By Nipa Shah
May 6, 2010
If you are like me, you get a few requests a week from someone who wants to “link” with you on LinkedIn. Most people send generic “please link with me” messages and others send personalized messages that make you want to at least check out their profile.
So what do you do? Do you accept all requests? Do you ignore some and accept others? Or do you basically throw your hands up in the air and say, “I don’t know what all these requests mean, people LEAVE me alone!” and delete all such requests?
Ok, let me tell you what I do. I accept some, and ignore others. I also try to do some due diligence to see if the person requesting a connection is someone I want to connect with before I connect with them. I find that as a business owner, I use LinkedIn much differently than I did when I used to be a working professional at General Motors (and that’s another story for another day).
So how is LinkedIn used for business and what are the pros and cons to keep in mind?
First, keep in mind that LinkedIn is just another tool to help you. For a business owner, it’s a great tool for conducting background research on a company that you may wish to approach for to sell your company’s products or services. You can request connections through your immediate network to others who you wish to approach. You can use LinkedIn’s “Answers” section as a tool to brainstorm ideas, seek feedback on an idea, product, or cause, or simply use it to network with others who are similarly requesting feedback or soliciting answers to their own predicaments.
LinkedIn’s robust search allows you to find people who may be seeking a new job if you are looking to hire people. You can also use LinkedIn to find companies who offer complementary products or services to create a mutually beneficial alliance. LinkedIn is by far one the best networking site for “professional networking” globally. As of February 2010, LinkedIn has over 60 million registered users globally.
When reviewing any site, we want to know what the benefits are for using it, so here are the top five pros of using LinkedIn for business:
-¢ Extremely rich in content; from company details to detailed individual backgrounds.
-¢ Offers business owners the ability to research company information without spending a dime.
-¢ Allows establishing credibility with prospects and customers by including testimonials and other data that makes the business look good.
-¢ Provides global access to small and large company contacts.
-¢ Provides interactivity with other users through the “Answers” section.
However, no Web site tool is 100 percent perfect and so I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the top five cons of using LinkedIn for business:
-¢ Of late, a lot of the users are sales people of companies from offshore countries who bombard us with “Link with me” requests that are purely “sales” pitches (which can turn us all off because social networking is not for selling, but for networking).
-¢ Requires us to be at the mercy of our connections if we use the “free” version. What I mean by this is that if I am connected with “John” and I see that “John” is connected with “Sue” but she not connected to me, I have to rely on “John” to introduce me to “Sue” and that may either take days or never happen because “John” may not wish to do the introduction. (There are many ways to eliminate the dependency, one is by buying a paid subscription.)
-¢ LinkedIn paid subscription is quite expensive and may not be affordable to small business owners (especially when that information is more readily available on other social networks if you know how to search for it).
-¢ Other than the “Answers” section, LinkedIn provides limited interactivity when compared to other social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
-¢ LinkedIn’s “request to be linked” process is cumbersome and not as real-time as a connection request on a Facebook Fan page or on Twitter.
All in all, I feel that as a business owner, LinkedIn is a good tool to improve the business development and sales outreach process. For all other uses, business owners should look at Facebook and Twitter because that’s where a lot of “networking” is happening.
Nipa Shah is president of Jenesys Group, LLC, based in Novi, Mich. and also with international operations. Jenesys Group, LLC is certified as a Woman Business Enterprise (WBE) and also has Minority certification through the MMBDC. Reach Nipa at [email protected].