Ask a room full of college students and a room full of business professionals “Who belongs to LinkedIn?” and the results will be almost a mirror opposite of each other. Facebook is the social network for after-hours fun. In contrast, LinkedIn is for business professionals. It’s a buttoned-down, no-nonsense business destination with a two-color, text-heavy design that almost screams “Boring!”
LinkedIn is anything but boring, however. Its value as a way to establish and further business relationships is unparalleled, thanks to the unique services it offers. If you signed up long ago and forgot about it, I recommend you take another look.
Like any social network, LinkedIn has personal profiles, groups, and the concept of “friends,” which it calls “connections.” Its most distinctive feature is based on these connections: a six-degrees-of-separation structure that enables members to connect to people they don’t necessarily know through intermediaries within their trusted circle. It’s the online equivalent of arranging an introduction.
Personally, I don’t find this feature all that useful, but connections are the core of other LinkedIn features that I do like. One is Answers, a section where members can post their questions about nearly anything to a select group of connections or to the entire membership. Answers is a great way to get questions resolved quickly, but it’s also a means to expose your skills. Believe it or not, some people answer more than 200 questions a week on LinkedIn. One reason for their generosity: the site enables members to rate the quality of responses and showcases the most prolific contributors in a Hall of Fame section (the all-time leader has answered an incredible 14,000 questions).
LinkedIn is also unparalleled in its database of company information, but it takes a bottoms-up approach, focusing not on corporate leadership but rather on individual employees. If you need to find a specific person within a company or just check out a potential partner or employer, you can go in through the back door by consulting current employees. LinkedIn will tell you if you have a direct or second-degree connection to the people you seek.
Job listings go beyond the standard titles and descriptions to provide contact information for people within the companies that advertise opportunities. If a job interests you, you can click through to find out who you know at the company and then contact that person for insight or a referral. LinkedIn also excels at search engine performance. Its public profiles do so well on Google that they frequently outrank personal websites in search results. I don’t know the secret, but I suspect that the site’s system of internal links is partially responsible. This alone is enough reason to set up your personal profile.
Given all this career-boosting utility, it’s not surprising that traffic to LinkedIn reportedly doubled in the weeks following the stock market meltdown. Members can brush up their personal profiles by swapping recommendations with others, updating their qualifications and showcasing their expertise through integrated applications. Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn keeps a tight rein on the applications it chooses to support, limiting the current selection to just 10 business-focused services.
While LinkedIn doesn’t have nearly the membership numbers of Facebook, its business focus is an advantage. The CEO was recently quoted saying that the demographics of LinkedIn members are better than those of Wall Street Journal subscribers. In troubled times, that’s a very good place to be.
World Without Media
While in San Francisco last week, I delivered a presentation to the New Comm Forum with a title that was meant to be provocative: “World Without Media: What Will Fill the Void?” The premise was that the existing media world is collapsing with stunning speed and the new media organizations have yet to develop to provide the kind of trusted advice that we have come to expect from these institutions. We are in for some scary times while we sort it all out, although I believe we will be better off in the long run. Please view and/or download the presentation on SlideShare.
Tip of the Week – Compress PowerPoint Files
Do your PowerPoint presentations swell to gargantuan proportions? It’s not unusual for image-laden slide decks to reach 15 MB or more, which makes them unwieldy to send. Some e-mail servers won’t even accept files that large. The culprit is usually images. Large photo files can total several megabytes in size, and cropping and resizing them doesn’t change that. There is a handy feature in PowerPoint, however, that cuts out unused real estate and compresses images into the size needed to display them on the screen. Simply right click on any photo in the slide deck, choose Format Picture… then the Picture tab and then click the Compress… button. Choose All pictures in document, select Web/Screen resolution and check the boxes to compress the pictures and delete cropped areas. I tried this on one large PowerPoint file and reduced the size from 13MB to 5MB. Your mileage will vary, but your presentation will always be more compact for it.
Just for Fun – World’s Scariest Bridges
If the photo at right scares the bejeezus out of you – as it does me – then you probably don’t want to spend much time looking at this gallery of the most dangerous rope bridges in the world. “You can find a wide variety of these bridges in countries like India, Malaysia, Philippines, New Zealand, Pakistan, Nepal, as well as in the interiors of some other countries,” says the site, in a description that serves as a warning against traveling in those countries. It’s hard to believe that anyone would set foot on some of these contraptions, which appear to come right out of an Indiana Jones movie. Then again, maybe staying in the same place is worse.