Today is my 9-year anniversary* of joining LinkedIn. I was living in Silicon Valley managing sales for a software company when I first heard of LinkedIn. You don’t get much more “early adopter” than that. I signed up on March 14, 2005 as Member Number: 2,174,063**
Here is What I’ve Learned in 9 Years:
1. It’s not just an online resume anymore. While its use for hiring purposes accounts for half of LinkedIn’s revenue, LinkedIn has moved beyond this single purpose. It’s get more like your personal website every day
2. It is ridiculously underutilized. Like many software applications, the average LinkedIn member uses less than 10% of it capabilities. As one of my friends remarked, “I can’t believe you built a business teaching people to use a free web app.” That’s because people realize its value and complexity.
3. There are hundreds of LinkedIn User Interfaces. Part of the complexity comes from the fact there are hundreds of LinkedIn UIs when you consider the combinations of free and 15 Premium versions, operating systems, browsers and mobile platforms. That mean features and screens are not consistent.
4. LinkedIn likes phased feature rollouts. It is good to be cautious, especially in a network of 275M people. Sometimes, it takes a long time. I have taught classes where some people did not have a feature first rolled out seven months prior. It’s can be frustrating because members often do not know the schedule.
5. It’s a powerful tool for finding people. As more members joined and kept their information up-to-date, smart salespeople realize that LinkedIn is an incredible database for finding prospects. Add the unique benefit of being able to leverage your network for introductions and it becomes one of the top ways to initiate a sales dialog.
6. It’s a powerful tool for building your brand. The “other half” of social selling is build your value and attracting potential buyers by sharing content. LinkedIn continues to add features to position people as Subject Matter Experts to their networks.
7. Linked Giveth and LinkedIn Taketh Away. Just as valuable new features appear, sometimes valuable ones disappear, too. R.I.P. to Events, Reading Lists, Signal, Activities, Linkedin Today, …
8. It’s mainstream media now. If Content is King then LinkedIn is the King’s office. It is many people’s top destination for Business news related to their interests. Acquisitions like SlideShare and Pulse along with the LinkedIn Influencers and the new long form Publishing feature for the masses all support this ambition.
9. It’s amazingly well self-policed. For all the horror stories and misuse of other social networks, I have to compliment LinkedIn and its members on maintaining good business etiquette. Sure, I occasionally see posts of discussions that belong on Facebook or other more personal social networks, but, in general, people stick to business.
* Find your “Member since” date in the Settings area
** Your member number shows up in the browser bar URL when you are looking at your own profile.
What’s your LinkedIn Member Number?