I love sifting through my LinkedIn account. There's so much rich data in the system, and so much to learn, that a casual glance at a profile leads me to hours of contacts and websites.
It helps that I'm a social media headhunter, but it's not just the search. For every business I work with, LinkedIn remains my go-to application. There's always something I can do to show off to a prospect that they hadn't thought of, or can't do with their own accounts.
If this sounds a bit like a love song, it's because I've had a lot of occasion to be on LinkedIn in the last week, and even though the changes are frustrating to some recruiters, there really isn't anything like it out there. A business database that is updated by the contacts. It allows you to contact them. The expectations are that you are supposed to do business with others on the site. And most important, all that is needed is the curiosity to explore.
How do you use it?
1) Identify companies to sell your products, hire you, or hire from.
2) Learn market terminology from titles to jargon.
3) Understand career paths from those who have gone before you, to better understand what led to their current titles.
4) Find out what technologies partners and competitors are using, and how long they've been using them.
5) Find out what alumni of your school are doing, or find out what alumni of the school you want to attend are doing.
6) Find out if that MBA or Law Degree is worth it, by looking at profiles of recent graduates.
7) Use LinkedIn as a springboard to research a company and its microsites.
8) Find out when people leave jobs or start new ones, and where a company hires most, both geographically and from what companies.
9) Research a company to see if they're really engaged in social media, or if they are just posting a profile because others told them to.
10) Find out who is looking at your profile, and reach out to them to see if they're looking to hire.
All of these are free services that can be used with just a little creativity and a healthy dose of curiousity. All of these are actually enjoyable for researchers. And if you dig long enough, no matter what you are looking for, you always find something that will be useful to you, from a remembered name to a lost contact to a company you should have known was there, but was not.
And don't forget serendipity. Two weeks ago, I was giving an Advanced LinkedIn Webinar. A friend of mine from college was asked to view it with the HR manager. Imagine his surprise when he sees my name and hears my voice! We just had a great dinner with his family, reconnecting after what must have been 7 years.
There's some good science behind why this occurs. What matters to you is that you get curious about these social networks, and do some of your old exploring. It may take patience, but do you think finding gold was easy? You know it's there. You just have to find it. That's how LinkedIn is today. I can't swear to it five years from now, but it's been a major contributor to my success, more than Facebook, more than Twitter. Heck, more than blogs, if you want to tie a dollar figure to it.
Get curious. Get a pan. Head down to the LinkedIn River and figure out what you're missing.
Jason Alba reports on a feature that changed in LinkedIn. Endorsers, the people who leave recommendations on your profile, don't always show up, which means that if you're not using a paid account, you won't be able to recruit endorsers in a broad search.
Last month, I noticed a another new change that affects your recruiting. Being part of a Group no longer allows you to invite someone to connect. This is a real hassle for recruiters using the free service, because Groups allowed you to do open networking in a specialty. You can still connect if you have the email address or if you lie and say you worked with the person (not a good idea if you want to keep your account long), but the ability to create new connections is being restricted for free accounts.
Most people won't notice it, and over time, new work-arounds will be found, but if say you're about to do training on LinkedIn on Thursday, it helps to be current on what is changing.
I've been teaching LinkedIn to recruiters for five years now. I've made good money, and helped a lot of people. And most important to me, the training I gave people years ago is still mostly effective today. That's not easy to do, but it's because I don't teach tactics, I teach strategy. This means that minor changes in the user interface and functionality present annoyances to recruiters who are used to gaming the system, but for those who approach LinkedIn with an open mind, those changes don't hamper your ability to recruit.
Think of it like this. LinkedIn is a tool in a system. That system is your recruiting process. Many people think of LinkedIn as a system unto itself, but your control of that system is minimal. Your control of the recruiting process is total. This means your company is looking at LinkedIn and trying to fit it into their hiring process. If you overbuild your process to work with LinkedIn as it exists today, you'll have to redo the process tomorrow.
If you underbuild your process, you're not getting the full value for your time, and you may lack the experience to adapt to changes in the future. It's quite the conundrum.
Let's make a hard stop here and switch direction. A "hardened silo" refers to the Coldwar Strategy of building missle siloes underground and protecting them from nuclear blast. The idea was to build them so well, nothing but a direct hit would prevent them from being damaged. It was a great idea when missles weren't that accurate, but today's GPS systems are so sophisticated, there is no concern about hitting the target. The money spent on hardening the silos was great at the time, but it led to new technologies that ultimately severely degrade your attempted hardening.
