Supercharge your Rolodex…with LinkedIn

rolodex   photo by renaissancechambara

Remember the days of the good ol’ rolodex?

Only 7 years ago Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter didn’t exist (LinkedIn started in May of 2003, Facebook in February of 2004 and Twitter in March of 2006).  Now there are more than 400 Million people on Facebook, 105 Million registered users on Twitter and 65 million on LinkedIn with more joining every single day.

It’s safe to say that Social Media and Social Networks have become mainstream…yet there are still a lot of people asking what the point is.  Just in the last week, I’ve had 2 business owners ask me what the point of LinkedIn really is – they both have profiles and they’ve been using it for awhile, but nothing’s happening.

I don’t have any hard data to back this up, but it’s a valid question for a lot of business owners – “I know I’m supposed to be on Social Media sites like LinkedIn, but now that I’ve set up my profile nothing happens – does this stuff really work?”

Does this stuff (social media) really work?

The problem lies with the question – when it comes to business, Social Media and LinkedIn are marketing tools.  The same question could be asked of other tools – ‘Does networking work?’ or ‘Does direct mail work?’ – ‘Does advertising work?’

The answer is that it works if it’s part of a well thought out marketing strategy that’s executed on an active and consistent basis.

It doesn’t work if you set up your profile in a vacuum relative to other activities in your business, connect to 40 people (or even 140 people) and then just wait and hope for something to happen.

At a minimum, LinkedIn is a supercharged Rolodex

Does LinkedIn really work for your business doesn’t have a yes or no answer – the good news is that there are a lot of benefits you can get out of a tool like Linkedin with minimal effort.  Of course if it makes sense and you’re willing to do more, there are a lot of additional benefits you can get out of LinkedIn, but let’s start with the basics:

Keep track of people

Just like that historic rolodex from 7 years ago, you need a place to keep track of all the business connections you have.  Those connections could be clients, prospective clients, networking connections or just professional people that you know, like and trust and might not be (currently) directly connected to your business.

Just like that rolodex, LinkedIn becomes the single place for you to find the information you need on people you already know.

Unlike that old rolodex, LinkedIn has several additional benefits:

LinkedIn updated by your contacts

One of the historic drawbacks of keeping a rolodex (or even just a stack of business cards) is your contact information could quickly get out of date as people move around, change jobs, etc.

However on LinkedIn, when your contact takes a new job, they’ll update their profile with new information, not only making it available to you, but also letting you know when it happens so you can reach out to them if it make sense.

LinkedIn supplies context for your contacts.

On the rolodex you had a name, business, title and contact information.  Important but really of minimal value.

On LinkedIn you can learn where your contact went to school, what their interests are, what kinds of groups they belong to, what their experience and strengths are and lots of other stuff – great information to make for stronger connections.

LinkedIn delivers their connections

On the rolodex you could tell where someone worked, but you didn’t have anyway to really tell who they knew.  Obviously you could ask them, but when you’re prospective for a specific connection, that could be pretty long way to go about things.

One of the really cool things about LinkedIn is that it’s an online version of the 6 degrees of separation.  Your connections connections are a very tangible representation of the influence you could wield.  Let’s say that you’re trying to meet the HR manager at a company in your town.  You can do a quick search on the company in LinkedIn and the search results will quickly show you if you are connected to anyone that knows someone at that company.

Let’s see you do that with a rolodex!

There are a lot of other more active marketing strategies that are a great fit with LinkedIn, but if you’re looking for a place to get started – setting up your supercharged rolodex is probably a good idea.  Here’s a quick summary on how to do that:

  • Create a good profile – if you’re just getting started, here’s a free Getting Started on LinkedIn guide that might be helpful.
  • Connect with people that you Know, Like and Trust – most people should have at least 200+ professional connections that can fit into this category.  If not you need to start doing some more networking
  • Visit LinkedIn at least once a week and check out what people are up to (and obviously starting using LinkedIn as you would a rolodex).

There’s a lot of great information on how to use LinkedIn on the LinkedIn blog – as an example they just posted an article on new enhancements for status updates.

How do you use LinkedIn?  Do you have an offline rolodex?  Can you see the value of just moving it online?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions – post a comment below and tell me what YOU think.

Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach

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