Today's guest post is by Kurt Shaver, founder of The Sales Foundry. This post appeared originally on The Sales Foundry blog and is used here with permission.
In March I celebrated my nine-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 nine years:
1. It’s no longer just an online résumé. While its use for hiring purposes accounts for half of LinkedIn’s revenue, LinkedIn has moved beyond this single purpose. Every day it’s getting to be more like users’ personal Website.
2. It is ridiculously underutilized. Like many software applications, the average LinkedIn member uses less than 10 percent 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 (UIs). Part of the complexity comes from the fact that 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 275 million people. I have taught classes in which some people did not have a feature first rolled out seven months prior. It 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 realized 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 dialogue.
6. It’s a powerful tool for building your brand. The other half of social selling is building your value and attracting potential buyers by sharing content. LinkedIn continues to add features to position people as subject matter experts.
7. LinkedIn 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 discussions that belong on Facebook or other more personal social networks, but, in general, people stick to business.
* Find your “Member since” date in Settings.
** Your member number shows in the browser bar URL when you are looking at your own profile.
What’s your LinkedIn member number? Please share your experience with LinkedIn in the comments.