This is LinkedIn as most people see it today. Heck, this is social media strategy as most people see it today, from "Best Practices" to "How-to" videos that can be out-of-date a few days after you release them. There is a lot of value in this approach, but there can be a lot of cost. While training your people to use LinkedIn can save you hundreds of thousands (or make it for you on the outside), that training is only good for a short period of time. You have to extract the value out of it immediately, because that value drops every day.
The flexible strategy is similar to the Cold War practice of using nuclear submarines. They represent a training of people to deal with contingencies, rather than facts on the ground. A nuclear submarine captain (41 for Freedom!) had to be prepared to react to bad data, from lack of direct authorization to making their own judgements about what happened if they fired the missles. They were trained to think and given the authority to act. While recruiters aren't pushing shiny red buttons, the mental model is the same. Training for adaptation means giving up control, a fact that makes a lot of managers uncomfortable (and sometimes with good reason).
Of course, this means that the third leg of the Nuclear Triad would have to be job boards. Archaic dinosaurs and sleek new stealth machines that look cool, and given free rein, can rain down job postings an unsuspecting populace.
Strategy in social media isn't just about picking tools and "Listening." It starts with a decision of how you're going to employ your resources, and what level of control you're willing to give up to achieve supremacy. Also, LinkedIn is making big changes, and you need to be prepped for that.
One of the "outs" we give ourselves in social media is the complaint that so much is new, it's impossible to keep up.
Is it really? Is it social media that is moving fast, or is that just something we use to explain away why we can't give concrete results as quickly as others want.
It's a sop to our ego. It's an excuse. Social media is often referred to as common sense, but if that's the case, than what about common sense is changing so fast? For most of us, there's no difference in the real world between the speed of social media and the speed of any other discipline. From doctors to customer service to physicists, the pace of change has little to do with the companies that rise and fall, and much more to do with our recognition of what we've been avoiding for years.
Do yourself a favor and watch the whole thing, and keep it in mind the next time someone says, Social Media is moving too fast. They don't mean it. They mean, "we're going to be making some huge mistakes and our predictions could be way off, but don't blame us because we're cutting edge."
I'm a big fan of social media as a tool to measure and alter customer behavior. While numbers can be gamed (You'd be surprised how much $50 would buy you in fake traffic), there is a value in building a fan base in social media because of what it tells you. Sometimes, adding numbers is useful because of what you learn.
It starts with this: What makes someone click Like?
Let's say I have an email list of 10,000 customers. I send out an email asking them to like my new Facebook page. My fan base goes from 115 to 2200 in a week. Is that a good thing? What can I learn from it?
Many people would say that the number of fans doesn't matter because 98% of those people liking the page will never go back to it. But I'm not counting the increase in fans. I'm counting a response rate in my email list. Boosting your fan base from 115 to 2200 based solely on an email is phenomenal, because it tells you huge numbers of your email list are responsive and are on Facebook. It also tells you they like you enough to do what you say and click "Like."
Experiencing a jump in Facebook fans from email, or from putting a sticker on the door of your restaurant, or in having your managers go around tables and asking people to do so, is a very valuable data point. It's not cheating, it's understanding what you're capable of doing with the resources at your disposal. In these cases, the traffic, while it may be of little consequence, gives you clues about your information networks that are very valuable.
That example was a little too easy. How about we go after one that gets laughed at?
It's not supposed to be kosher to run contests giving away things to get Facebook fans. Asking someone to Like a page for a contest doesn't measure value. But what happens after the contest is over? If you go from 1000 likes to 1,000,000 likes because of a contest, that's a PR win, but the agency doing so didn't really help you, right? We can all agree to that (while secretly being jealous that the agency is going to use that as a case study).
So what happens, when that 1,000,000 turns to 2,500,000 likes in the next year, without a contest? If it's all nonsense, what is happening that you can see a result like that? Clearly, having a large number of likes led other people to click like - simply out of the peer pressure of wanting to be like others. Can we learn something from this?
I'll leave that for you to ponder (and if you still say no, you can get off my damn page right now), but numbers mean things, and any time you can create activity online, you can learn something about your audience.
In the argument about social media expertise, maybe we ought to be asking ourselves what social media teaches us, rather than about what we can do with it.
Simon Salt, a specialist in location based marketing and good guy, points out that people measuring Social Media ROI tend not to understand it's a financial device.
"Let’s clarify here, while I do not deny that there are returns to be made from making an investment in social media, social media ROI does not exist in the terms that it is usually couched in. ROI or Return on Investment is a financial term, usually defined in the following way:"
Simon identifies a real problem, which is misuse of terms, but these types of measurements aren't difficult to come by. In fact, I find Simon's title to be innaccurate, even though his reasoning is sound.
