This week during a board meeting, I was helping a fellow CEO with some business development strategies for her company. During the meeting, she was a little bit surprised how I was constantly using LinkedIn to answer most of the questions that were being debated. I never thought about using LinkedIn that way she said; I know, I was there a few years ago, I thought ;)
Despite its remarkable success, LinkedIn remains the forgotten child in the social network platforms ecosystem. A lot has been written about the influence of Twitter or Facebook in the business world while the real power of LinkedIn remains invisible to most people. Even great companies like BranchOut have attempted to build solid alternatives to LinkedIn leveraging the power of existing social connections.
As most people, I used to only use LinkedIn as an efficient way to keep my professional profile up to date and to maintain a decent professional network. However, everything changed last year when I needed to start doing some heavy business development in areas on which I had no prior exposure to. At that time, I realized that the network I had been building for years was my best allied and I became addicted to LinkedIn.
I use LinkedIn all the time. I am a paying customer and a very happy one. Over the last few years, I’ve built a very interesting network that includes tech executives, technologists of all sorts, customers, venture capitalists, investors, analysts, academics among other types of professional profiles that are related to our business. Not a day goes by on which I don’t leverage that network to accomplish some of the tasks at hand and I devote time every week to expand it and nurture some of those relationships.
My LinkedIn network has become the main mechanism to directly connect with potential customers or partners instead of sending cold emails or making surprising phone calls. You would be surprise how responsive people can be when you are approaching them through a known connection. If you have a decent network, you would also be surprised that you are only a few connections away from almost anyone you are likely to be interested on talking to. As your network grows, you will find that you will be able establish a connection with almost anybody you need to as the degree of proximity to that person is likely to decrease.
In addition to the normal networking routines, I also use LinkedIn to study hiring or growth patterns within specific industry segments, analyze where companies are spending money and identity helpful industry patterns. More importantly, I have daily exchanges in LinkedIn with different people about different business or technology topics that help to keep me sharp and current on different subjects. On a daily basis, I receive a lot of help from my professional network and I try to be helpful as well.
As a startup CEO, I would encourage you to put the time and effort to nurture your LinkedIn network. Yes I know, who has time for that when we are all busy dealing with challenges, building dreams and fighting fears ;) but trust me when I tell you that LinkedIn can make a huge difference in the way you operate your business.