You've heard the saying that it's not what you know, it's who you know. That's why LinkedIn is both my favorite electronic social medium and the tool I recommend you use first if you haven't yet entered the world of Twitter, Facebook, and related social media. Here are 10 reasons why.
1. Profiles tell a story. I recently met a client for the first time. We had used LinkedIn to connect, so before we saw each other I took the time to read his profile. The client was impressed that I knew about his career history and educational background. LinkedIn helped me create instant credibility and rapport.
2. Bad at remembering names? Pictures are on profiles. Not only did I know the background of my client contact, I easily picked him out of a crowd and flashed a smile to greet him. (Greeting people with a smile is a good practice that many of us neglect.)
3. It's a great way to stay in touch. LinkedIn is my primary form of contact with several clients, one of whom I would have lost touch with because he changed jobs recently. LinkedIn avoids the problem of losing contact when you take a new job because your LinkedIn profile remains.
4. I can make it more personal than my competition. A key to success today is making impersonal social media more personal. Rather than accepting the default LinkedIn invitation that announces "I'd like to add you to my professional network," take the time to write a personal message to every contact. Rather than treating people as notches on your count of contacts, create a personal message that produces a quality start to a meaningful dialogue.
5.You can choose not to link with someone. I get an abundance of requests from recruiters and promoters I don't know. I choose against linking with them and thus avoid getting spammed.
6. It's great at helping you expand your network. If you have not signed on yet, know that the software continually "suggests" people you might know, thus helping you build your list of contacts.
7. It's a way to keep your closest contacts informed. If you are planning an event, have a special pricing offer, or just want to let people know what's happening in your business, LinkedIn offers you a way to deliver a brief message to all your contacts.
8. Groups keep you connected and informed. Group involvement can help you stay up to date. Join the ProSales group on LinkedIn to get instant access and links to the breaking industry stories that matter most.
9. It's a long-term solution. Your future is tied to the people who make decisions today—and, as important, the decision makers of tomorrow. LinkedIn provides a database that supplies you with powerful knowledge about your audience and a constantly growing database of leads.
10. It's free and easy! There are no setup costs. No membership fee is required. All you need to do is log on at www.linkedin.com and let the software lead you through the process. It's scalable (you can start with a single contact), portable (it's online) and there is no software to load onto your computer.
When you're trying to climb the corporate ladder, who you know might be more important than what you know. But when you're trying to build a marketing campaign, think again. It's not who you know; it's who knows you!
Rick Davis is the president of Building Leaders, a training organization devoted exclusively to the sale of building materials. His next book, "The Sales Secret," will soon be available. To order it, go to www.buildingleaders.com, 773.769.4409, or contact Rick at firstname.lastname@example.org.