Here's the Title: Why There Is No Social Media ROI
Here's my response.
Seth Godin is no douchebag, but he gets the fundamental disconnect between selling and marketing. In an another post, I lamented the idea that selling at SXSW was like, so uncool.
People who market at SXSW are douchebags. There was even a whole panel devoted to it. Being a douchebag covers all manners of sin, including looking at someone's badge to see where they work, spending too much as a company instead of participating in engagement, and even trying to get into a cool party or checking in too much on Foursquare. Also, don't introduce yourself to people you don't know. That whole meeting turning online contacts into real world contacts? That's out of line, buddy!
Seth pitches it differently, in that it's the difference between inviting and selling.
If I invite you to a wedding, or a party, or to buy a $500,000 TV ad for $500, there's no resistance on your part. Either you jump at the chance and say yes, or you have a conflict and say no. It's not my job to help you overcome your fear of commitment, to help you see the ultimate value and most of all, to work with you as you persuade yourself and others to do something that might just work.
He ends with this comment, which is very important to social media marketers.
But please... don't insist that the hard work be removed from your job to allow you to become an inviter. That's great work if you can get it, but it's not a career.
This is the fundamental disconnect most social media consultants have in generating results. They've never had to sell, or alter internal habits, or cut costs using their tools, so they mistake social activity with business activity. This is one of the primary reasons I pound the drum on not hiring people with little business experience to do your social media. If they don't understand how things get done, how can they understand social media's impact on how things get done? That's why metrics can seem hard in social media - they're not tasked to what you're paid to do.
But wait, there's more. Someone I met at SXSW, and with whom I now carry on a Twitter conversation, gave me a fantastic idea for how to look at social media, that solves the essential problem of how to measure social media. Felix Wetzel called social media a "preference layer." And in doing so, he opened up a new way of speaking about it without inducing a gag reflex.
Look at it as a layer.
Think of social media marketing as, well, marketing.
Think of social media selling, as, selling.
Think of social media customer service, as..okay, you get the picture. If we treat social media as a layer on top of other skills and departments, it loses its mystique, and also the negative connotations beginning to develop around the practice. We can stop some of the silly squabbles, like, don't sell with social media, if we agree social selling is different than social PR is different than social branding. Social selling is about selling. Social recruiting is not.
If we can narrow our focus to what someone as an individual is trying to do (get hired, increase mindshare of a product, selling tshirts through Twitter), then social becomes a tool to be discussed, tested, and then applied, and not a "new way of thinking."
Is Social a new way of thinking? Yes and No, but of more importance is that you can't get there, until you first walk through our current systems and connect social to their goals. More to come, with visual displays and pretty graphs.
A couple of posts by industry stalwarts dovetail nicely into the recognition that social business is hard, because it seeks to change the modern corporation.
When swept away by numbers like 600 million Facebook users and the belief that social media really does change everything, it's easy to adopt an attitude that change is inevitable. Change may very well be inevitable, but the timeline for it doing so might not fit into your persoal goals.
First, the two articles.
Tac Anderson, who has twice now led me into new thoughts with his posts, asks how social can be scalable when it involves human interaction. It's very nature demands a team of people rather than one invidividual.
1-2 years ago social media strategy was one of many jobs the social media strategist had to do (even though it was the job title we preferred). Today most of you are doing social media almost exclusively and several of you may be a part of a team running social media.
If you’re the lone social media strategist who also does some other marketing or if you’re running a small team of people you are likely feeling the strain of scale.
Yes scaling the results of your social media efforts is challenging but I’m talking about the challenges of scaling the strategists themselves.
This is an interesting post on its own, as it suggest building a hub to help you, rather than trying to change the business yourself. This, of course, is much harder, as companies looking to get into social media aren't ready to launch pilot programs with multiple headcount, especially as they don't know quite where to locate the program (what title, who do they report to?). What Tac suggests, though I believe is it correct, is much harder than hiring one person or tasking a current employee to run social (not to mention that everyone thinks they can do social, so there's always infighting).
So to clarify why it is as it is, you turn to Amber Naslund, and her stages of social media grief.
The people stewarding this change are often right in the thick of these phases, and experiencing these emotions throughout. It’s unpopular sometimes to talk about emotion in context of business, but the reality is that change is emotional. It challenges people’s assumptions, understanding, ego, comfort and familiarity, and tangible experiences. All of those things bring up emotional context that, in turn, affect the processes we build and the decisions we make.
