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How I Was Wrong About LinkedIn (with 2 Mini Case Studies)

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I've always considered LinkedIn more of a place to prospect for a job than anything else. And since I haven’t been in the market for one in a while, I've paid it little mind.

Plus, if I'm being honest: I've always thought LinkedIn was kind of … well, boring. If Facebook was a rave at a cool downtown hot spot, LinkedIn was a stuffy reception with piped-in music at one of those cookie-cutter function facilities conveniently located at the end of an exit ramp.

Does that sound harsh? Perhaps.

But now I've realized that I couldn't have been more wrong.

LinkedIn, it turns out, is a happening place: It has more than 60 million members in over 200 countries, in all 7 continents. Execs from all Fortune 500 companies are there. And 81% of business-to-business marketers use LinkedIn. All this is from our latest case study collection, LinkedIn Success Stories: How 11 companies are using the global networking site to achieve their business and marketing goals.

In the collection, our own Kim Smith details LinkedIn’s slew of new features and recent applications, and gives an insider’s view of how those tools are being used by 11 organizations in four distinct ways:



  1. market research,


  2. demonstrate thought leadership and expertise,


  3. attract users to events, and


  4. win new business.


Like how, specifically? Check out these two mini case studies excerpted from the report.

Market Research. Penman Public Relations, headquartered in Austin, TX, used LinkedIn to research a client’s planned launch of a high-end gaming system.

Approach: Penman found that connecting with potential product users individually through LinkedIn offered more straightforward feedback and less “groupthink” that focus groups often deliver. To research the launch by Hardcore Computer, Penman posted short discussion posts at certain groups they were already active in (as well as solicited individual contacts), requesting a shout from those willing to provide feedback on PC gaming computer features and their advantages.

Those who responded received a more detailed message thanking them and then asked about specific user expectations for a factory-built gaming system in the $3,000+ range, as well as for one that might cost $5,000 or more.

Result: CEO Patti D. Hill said she received several hundred responses, many from people who were neither in her contact base nor members of the groups Penman targeted. Instead, they’d been forwarded her query. “This speaks to the passion of this audience, but also to the willingness of people to provide information and contribute even when they’re not directly connected,” Hill said.

By the way, one of my favorite quotes in the case study collection is from Hill, who says she likes the enduring aspect LinkedIn. “Twitter is real time, and you’re a blip on the screen,” she says. “LinkedIn waits for us. Like email, it’s there when you want it.”

Bottom line: The approach worked to not only gather insight for the new product launch, it also attracted additional traffic to the Hardcore Computer website and generated great visibility among gamers and developers for both Penman and its client.

Biz Dev. Closer to my neck of the woods, Boston’s PJA, an advertising and marketing agency, told Kim how they successfully mined LinkedIn for new business. After using LinkedIn to fill key positions within the agency, PJA VP Greg Straface decided to test how effective the network might be for new business outreach.

Approach: Investing an hour a day, Straface focused on three main activities:


Targeted searches for such keywords as “VP of marketing,” specific ZIP codes and company names, to identify key contacts to call, InMail, email, or forward the agency’s portfolio.

Tracking who was looking at his profile and those of other PJA staff, as featured on each user’s homepage. He then researched those companies in more depth, identified their marketing directors and sent out the agency portfolio by FedEx to land on their desks the next day (and again following up with a phone call, email, or InMail).

Participating in LinkedIn groups catering to CMOs to build conversations with relevant individuals. He monitored each group’s discussion posts until he thoughtfully with content, rather than a pitch. As always, the key is to engage, don’t sell.

Result: Actual business: Inquiries, agency pitches, and new accounts, including Guidewire and Chase.

Bottom line: “By using LinkedIn actively in this way, it has become a very productive channel with huge financial return,” Straface says.

* * * * *

So those are two stories that showed me how, while I wasn't looking, LinkedIn has amped up to a full-blown party—one you don't want to miss.

My bad.

Your turn: How are you using LinkedIn?

In case you missed it, LinkedIn’s Community Manager Mario Sundar last week gave MarketingProfs Pro members a tour of LinkedIn’s existing and new features. It’s a great primer on using LinkedIn, if you haven’t begun to take advantage of the goodness there.


