LinkedIn.com, my favorite business networking tool, has just passed one million members. I started using it last November, and was the 4th person in the Provo, UT area. Now there are more than 1,200 members in the Provo area. I am the “most LinkedIn” person in Utah, with 236 connections. But that’s nothing. Thomas Power, from the UK, has 3688 connections. He’s been a full-time business networker for several years.
LinkedIn.com is a business tool that is built upon the “six degrees of separation theory”. It’s a powerful tool for meeting new people, recruiting employees, finding a job, and doing sales or business development.
Here’s how it works:
I list the people that I know and trust. I invite them to join. They invite friends, and so on. Pretty soon there are a lot of us with mutual acquaintances.
What I love most is the search feature.
Suppose I want to find a “web designer” that can help me with my next web project. I search for “UI designer” and sort the results by the degrees of separation.
After seeing the designers that I personally know, I find that there are 3 web designers who are “2 degrees” away from me.
They happen to be:
- Philip G.
- Lee W.
- Adam C.
I can actually see their full name, who they work for, their work history, and most importantly, figure out who can introduce me to them.
I can email 3 people that I know and ask, “how good is this person at web design?” Then, if they really endorse the designer, I can have them introduce me to them.
If I’m not satisfied with these 3, then I can find 29 others who are “3 degrees” away from me. If I want to contact one of these people, I can ask someone I know to forward a request to them. It will go through one other person before it reaches the designer I’m trying to meet.
A lot of people have told me they tried LinkedIn and can’t figure out what it is for, or how they might possibly use it.
For starters, unless you have a number of connections to start with, it’s pretty worthless. The more 1st degree connections you have, the larger your universe of connections will be. The fastest way to get a large network is to upload your Outlook Contacts to the site (no one else can see your list–it’s kept totally private). Then LinkedIn will tell you all the people you know who are already LinkedIn.com members.
Then you need to start doing searches.
Make a list of 10 companies that you want to get to know better. Then search for the companies by name and find out who you know that knows someone at that company.
Next thing you know, you might be having a phone call with the president of that company, having been introduced by a mutual friend that you didn’t know you had.
Like many other free tools, it takes effort to figure out how to benefit from LinkedIn. For me, a serial/parallel entrepreneur who is always trying to grow and expand my network, this one is one of the most valuable tools I have. When LinkedIn starts charging for premium services, I’m sure I’ll be one of their first customers.
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