Social media has become critical for companies looking to capture market share so the need to be active on LinkedIn and other networks has never been greater.
Without a doubt business social networking has come of age, even in the business-to-government market. For business networking, LinkedIn is by far the preferred venue.
While the majority of government contractors seem to have some presence on LinkedIn, only a small percentage seem to be leveraging it as well as they should, especially given the interesting times we find ourselves in:
- Radically reduced budgets
- Travel restrictions for all feds
- Restrictions on feds attending events
- LPTA, FSSI and other procurement ‘innovations’
Given the problems with travel and events, the role of social networking will grow more rapidly.
So, why aren’t more companies being more aggressive when it comes to social media, especially LinkedIn?
I believe this is an executive suite issue, and I think it involves fear of the unknown, or fear of the partially known. It certainly involves fear of that which remains misunderstood.
Probably the biggest issue is LinkedIn’s reputation for being a job hunting network. While this can be true, it is by far not the main reason most professionals use LinkedIn. It was probably a more accurate statement a five and more years ago. There is also a fear of misrepresenting a company, which is certainly legitimate if employees are untrained or improperly trained on social networking.
Let‘s start with a little background and a few facts and stats.
First, LinkedIn is older than Facebook. LinkedIn was launched in May 2003; Facebook in early February 2004. While many think of LinkedIn as Facebook for business, I think of Facebook as LinkedIn for everyone else.
Second, LinkedIn is all business all the time. While there are some who try to engage in other activities, they are an extremely small minority and generally unsuccessful.
Some statistics might help, so here are a few that might whet the appetite:
- LinkedIn has over 205,000,000 members - all business professionals, and this number is growing
- There are over 1,634,775 groups for all manner of business activities (also growing)
- 2,914,311companies have profiles (as of 1:58 PM, 3/31/13; also growing)
- In 2012 there were 160 million unique visitors to LinkedIn every month (also growing)
- In 2012, over 5.7 billion searches were conducted inside LinkedIn (also growing)
- The Fortune 500 are all here
- Washington Technology’s Top 100 are all here
- Federal managers are here in force, and all federal agencies are represented.
LinkedIn’s tipping point arrived somewhere between late 2010 and mid-2011. In September, 2010, LinkedIn hit the 90 million member mark. By mid-2011 this number had grown to over 130 million, a 40 percent growth spurt in about 8 months. A Market Connections Social Media research study in 2011 indicated that LinkedIn was the fastest growing social network for feds and contractors. By September 2011 LinkedIn had over 1 million groups.
Through the groups and the company (this includes government agencies) profiles, LinkedIn offers a way for professionals to identify and reach out to both other contractors and key players inside government agencies. This platform allows you to build a network comprised of those you can partner with and those interested in using your products and/or services.
A Forrester study commissioned by LinkedIn last year shows the top reasons decisions makers turn to social networks for business"
- Learn from trusted peers - 58 percent
- Quickly find information - 40 percent
- Relevant context to connect with vendors - 37 percent
- Access to a broader network -- 49 percent
Another fact that has shown up in numerous studies over the last year is that companies that are active in social networks are growing much faster than those with less or no activity. In short, laggards are losing marketshare.
What does this mean for CEOs and other business owners leery about LinkedIn? Traction for business can and does occur on this platform, traction in the form of
Prospecting for new business
Defining and defending a niche competitive advantage
Exponentially expanding your network
Getting on and staying on the radar of influencers in your market niche
And much more.
With market conditions getting worse, it is past time to get over your reticence regarding social networking.
For those on LinkedIn in a minimal way, a profile is not a presence. For those reluctant to allow employees to use LinkedIn, understand that those without a robust social networking presence will lose marketshare in direct proportion to their social networking inactivity.