So does Linkedin really work?

by Viv Cole on February 15, 2013

I’m often asked the question does Linkedin really help or is it a waste of time? Like most social media it allows us to do things that we do in real life faster, more cheaply, with more reach and more publicly (or with less privacy, if you prefer). The answer I usually give involves a game I used to play as a student.

On wet wintry afternoons in the final year where we should have been doing something more worthy and CV-enhancing, I’d put on a pot of tea and one of my housemates would bring out her photo of everyone in our halls of residence from the first year. We’d pick two people at random and see in how few steps we could make a ‘saliva trail’ between them (a bit like the degrees of Kevin Bacon game  but with snogging as the connector rather than starring in Hollywood films).

Fast forward about ten years and I get introduced to Linkedin. Though I’m sceptical as to whether it’s going to be any use I give it a go. What I start finding interesting is that I get to find out which people I know happen to know each other. It’s a grown-up business version of the hall photo game. It also happens to be a great way of staying in touch as people change jobs and contact details change.

Years pass by and I occasionally log in, noting that there’s a strong correlation between people becoming more active in growing their networks when they’re thinking of changing jobs (partly as a way to finding the inside track and also from the belief that having a profile with 250 connections is going to be much more desirable to a prospective employer than 25). As each 100 connections racks up I feel a small moment of pride – I’ve been suckered by the gamification element of Linkedin; it’s the people in your network and how you relate to them that are so much more important than your score…just a couple of weeks ago I was delighted to find that a friend who I used to play softball with was in fact the brother in law of one of my clients.

I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent (or wasted) on Linkedin. Recently I received a mail to say my profile is in the top 5% most viewed…which was nice, but it’s also more business critical than that. As an independent L&D consultant who has expertise in face to face training, e-learning and happens to be a Chartered Accountant with digital marketing experience, Linkedin allows people who are looking for my skillset to find me. It would be crazily more expensive for me to have the same reach via my company website. As for tangible results, two of my newest clients are decision makers who found me via Linkedin and took it upon themselves to get in touch…

It may take a long time before you see a return on the time that you put into Linkedin – it’s definitely not a linear thing. In the meantime you can have lots of fun along the way…and if you send me a pound each time Linkedin prompts you to say: “it’s a small world”, I’ll raise a glass to you in my early retirement…


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