12 Things I Have Learned About LinkedIn & Using LinkedIn

“Knowledge is good.” – Emil Faber

Today’s newsletter is a mashup of two pieces I wrote for my email newsletter, one on things I have learned about LinkedIn that are useful, interesting and good, and one on things that occasionally make me grind my teeth. These are all things that I have figured out or have gradually dawned on me from using LinkedIn every day for 11+ years now.

Money talks and companies have money. If you have lots of money to spend on lots of premium subscriptions, ads or sponsored updates, LinkedIn will be keen to talk to you. If you don’t have money, LinkedIn is not that interested in you. Like many software platforms, LinkedIn’s business model is not designed to provide a high level of support to their users. The fact that this low level of support and interaction has provided a business opportunity for people like me is not lost on me.

LinkedIn’s primary customers are sales, marketing, human resources and recruiting people. If you are not in one of these four groups, you are not so much a customer, you and your data are the product LinkedIn sells to those customers. LinkedIn makes changes to the platform that will serve those customers. If those changes serve you, that’s a bonus. While it may sound nice that LinkedIn is “improving the user experience,” what LinkedIn is really doing is persuading us to become more active on LinkedIn, which is good for ad sales.

You are going to be contacted on LinkedIn by people you don’t know. Expect recruiters and salespeople to contact you. That’s the price of admission. Be gracious to people who approach you intelligently and respectfully. But if they don’t approach you intelligently and respectfully, all bets are off. Spammers and people who send automated crap messages should be treated with the lack of respect they deserve and reported to LinkedIn with extreme prejudice.

LinkedIn will never be a fabulous user experience. There are just too many different constituencies inherent in eight hundred million users. You have people who use it every day and people who show up once a year. You have people using it for sales, research, recruiting, networking, job search and a hundred other reasons. And each of those groups has a laundry list of features they wish LinkedIn had. As far as the user experience is concerned, “serviceable” is probably the best you should hope for.

If you don’t have a plan, you can waste an awful lot of time on LinkedIn. Plan what you need to do in order to accomplish your LinkedIn goals, do those things, and leave.

Using automation on LinkedIn hurts your brand. You people that use automated messaging tools on LinkedIn may be suprised to find LinkedIn users are better at seeing that your messages are automated than you think. Automation makes you look like you just see everyone as an entry on a spreadsheet. Hardly the way to build credibility and trust.

And if you use automation for things like profile views, connection requests, or messaging, LinkedIn will come after you. I hear folks say that LinkedIn won’t catch you, that it’s extremely unlikely. Well, it’s also unlikely that you will be struck by lightning if you wander around outside during a thunderstorm. For a while.

Engage one on one with your connections and other people on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a contact sport.

Social Selling on LinkedIn is just like regular selling. That is, if you do it well, it works. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of people doing it well (just like regular selling).

Remember that LinkedIn is a tool. A good one, but it’s not the Holy Sales Grail. This is mostly because people think LinkedIn is a social network, but it is really just a big database with a very small social network embedded in it.

LinkedIn is an excellent people database with good search tools attached. Though you need a Sales Navigator or Recruiter premium account to take full advantage of these tools. In my opinion, those tools are worth it.

LinkedIn can be used to find paths to people you don’t know via people you do know. Every time you see a little “2nd” beside someone’s name on LinkedIn, that means you share one of more LinkedIn Connections with that person. You can ask your mutual connection for an introduction, a referral or for more background on your person of interest. And you don’t need a premium subscription to obtain this info or use it. This is a very underrated and underutilized aspect of LinkedIn.

You get out of LinkedIn in direct relation to what you put into LinkedIn. By all means you can “do” LinkedIn in ten minutes a day, just expect to get results corresponding to ten minutes worth of effort.

It’s still a “give to get” world. The minute you start looking at someone’s LinkedIn profile and figuring out how you can help them, instead of how they can help you, is the minute you will start moving towards effective results using LinkedIn. The single best thing you can do on LinkedIn is invest your time developing your relationships with your connections. Very few people do this.

For B2B sales professionals, LinkedIn is a game changer. What originally attracted me to LinkedIn a dozen years ago was that it was what I had wished for since I started in high tech sales in 1985: A searchable database of most every customer I could ever want, a treasure trove of researchable material on those people and their companies, and the possibility that LinkedIn itself may be an effective method to reach out to them.

All of these things that I have figured out boil down to one overall theme: See LinkedIn for what it is, not for what you wish it was, and you will make more effective use of the time you invest in it.

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. For some reason LinkedIn gave me early access to the LinkedIn Newsletter. I have no idea why, but thanks for reading.

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two or three articles like today’s, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/