw two possible conclusions here, both of  them a bit disconcerting:

  • Very few people actually search via keywords. They must be all searching by company or geography or title. This is too bad as when used effectively, keywords are the secret to  really narrowing down a search.  
  • Lots of people search via keywords but they have no idea what they are doing.

But the worst part of this whole exercise is the explanation for what these stats represent: “number of times your profile appeared in search results between October 31 – November 7” (I wrote this November 10th).

Note that that the “WHO” search I was in brings up over nine million people in the search results. Hardly an exclusive club. And the key here is the sneaky factor.  People and organizations that talk about the Weekly Search Statistics tool make it sound better than it is: “this new tool shows how you were found.” Sorry, not really. What the person found was a haystack, I’m just a needle somewhere in that haystack.

“Your weekly search statistics” reminds me of the LinkedIn Social Selling Index. Looks interesting on the surface, but when you dig into it a bit, there isn’t much there.