I’ve been a member of LinkedIn since 2006, and when I first started I was fairly active in a handful of discussion groups. As my interests changed and my writing moved from short-form to long-form, I didn’t change my groups or update my connections. The strategy then was to establish yourself as an expert in a particular field by actively participating in a group not only by commenting but also responding to requests for information.
When the recession hit in 2008 and my freelance writing jobs dried up, I backed off my magazine writing because it didn’t pay. Writers with more current credentials and connections still had difficulty finding assignments, and aside from the major national markets most editors didn’t pay a living wage. In the local market, most expected you to write simply for a byline. So I let LinkedIn lie fallow the same way I did my web site and Google Adwords. There was no point in getting a higher page ranking if it didn’t produce any income.
At the Independent Communicators Alliance ICA-Triangle monthly meeting last night William Blackmon, social media consultant and LinkedIn consultant, Apogee Social Media Group re-awakened my interest in LinkedIn LinkedIn through his excellent presentation. Rather than focusing on establishing his expertise, he has focused on building online and personal relationships. He has focused on the local Triangle market and has built 5,000 connections (compared with my 60). I asked how he manages to maintain meaningful contacts with that many people, and obviously he devotes a lot of time to it. I also learned that LinkedIn allows you to add private notes on each connection, such as when and where you met and other personal information. You also can prioritize your connections so that you aren’t blinded with a daily onslaught of meaningless information. In other words, he has built a very sophisticated online Roledex.
LinkedIn has grown a lot in sophistication as well as numbers so it is more useful not only in content but also in the options it provides. He focused on the mechanics of LinkedIn rather than on strategies, and that was helpful because he explained a lot of tricks I didn’t know about. I think the most important thing I learned was that the eight groups I belong to no longer serve my needs and that I should consider researching different groups and follow different companies. He has found a lot of serendipity in being open and responding to requests for connections because you never know when or how they may be useful.
It’s not a question of the numbers game of getting the most connections but in maintaining those connections. To me the unresolved question was whether the time required to do that pays off in results. Obviously it has for him, but then he also does a lot of public presentations that also builds connections. He has a much broader base of potential clients than I have, and my problem has been a basic marketing issue of defining my niche market and then discovering the best way to reach them. In the old days that used to be going to writers’ conferences and not only meeting other writers but also editors. That is still an option, but one that is limited because of the time and expense.