Like many, I entered the world of LinkedIn a few years ago feeling very wary. It was yet another mode of communication to keep track of, and I was already multi-tasking with my phone, email, texting, Facebook, YouTube – you name it. Because I was wary, I tested the waters very slowly. I didn’t throw myself into learning it as if cramming for a test. What could it do that my Rolodex couldn’t do for me when I’d been building that for years?
Fast forward to today when I understand the value of the platform. I feel a little bit like someone who clung to 8-tracks or listened to TV broadcasts on radio. I know I’m not alone. I believe that many individuals and companies are feeling, or are coming to feel, the exact same way that I do. They’re just discovered they’re running a race, and they’re the turtle when they thought they were the rabbit.
There’s a statistic out there that 80 percent of organizations are using or planning to use LinkedIn as their primary tool for recruiting this year. I think this statistic is telling in that companies are trying to catch this flight. I’m not sure everyone is using LinkedIn or any other social media tool in the way that maximizes its true value. It’s more like a box people are checking so they can say, “Yeah, I did that. I made that call, but no one was home.” And then they never follow up on that lead.
The fact is that some of the most talented communicators are the most social media resistant people. I’ve found they’re usually senior communicators who simply think the best and most effective communications are face-to-face and personal. They’ve perfected this form of communication and their understanding of it’s power had usually made them part of an elite group, winning them commendations, raises, promotions and global responsibilities. (I mean, we know the Gen Yers aren’t resistant to social media, right? They’ve been raised on a steady diet of technology.)
So the senior communicator crowd is often sticking to the mode of communication they’ve perfected. They’re not ready to make room for the idea that there are other better ways to do business under certain circumstances to achieve select results.
Here’s what’s made the difference for me and for other key stakeholders in companies and their employers. If you use the social media tools that are out there for the right things at the right time, then you’ll create more time for more meaningful and effective personal communications in your schedule. That’s good for you, those around you and your employer or company. That’s the beauty of it.
Now, back to my journey. There were some good things for me about being a slow adaptor. Because I didn’t jump in and sort of waded in, I had lots of LinkedIn enthusiasts selling me (and they were selling hard–social media evangelists are hard core) on the network’s benefits, which means I picked up some pretty good tips along the way. Here are some of the insights passed along to me:
- Authenticity transcends mediums. Personality counts. LinkedIn is as personal as you make it. Hello, please and thank you apply in the online networking world, too. If you have a magnetic personality – that will come through online as well. Be authentic because people are looking to connect with people they feel they can trust.
- Don’t expect anything. This is according to Fortune 500 Steven Burda, who has amassed over 30,000 connections on LinkedIn, making him the #1 most connected and #1 most recommended person on the entire LinkedIn site. “You can’t post your profile and think you’ll get a job offer the next day as a VP,” he says. “You’re delusional if you think that. You have to work at it. It’s taken me years to develop my network. I started with a few people I knew and trusted and grew it from there. Networking platforms – they don’t do all of the magic.”
- There’s quality within quantity. This is another gem from Burda: “People will say to me, ‘Do you really need that many people in your network? Are you telling me you have a relationship with all of them?’ ‘Of course not,’ is that answer. But there is a small group of people who I do talk with often. And, for people who contact me asking for help, the breadth of my network is valuable regarding its huge numbers. Plus, for myself, I can say with 99 percent certainty that if I lost my job and sent a message to my connections, within hours I would have several job offers.”
- Have a goal. You need an entry point to make effective and efficient use of your time. If you’re overwhelmed by how to get started, sit down and think about what it is you really want and who’s the best type of contact to help you. Is it really a VP, for instance? Yes, there are plenty of those on LinkedIn, so it’s tempting to shoot right for the top, but they’re likely to be pretty swamped. Maybe look for director level people in a certain function with a certain type of experience in a specific location. Also, the power of LinkedIn isn’t whom you know. It’s whom that person knows. So don’t get stuck in step one, unless you’re goal is to cement relationships you already have.
- Get interested in other people. Burda says the best thing about LinkedIn is the ability it gives you to gather intelligence on a person before you reach out to them. It means never again going into a meeting not knowing something about who you’re meeting with – about their experience and background and, of course, with a quick vibe about their charisma level and what’s going to be important to them. You’re not going to solve complex problems with your connections overnight, but you will have the opportunity to learn and share from as many people as you are able to connect with in a meaningful and mutually beneficial way.