Hi, my name’s Mark.
I’m on LinkedIn and I’m not looking for a new job

If that sounds like an introduction you might make at a “self help” group then maybe that’s not that far off the mark. Certainly, on occasions, I almost feel like I should be apologising for the fact I use LinkedIn in a variety of other ways. A situation not helped by people I meet who aren’t on LinkedIn and who tend to come out with the same reason – “well, why should I join, I’m not looking for a job”.

What does LinkedIn say, then?

Now, I lay much of the blame for this fairly and squarely at LinkedIn’s door – they make a lot of their money from their ‘hiring solutions’ so it’s understandable that they don’t go out of their way to correct this one sided view of the site, as the way it is often portrayed in the press.

I remember last year when newspapers announced that David Cameron had joined LinkedIn – Techchrunch, with a ‘nod and a wink’, added that “most people use the service for as a place to maintain their online resume and look for job opportunities”. Granted a certain amount of journalistic innuendo to be had there, given that it’s about the Prime Minister, but also re-inforcing that perception of LinkedIn as one big fishing ground for jobs or candidates according to your position.

Is it a Jobs Board?

And let’s face it, it’s a great place if you are looking for a job, particularly with 12m in the UK on there and 225m+ worldwide (figs- May 2013) – the vast majority of the people and the companies that you might want to talk to and be seen by are on LinkedIn. The recruitment agencies are also on there in abundance and you have the tools at your fingertips to show what you can do first hand to the people who you’d like to be aware of you and your skills.

It is wrong though.

In spite of all this, it’s really not the main reason why people are on there. From all of the training sessions I run on LinkedIn and the thousands of people I’ve talked to in that time, the message comes through loud and clear, time and time again. The key reason why most people are on LinkedIn is to develop business and to network – to use the relationships that they create and develop as an additional way to open up new business channels and opportunities.

A survey last year in the US showed that, while usage varied according to your position in the organisation, for the vast majoririty at all levels, it was the general business aspect which was most prevalent … although of course the job elements were still important.

If you were in any doubt about the breadth of uses that people (and companies) put LinkedIn to, then may I introduce you to my week ahead – one that I am very much looking forward to and which includes:

  • a half day session with a European business development team looking at market development;
  • an evening session with a Job Club looking at best practice to using LinkedIn to find a new role;
  • two 2 hour custom sessions for a Professional Services company looking to make their partners aware of what they could do with LinkedIn;
  • a half day session with a specialist recruitment agency looking at resourcing and business development opportunities;
  • a short “masterclass session” on the use of corporate tools and particularly Company Pages;
  • two half day sessions, the first for customer engagement and customer service, and the second customised for their direct and channel sales teams.

I mention these, not to say “Look at me, look at me!” but merely to demonstrate the variety of ways in which LinkedIn can be employed and in which people are using it … and of course, we’re still just scratching the surface!

So next time someone tells you that LinkedIn is just for job seekers, help me to show them just how powerful a tool it is to help you develop business. Because that’s where the real power lies. Even if you’re not addicted …and I hope you’re not.

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