Friday, May 20, 2011

What LinkedIn IPO investors know that the rest of the world might not

Posted by Kwan Morrow
As I write this, LinkedIn shares are trading around $100, roughly double the price at which they debuted. Does this suggest smart money recognizes the value of this B2B social networking platform? Investment wisdom aside, the IPO sets the stage for LinkedIn to become an even more important channel of business communications, something that the investment community is uniquely positioned to understand.

Perhaps more than anyone else, smart investors realize that it’s not what you know, but who you know. And many investors have been using LinkedIn as a powerful tool to effectively get to know more people around the world. These new contacts then provide a valuable source of additional information and opinion that investors use to improve their investment success.

In my own research, I have found that investors are some of the most effective LinkedIn users. Unlike the typical user who views LinkedIn as a destination to host their resume online, the financial community is doing more to fully exploit its commercial potential.

As an example, consider OpenView Venture Partners, a VC firm that I often cite as a best practice case study. It uses LinkedIn as an important plank in its overall social media strategy, a channel for delivering its message and for expanding its audience and network.

You have to expect that with the IPO proceeds, LinkedIn will have the capital to further advance its social media platform with cool, new functionality that improves its ease of use and fun factor.

Like the success of LinkedIn itself, here are some basic tips to help your organization improve its LinkedIn strategy:

1. Define your brand. Your LinkedIn company page is your small piece of real estate on the world’s largest B2B social networking site, a public face that is seen by employees, prospects, clients, customers and the world at large. Your company LinkedIn page should be bold, compelling, and informational. The ultimate goal is to create your story with your page and maximize its impact by adding your product and service offerings. Doing this allows others to leave recommendations for your products, services, as well as your company itself.

You can also integrate YouTube videos, blog posts, and tweets. Lastly, make sure your description is optimized with the keywords that you would want to show up for when others search LinkedIn.

2. Fully build out every employee’s own profile. Employee profiles are another way the world will view your company. They too, need to optimize their LinkedIn profiles. Start by ensuring that your employees’ profiles include links to your Web properties, particularly your company website and blog. You should also integrate your company’s Twitter feed into employees’ own LinkedIn pages.

In addition, employees should enable live blog feeds into their own LinkedIn pages as way to build out your company’s communications channel. One final trick? Employees can link their own online content to their LinkedIn pages, thereby projecting thought leadership across your organization.

Your employees' profiles should answer the question raised by any prospect or client: Why would I do business with this person? Lastly, your employees’ summaries and specialties sections should be populated with keyword-rich descriptions of their current duties (translation: company capabilities) as well as the solutions they are creating for customers and clients of the company.

3. Define who your audience really is. No doubt, many LinkedIn groups are full of spammers and scammers. However, careful analysis of groups can lead you to influential online audiences that spawn meaningful relationships and extend your conversation to places that could never be reached otherwise.

With over 100 million users and tens of thousands of groups, LinkedIn can seem overwhelming at first glance. But if your audience is well defined, locating them is a matter of connecting the dots. Take a look at your contacts who share similar business interests. What groups are they part of? Who are they connected to?

4. Start your own group. One of the most effective strategies we have for our clients is to leverage all of their LinkedIn contacts in their own group. We recommend starting a group and then communicating regularly with meaningful conversation that can educate, enlighten, and engage your audience.

Don’t try to control the content of the group too much. Give your members a chance to share their industry knowledge with fellow members. Effectively managing a group that brings value to your industry demonstrates thought leadership, in its own right.

5. Build thought leadership through participation. Commenting in groups is another way to build awareness of yourself and your organization. By adding insights to group discussions you can raise your own industry profile as well as the profile of your organization.

But remember, don’t be overly self-promotional. If you have relevant content that supports your position in a discussion, feel free to share. However, members can quickly sense when you have no other interest in participating other than promoting, which undermines your own legitimacy.

So, does a doubling of LinkedIn IPO show us where the smart money is going? Probably not. IPOs are filled with investor land mines. However, after the IPO, with new money to build and extend their platform, LinkedIn promises to become an even more powerful business networking tool over the next 10 years.
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