In context of someone like a social strategist or someone engaged in shifting the culture and design of a business, it’s important to not only recognize the stages and their characteristics, but their role in helping guide the organization from one phase to the next, and shorten the time from denial to acceptance. If you can identify where you, your clients, or your organization sit now, it’s easier to plan for what might be coming next
The two identify the main problem with social business. It's not hard to figure out, but it's very, very hard to do. It's hard because it's a grind. It's hard because you get tired of doing work constantly while questioned about what you're doing. It's hard because you're afraid it doesn't matter. You get Social Fatigue.
Now Craig and I have our own ideas about how to manage the problem of how to hire staff in social media, but it's important to state the problem is the same. The common goal is socializing a business so it can catch up to its customers. Pretending a Facebook page or Twitter contest will bring business is a bit like pretending an employee handbook will teach salespeople how to increase their margins.
So is social business scalable? Of course it is. The scale, is not the social media department. It's your entire organization, and the system that supports it from vendors to customers. That's what we should be working towards. Training groups of people inside the company, and like a virus, spreading the gospel of connection and communication through the company until we're all smarter, faster, and more responsive to a fast moving world.
A question on Quora follows the track of influence, asking what exactly makes someone super influential on Twitter. Most of the responders wrote in the now familiar "social media" tone about influence not being about numbers, and how it's about real world connection and not just rankings and numbers.
I vehemently disagree. Failing to understand the power of the network effect is the single biggest mistake social media professionals make in discussing what social media is capable of. While numbers don't always lead to influence, or the actions we may we want, sheer numbers of followers is a very useful tool, especially on Twitter. Here's one of the examples I use when speaking on social networks:
You're in a room with a hundred people, and you have a microphone and a spotlight that follows you around, and no one else does. You can ask simple questions, and get answers that no one else can get, simply by virtue of the fact that you have the microphone and the spotlight.
Say I ask for a volunteer looking for a job. I know nothing about the person, but if I have the microphone, I can put the spotlight on that one person and direct the attention of the room to him. I can't vouch for him. I can't refer him with confidence. But I can point him out. That has value.
Suppose a former manager across the room knows the unemployed guy and is able to vouch for him, but they didn't know he was looking. My focus on the unemployed guy leads the guy across the room to stand up. I go over to him, and let the former manager vouch out loud to the group.
A woman up front is looking for a hire. She does not know the former manager, but knows the company he works for. His strong referral leads her to contact the unemployed person and arrange an interview.
I knew no one there. I knew nothing of any of three. I merely had a microphone and the attention of the room. And through that, I was highly influential.
And now, by the way, I have a room of 100 people who think I'm influential, who like me because I helped out others, and they are more likely to refer me and my services, even though I didn't actually have influence when I started.
By the way, that's a lot more impressive to do in person, than to read about. Get a large enough crowd and you can demonstrate it live.
What I just described happens on Twitter all of the time. The reach of large numbers of followers leads to a greater chance that the people you can reach will have the answers others in that network need. Doing so on Twitter means you can connect people quickly and with little effort, even if you have never used the account for such purposes.
If you were starting a new account, which would you rather have, 100,000 Twitter followers, or 6? Don't tell me you'd go with 6 if they were Jason Falls, Jeremiah Owyang and Brian Solis and Charlene Li and Charlie Sheen and Seth Godin. One, that ain't happening, and two, those people follow a lot of folks too, which means your message can be washed out. But with 100,000 followers, the network effect is so big, you can mold those followers into an online army of mutual benefit, especially if you start helping people in your network.
The problem we often run into in social media is trying to degrade the notion that bigger is better, despite the fact that all of us can appreciate those who have built large followings. That's a throwback the original blogger ethos, which suggested that trying to make money online was immoral (and foolish). That's just not true anymore. I'm not sure it ever was. Back in the olden days, affiliate marketers made billions of dollars gathering giant lists of our emails, many of which were bad emails, or for people that would never buy a product. And yet, those large lists allowed the affiliate marketers to play in the big leagues with major brands, ultimately getting their hands on better lists, and making even more money.
Even a bad list, if large enough, can turn into a good list if it's used properly. A small list, no matter how filled with experts, still has a more limited range. Like it or not, we don't get to work in the perfect world dreamt of by social consultants. Stating that an engaged, perfect audience made up of only interested buyers is an ideal marketing solution is a bit like saying San Diego has nice weather. Most of us don't live in San Diego, and never will.
Big matters. Bigger matters more. In our mad rush to declare social the new way to market, let's not lose sight of the, uh, bigger picture - which is that having a large network allows us access to more information and more connection than a smaller one.
Don't tell me numbers don't matter. You can say it feels icky, and you can say you're envious, and you can work to improve the content and quality. Just don't lie to yourself that getting more followers isn't a foundation for pushing the bounds of social media. It makes me think you're selling something, badly.