Embrace Your Inner Sherlock Holmes On LinkedIn

I have been a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories since I read “The Adventure Of The Dancing Men” back in high school. In that short story, Holmes resolves the mystery behind what appear to be children’s drawings that start appearing in the garden of a client who retains him. What is obvious to Holmes – that the series of dancing figures are in fact messages – eludes everyone else involved.

In the short story, “A Scandal in Bohemia” Holmes utters one of his most famous lines to Doctor Watson, “You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.”

That is the way most users are on LinkedIn. They take what’s presented to them at face value, and don’t think of what could be behind what’s happening or of the cause of what is happening. And this is a shame, because if people saw all the information presented to them and stopped to ask themselves what that meant they would make much better use of LinkedIn.

Let me illustrate what I mean with a couple examples.

A LinkedIn user goes to the profile of someone who is a prospective customer. He sees that the prospect has the right title, though no additional information about their current responsibilities is listed, just the title and years in that position. The same holds true for their previous jobs. The prospect has a couple hundred connections, a smattering of skills, and the other key sections of their profile filled out.

Using what little information he can glean from the user’s profile, our sales person sends the prospect an outreach message via InMail. He uses a solid message format that has been very successful in the past.

And receives no reply.

Does it take Sherlock Holmes to see that the prospect in question was a poor candidate for this approach? The low number of connections, the spartan profile, and the absence of activity all point to someone who places little value in LinkedIn and does not come around that often. How can a person who doesn’t show up see our salesperson’s outreach message?

The better approach would have been to try this person through an introduction if possible, or via email, with a direct LinkedIn message being the last resort.

Our LinkedIn user had all the evidence he needed to decide on this better approach. He saw but did not observe.

A second LinkedIn user is looking at a competitor’s LinkedIn Company Page.

She sees that the company in question is publishing to their Company Page on a regular basis. This competitor has many more followers than her company does. It appears obvious that regular publsihing to a Company Page leads to more followers.

Thus inspired that company pages do work for companies in her industry, she goes back to her company page and starts publishing posts about her company’s capabilities. But nothing much happens.

What our second user has done is seen that a company page can be a success, but not really examined her competitor’s Page to see why it was a success. Closer examination would have shown her that the competitive company is publishing content their prospective customers will find valuable – case studies, white papers, technical articles, how-to lists – and the competitor is publishing this type of content on a regular basis.

Our second user saw the regularity of the posting, but did not observe the type of posts being published.

When you see something on LinkedIn, ask yourself, what does this information really mean for me?

Look at the data that LinkedIn has presented you with. There is a lot more there than you would think, things like that little “2” beside someone’s name, meaning they are a second degree connection and you know someone they know, or that all of their activity is date stamped so you can infer when they are using LinkedIn and how often.

Taking an extra moment to look for these things will in the end save you time and you will use LinkedIn more effectively.

Wearing a deerstalker cap while doing so is optional.

And an update:

A couple months ago I published a newsletter where the subject was fake profiles on LinkedIn. LinkedIn’s Trust and Safety people clamped down on several hundred fakes I identified, but as soon as they get rid of one batch another seems to spring up. One company that I am monitoring had 700 “employees” with LinkedIn profiles a month ago. They now have 1600. I am not sure LinkedIn is winning this battle.

The obligatory disclaimer: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. I was going to write this disclaimer using the Dancing Men code, but after seing how long it would take, I decided some ideas are better off just left as ideas.

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