Using LinkedIn to listen

Listen on LinkedInA lot of what people do on LinkedIn is talk – they share their own information (or other people’s), publicise what they are doing, demonstrate their expertise etc. And that’s great, because LinkedIn has a number of great tools which allow you to do just that and, hopefully, you will have chosen topics that your network wants to hear about.

However, there’s the other side of networking … and of business … and that is listening. LinkedIn is also really good at that too. So, as you might imagine, there are also a number of different tools and places on LinkedIn which provide great ways for you to do just that.

Why listen?

Listening is really important – the much touted adage of “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak” probably doesn’t go far enough when it comes to social media but you get the idea. Listening and gathering information is critical in so many different ways if we are to be able to be best placed to know what’s going on and where key topics lie.

Of course, what are you listening for will depend on what you are looking to achieve through LinkedIn and therefore what your areas of interest are. Whether it is information of general value, to improve our skills in certain areas or to identify opportunities, the fact that we are looking out for it is a good first step. Some other reasons for ‘keeping your ear to the ground’ might include:

  • Business opportunities: requests for help and information, products services that you might be able to provide;
  • Job opportunities: searching out specific job opportunities (from companies or recruiters) or looking for companies announcing moves in new directions which may require new skills that you could provide;
  • Industry news: keeping up to date with what’s happening in your industry (or in a target industry) particularly where that news potentially comes from the people making it;
  • Partnership opportunities: looking for suppliers and specialists to work with who can supply what you offer;
  • Interview preparation: candidates either looking for a new position or researching the company or the interviewer ahead of an interview;
  • Increase industry knowledge: there is so much sharing of information that the key is probably being able to decide which is important and having the tools available to filter it out;
  • Skills / expertise build up: with specialists in every topic imaginable from around the world, it is also a great place to keep up to date and further our own knowledge levels.

In each of these areas, there are companies and individuals who are passing on this type of news and information or sharing their expertise in each of these areas. LinkedIn in turn then gives you the tools you need to ensure you can filter the information according to your requirements and in many cases set up a way to automate the process going forward.

What tools are available?

There is a growing set of tools, all within LinkedIn at the moment (unlike Twitter for example where there are lots of 3rd party applications) giving us access different ways to splice and dice the information.

Here are 5 key tools that you should be looking to help you keep up with the growing raft of information coming at you on LinkedIn:

    i) Groups
    Groups come in many shapes and sizes and they are great places to tap into all sorts of information. In Skills focused groups, you can keep up with what your peers are sharing, Trade Association based groups provide information relating to your chosen industry, Industry Sector groups help keep up to speed with what is going on in the sectors of interest to you and local groups give you local networking and business opportunities. In all cases, you can also see the main players and participants in each of these areas and hence have the opportunity to follow them in turn which again provides a way to listen to what is going on.

    ii) Updates via LinkedIn Signal
    Using LinkedIn Signal is a great way to keep up to date with areas that you are interested in and get that information direct from the people who are making it in many cases. The idea of LinkedIn Signal sounds daunting – it gives you the opportunity to tap into the updates being put out from all members on the network. Yet more noise I hear you say? Well no. The key to Signal is not the scope of topics that it starts with but rather the filters that you can apply to that deluge of information. You can sort by industry, location, level of connection to you, company etc so you can make sure hat you received only the information that you want … from the people that you want to receive it from.

    iii) LinkedIn Today
    The latest addition to the LinkedIn family is LinkedIn Today – now resplendent with its own menu item too. LinkedIn Today has the ability to let you listen to two things at once because of its make up. Firstly, it gives you the key stories in the areas that you are interested in, based on the information that you have in your profile. Information therefore because it essentially gives you your own online newspaper. It’s how those stories are ranked which gives you the real listening ability – the stories are ranked according to the number of times people in your network have shared them. Not just anyone, but people in your network. What a great way to find out what others close to you believe are important!

    iv) Answers
    LinkedIn Answers is essentially a user Q&A forum, where people can ask questions and others supply their thoughts and opinions on it – you’ll find it under the ‘More’ tab in the main menu. It’s popular, though perhaps not the most used element on the site and you will find a lot of activity, particularly in some key segments. Both the questions being asked and the answers that come back in return can be useful in getting a picture of what people are interested in as well as who are key contributors in each area.

    v) Company Buzz
    This is one of the applications available to us on LinkedIn that allows us to see is being said about companies and topics that we are interested in. It uses information from our individual profiles to find relevant discussions on Twitter and also shows how frequently these topics are cropping up as well as what are the top words associated with them. You can also add new topics and customise existing topics with new search terms to get just the results you are interested in.

Finding information had never been easier but all too often we can become overwhelmed by the sheer volume that keeps coming at us! Luckily, on LinkedIn, the current tools give us enough to scope to allow us to keep abreast of the type of information and news that is most interesting and important to us, while cutting out the ‘noise’ that might otherwise drown it out.

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