An important milestone was reached by LinkedIn this week as they surpassed 100 Million users with no sign of this swift growth halting. So is it time you were LinkedIn?
In December 2002 Reid Hoffman created a social business service called LinkedIn. It was designed to connect business professionals through social networking. A little over eight years later, over 100 million professionals are using the service to interact, engage, connect and network with colleagues and counterparts in the same industry.
Social Media for Professionals
With exponential growth, people are starting to stand up and take notice of LinkedIn. Whilst it isn’t in the same league as Facebook or Twitter yet, it is catching them up, which shows just how seriously professionals in all fields (not just those with an online tilt) are taking online networking and social media in general.
Yesterday I wrote a blog post regarding social networking and traditional networking for professionals [See: Has Traditional Networking Been Replaced by Social Networking?]. The conclusion focused on utilising both online and offline methods to help increase your visibility and get maximum benefit. Whilst traditional networking is still incredibly important and is arguably the best way to interact with fellow professionals and build connections face-to-face, social media and social networking can supplement traditional networking, making post conference or seminar communication much more effective and efficient.
It is the here and now, and it is the future. If you want to get ahead in business, if you want to make the right noises and get noticed, you have to network. LinkedIn has been able to facilitate this for millions of professionals across the globe. This Infographic from Mashable, perfectly illustrates their success, and provides a little statistical evidence for why so many people choose to use it. Nearly a million teachers are on LinkedIn, with 20% of their users working in the service sector. Other industry’s that are prominent groups of users include the finance sector with 9% of total users and another 9% from the high-tech industry.
Is It Worth It?
Well, this should be answered with a word of caution. Before we all completely lose the ability to communicate face-to-face, we should make sure that we don’t invest too much time, money and effort into this latest social media marketing platform. This is for a number of reasons, but mainly it boils down to 2 worries that I have.
Face-to-face communication – As mentioned previously, it is still fundamental to networking, and social media marketing platforms should be used to facilitate meetings and opportunities, not as a sole way of conducting business.
Time – Having a LinkedIn profile for any business or employee is important. Users should be encouraged to add and engage, just like with other social media platforms. However depending on how much time you have, and your resources, LinkedIn should be used to supplement alternative networking efforts.
As mentioned in a previous blog post [see: Social Media Marketing: Is It Worth It?], when it comes to social media marketing we might need to be reined in ever so slightly. For brands and retailers, the use of Facebook and Twitter offers unparalleled brand exposure, however it does not always guarantee clicks and sales. In this case, they should stick to traditional marketing strategies. In a similar way, LinkedIn on its own doesn’t actually guarantee effective networking, traditional methods should also be deployed.
This final note shouldn’t deter anyone from joining a professional social media platform such as LinkedIn. You should be LinkedIn; as the name suggest, if you’re not, then you’re probably missing out on a lot of industry related knowledge. It is a fantastic way for industry related professionals to engage and interact, and with their recently announced Headlines service, it’s also a great way to learn more about your industry from the people within your industry.
Are you LinkedIn? You should be, but don’t solely rely on this platform. Use tried and tested networking and businesses strategies in addition to LinkedIn, and it’ll pay dividends. To get started and for some tips on optimising your account you may also want to read Andrew’s recent post How to Use LinkedIn to Help My Business.