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Ann Handley is chief content officer of MarketingProfs, a monthly contributor to Entrepreneur magazine, and co-author of the best-selling book on content marketing, Content Rules (Wiley, 2012), which has been translated into nine languages, including Turkish, Chinese, Korean, Italian, and Portuguese. Ann co-founded ClickZ.com, one of the first sources of interactive marketing news and commentary.

Twitter: @MarketingProfs
Email: ann@MarketingProfs.com.

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  • by Jasmine Thu Mar 4, 2010 via blog

    Interesting. I thought the same thing BEFORE I joined some of the groups within LinkedIn. It was only after being privy to internal group conversations that I realized that LinkedIn wasn't just for the "suits" and could be used to gather opinions and facts on emerging technologies, trends, social media and many other topics. It's been a great place for me to actually "hear" what other users are doing or not doing and what THEIR clients are and ar enot doing, even if I decide not to actively participate in the conversations.

  • by Kat Gordon Thu Mar 4, 2010 via blog

    Great post, Ann. At a recent conference, LinkedIn was referred to as the "dark horse" of social media. One feature I take advantage of is the blog link. My blog gets ported over, so everyone in my network can see and read it. It's a great way to get more eyeballs on your postings.

  • by David Wit Thu Mar 4, 2010 via blog

    Linkedin vs Facebook is like reading a hot business book vs reading a beach novel. I do them both for different reasons and like to keep them separate. It is great to keep track of people as they jump jobs.

  • by Michael King Thu Mar 4, 2010 via blog

    Great post! I have found the Groups on LinkedIn very useful as well. When I am working on a client project and I come to a crossroads at times I will place my question or situation in the proper group discussion forum and get a great deal of advise in how to move forward. I find it very helpful.

  • by CCDP Certification Training Fri Mar 5, 2010 via blog

    If your future objective is to put steps into Information Technology or you already have started your career in IT field, in either case it’s important for you to get some IT certification. IT certification enable you to represent yourself in front of you future or current employer as a competent candidate whose technical knowhow has been acknowledge by a reliable.

  • by Elaine Fogel Fri Mar 5, 2010 via blog

    I have one success story to share, Ann. A client found me on LinkedIn, flew to my city to interview me, and then contracted with me for six months to work on a marketing project. It may be atypical, but it happened.

    If you recall, I wrote a couple of MP posts on LinkedIn use, particularly on how members viewed requests to connect with people they didn't know. It was certainly an eye-opener. As a result, I developed a white paper outlining the results with quotes from many LI members. http://bit.ly/3ipMYU

  • by Ann Handley Fri Mar 5, 2010 via blog

    Thanks for weighing in here, all.

    @Jasmine: Right! It's an easy way to listen in on what folks are thinking about/reading/wondering about. As an editor, of course, that's valuable insight. Excellent point.

    @kat: Yep... just added that Wordpress plug in. Handy.

    @david I like that analogy -- hot biz book vs. beach novel. To continue it, I had thought of LinkedIn as something as dull as the dictionary... not very fun to read. Now I get it.

    @elaine I do recall that.. ! Thanks for the reminder.

  • by Sridhar Tue Mar 9, 2010 via blog

    Love this quote
    “Twitter is real time, and you’re a blip on the screen,” she says. “LinkedIn waits for us. Like email, it’s there when you want it.”

    Hey and I had quoted your article in my latest blog post under the section "How Companies use Linkedin for market research" http://www.interviewmantra.net/2010/03/what-linkedin-is-for.html

  • by Barbara Bix Thu Mar 25, 2010 via blog

    I always refer to LinkedIn as the Social Media Hub when I give workshops on LinkedIn. It is your online rolodex containing all the contacts in your network. It's status bar provides one of the best ways to keep your finger on the pulse of your network--and by extension your industry. It's also a great way to stay top of mind with those who matter most to you--and your career.

    Not just for job seekers--or those seeking new opportunities, LinkedIn also has tools for establishing thought leadership (ability to post blogs, slideshare, book recommendations, etc.), adding credibility (testimonials), and as you note connecting with others to get needed information.

    For example, a colleague and I did a nationwide survey of medical device company's use of social media. The results were picked up by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and two other major publications (both conventional and online media).

    Our participants? Members of the largest medical device trade organizations in the country and members of the largest LinkedIn medical device groups....

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