With profiles for over 135 million users and seven million companies, LinkedIn is a rapidly growing social network—adding as many as one new member every second, according to reports from Mashable, and considered the most important network by 60 percent of those tested in a recent social media study. Yet despite this continued growth, to a lot of businesses, the true value of LinkedIn as a corporate-focused social network seems unclear. Amongst popular networking tools like Facebook and Twitter, how does LinkedIn compare? Is it still worthwhile to invest time and resources into? Should your business be active on LinkedIn? And if so, why? What difference could it make?
To answer those questions, we took a look at what some social media thought leaders, various publications and other businesses have had to say about LinkedIn. Consider these opinions:
Perspective #1: LinkedIn Is Loaded with Potential.
“LinkedIn is the de facto online social network for business types. The thing is, lots of people are ‘on there’ but aren’t necessarily using it to the fullest.” Chris Brogan, ChrisBrogan.com
“Despite it being the third largest social network, LinkedIn still seems like that social network in the corner that people forget is there. That’s why having a LinkedIn company page is so crucial. Have your sales team send prospective customers to the page to check out new products and services. Add status updates in a location that few others are doing so. The best thing about LinkedIn is that there’s tons of uncharted territory, especially in the construction industry.” Carrie Ann, Industry Leaders Magazine
“Most people use LinkedIn to ‘get to someone’ in order to make a sale, form a partnership, or get a job. It works well for this because it is an online network of more than 8.5 million experienced professionals from around the world representing 130 industries. However, it is a tool that is under-utilized.” Guy Kawasaki, How to Change the World
Perspective #2: LinkedIn Leads to New Connections & Business.
“Unlike the other social networks, people swarm to LinkedIn for one reason – to connect with others for business-related reasons. They’re looking for future vendors or job prospects or a way to build a resume they can cash in on later. Because the mindset of a typical LinkedIn user is much more focused than, say, that of a Twitter user, LinkedIn is the perfect platform to reach out and connect for business reasons. As a small business owner, you can use LinkedIn to find vendors you can outsource things to, connect with others in your industry you can partner with down the road, and more. People are on LinkedIn with the sole purpose of connecting for business reasons. Take advantage of it.” Lisa Barone, Small Business Trends
“With the dizzying number of social networking sites that have sprung up in recent years, trying to select the most worthwhile for your business can be a daunting task. However, there is one that stands out. Created in 2003, LinkedIn is the ONE social network that you, as an entrepreneur or business owner, should join. The goal for any business person joining LinkedIn is not to add friends and swap stories and pictures, but rather, to make new business connections.” Zeke Camusio, Startup Nation
“[LinkedIn] is actually one of the world’s best networking tools … The real value of LinkedIn is in using it to discover the hidden connections among my network and the rest of the world.” Jennifer Laycock, Search Engine Guide
“Twitter and Facebook are both great places for B-2-C while LinkedIn can be a great way to go if you want to market to consumers and businesses. “Mary Rosenbaum, Fox Small Business Center
“I have seen people build their entire business, market a number of products and services, sell out their paid events, and become thought leaders in their niche all around a single LinkedIn group.” Lewis Howes, LewisHowes.com
Perspective #3: LinkedIn Is a Huge Waste of Time.
“Seven out of 10 journalists investigated in the Newswise study had user profiles on LinkedIn, and 42% of them responded to requests to connect via the social networking site. Among the journalists who replied to the survey, 75% confirmed that they use LinkedIn and gave detailed responses about their attitudes and perceptions of the value of social networking. In spite of this widespread participation, a majority of respondents indicated that the value of LinkedIn was unclear.” Newswise press release
“I’ve been a member of LinkedIn for almost two years now. I dutifully entered my credentials and kept them up to date. The only other interaction I’ve had with the service since then has been a continual stream of link requests. I’m selective about who I approve, limiting it to people I’ve only met in real life. And the net benefit of this selectivity? As far as I can tell, zilch. Nada. Nothing. I did get a cold call from a headhunter once based on my LinkedIn profile, but I don’t consider that a benefit.
Has this service ever been useful to anyone? I’m telling you, LinkedIn is the digital equivalent of a chain letter. If you really want to contact a friend of a friend (of a friend), just pick up the phone or send an email. If the only way you can reach someone is through this nutty online social pyramid scheme, you don’t deserve to be taken seriously. And I can guarantee that you won’t be.” Jeff Atwood, Coding Horror
“Based on all the people who have signed up with LinkedIn, there must be some demand for a professional social network, a place for networking, collaboration, brainstorming, idea-sharing, finding resources, and the like. But if the site is going to simply be a place where professionals get nothing but sales pitches, unsolicited job offers, and a Facebook-esque feed in exchange for their valuable data (and time), they have no reason to stick around.” Ted Samson, InfoWorld
“I’m sorry, I just don’t get it. I’m sure it’s me and I’m just not making the most of LinkedIn, but before I spend any time and energy on a social networking site, I’ve gotta get something back from it, anything! The whole LinkedIn thing seems like a colossal waste of time. Aside from some creepy people from my past, no one of value has reached out to me in over three years of having a profile.” Joshua M. Brown, The Faster Times
“Yesterday a business student interviewed me for his master thesis about the perceived trustworthiness within social networking sites. He wanted to know how I shaped my judgments about people on LinkedIn. His last question blew me away, although is was very simple. ‘How will LinkedIn be evolved in five years?’. I had never really thought about this. After a few minutes, I realized my LinkedIn network will be quite useless then. When we were discussing this devaluation, we both acknowledged it had two main reasons. We’re too friendly, and a lot of people go separate ways.” Ernst-Jan Pfauth, The Next Web
Perspective #4: It’s Not Magic, and It’s Not a Waste of Time. LinkedIn Is All about What You Put into It.
“Part of the reason our LinkedIn metrics are so high [is because of the fact that I am rather active in [a] group I founded and moderated which this weekend hit the 14,000 member mark. Still I think many underestimate the power of actively managing a brand via your network and groups on LinkedIn.” Tom Anderson, Smart Data Collective
“Like any social media tool, LinkedIn is about creating and nurturing relationships so make sure you put out the welcome mat. ‘It’s important to be known for being approachable, visible, and helpful in groups by sharing information, leading discussions, and contributing to the conversation,’ [Barbara] Rozgonyi [of WiredPRWorks] says. To achieve this, make a list of people you want to stay in touch with and follow their updates, leaving comments, and engaging in conversation. When you send your invitations, let people know why you want to connect and thank them for their consideration. And when you accept an invitation, offer to answer questions or exchange ideas about your area of expertise. Ask them a question to get a conversation going, just as you would at a networking event.” Marla Tabaka, Inc. Magazine
“Although LinkedIn has been great for job seekers during the most recent economic cycle, it is much much more than that. Individuals and companies are achieving more professional goals than imaginable on LinkedIn. For example, LinkedIn can help you:
- Sell products
- Find new clients or employees
- Generate leads
- Receive funding for your company
- Obtain sponsorships
- Sell hundreds of tickets to your professional event
- Get national and local press coverage
- And last but not least, drive massive traffic to your blog
Achieving these goals on LinkedIn [doesn’t] come naturally. You’ve gotta work the system on LinkedIn and experiment with different methods.” Lewis Howes, ProBlogger
Among all these opinions, one thing is certain: LinkedIn is a social network with millions of users. Whether or not that fact alone makes it a valuable marketing tool is still uncertain: as these perspectives reveal, the jury’s still out. In the months and years to come, will LinkedIn become more valuable? Less?