No question –Linkedin is a valuable service that enables people to expand their business networks beyond physical limitations. However, it’s even more fascinating when you realize that it is one of the most powerful, mega directory databases at your disposal; even surpasses Google and Yahoo! in several ways.
In a 2008 interview [saw it on American Airlines “CBS Eye on America” and can’t find the video on YouTube], Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, predicted that Facebook would become our primary decision engine; a trusted source for search and for making purchasing decisions. Why? It is because we have access to tons of data from our trusted friends, family and friends of friends on Facebook.
Trusting Your Network
Did you ever notice how car brands tend to “stay in the family?” Grampa drove a Pontiac, Aunt Mary drove a Pontiac, Mom and Dad drive them, and so does brother. [I like to break rules: I drive a Volkswagen.] Most of us trust our families to give us their unguarded opinion about something they tried, so we often rely on that feedback. Social networks are like extended families. And, if you’re filling yours up with real relationships, not just trying to punch up your numbers of followers, friends or connections, your networks should be fairly trustworthy. What better place is there to get broad feedback from people you know, like and trust?
And so, to my original point, at least where business is concerned, LinkedIn has incredible power as a directory, a referral source and decision engine because the source data has been vetted through people in our network that we “trust.” LI has arrived in the Semantic Web generation, I believe, faster than Facebook.
What’s in your Network?
LinkedIn has an amazing architecture and algorithmic search function running in the background. Just the other day while coaching an attorney in setting up his account on LinkedIn, we added all his groups and associations (not LI groups, but the bricks and mortar type) to his profile. It’s a list separated by commas in a textbox, not separate fields for each entry. He hadn’t yet uploaded his contacts from Outlook, so he only had one connection, another attorney from his firm. Still, when we clicked on his Connections tab the database had already grabbed the keywords from the Groups and Associations text box and served up some suggestions of people for him to connect to. I was surprised to find that these suggestions were people with these groups and associations in common. While it is not surprising that the service reads and connects data from prior employment or schools that are database fields, the fact that it read the text entry and processed it that quickly was amazing.
LinkedIn Does the Work for You
LinkedIn as a directory is also a great Rolodex. Your connections keep their contact information up to date for you and you even get notified when they do; perfect excuse to reach out to someone when they add a new email or place of employment. I often now find myself reaching for my LI pages when I want to get a current address or title for someone. Filters work great too. Go to your Connections, hit advanced and you can filter by industry or location. Perfect for those out of town trips when you’re looking for people in your network to visit in person.
The Keyword Search for Companies and People is very useful, too. Company search provides a great snapshot of demographics. Of course it’s limited to who’s on LinkedIn, but it still gives you way more information than most other directory services. AND, you can actually do something with the information, easily and seamlessly.
There are tons of other things LinkedIn does as a directory; these are just a few. Do you use LinkedIn as a directory? Any suggestions you can add?