Gershbein: Ask Yourself, Why Are You on LinkedIn?

At every speaking engagement, I usually ask the question of my audience, “Why are you on LinkedIn?”

After a brief period of silent contemplation, I stroll about the room, meet their innocent stares and, after a bit of gentle prodding, they begin to shout out their answers: “To connect with other people” “To research companies in my target market” “To share information in my industry” “To become known in my field of expertise” These are all valid reasons. Invariably, there is one response I’m looking for that is never offered (or is held back) until I drop a few hints.

Ultimately, someone blurts it out: “To make money!”

Why are we so reluctant to admit that—on a social networking site devoted to business—we are looking for business? This is what Reid Hoffman and the founding fathers of LinkedIn envisioned when they spent their first venture capital dollars in 2002 and built the site. Since its launch in May 2003, an entire cottage industry has sprung up around LinkedIn training and consulting (as with all social media). The Internet is swollen with LinkedIn tutorials and blogs that take you through the how-to of social networking. There is so much content out there it will make your head spin. Everyone is quick to tell you what you should be doing and how to do it without shooting yourself in the foot. The key is to not get bogged down in minutiae, focus on your LinkedIn goals, put in the time, and track your activities. You will arrive at the knowledge of what will and won’t work for you.

Make no mistake—you are on LinkedIn to make money.

But does making money in and of itself constitute LinkedIn achievement?

As I share the Divine 9 Success Secrets of LinkedIn Achievers in upcoming posts, let’s define LinkedIn achievement. What is it? What does it feel like? How do you know when you’ve achieved? How do you measure its scope?

LinkedIn is the largest professional network in the world. It is also a forum for sharing opinions, attitudes and information. This intellectual and communal exchange obeys the laws of etiquette and, ideally, leads to business growth. Whereas success in using LinkedIn has gradients and can mean different things to different people, generating revenue from using the site is at the core of LinkedIn achievement. Return on Investment (ROI)—the holy grail of all social media—on LinkedIn equates to a time commitment. LinkedIn achievers know this and put in the hours to become proficient and efficient on the site. They attach value to their efforts on LinkedIn, build their networks, and view each session as a learning experience. You cannot expect to achieve success in using LinkedIn without this investment on the front end.

I define LinkedIn achievement as the successful leveraging of LinkedIn to realize a professional, personal or financial goal. When you can directly attribute a transaction, job offer, new business opportunity, joint venture, or any other success to activities originated or advanced on LinkedIn, then that, my friends, is LinkedIn achievement. This is accomplished by consistently striking a level of engagement with members of the LinkedIn community, where dialog can flow freely and lead all parties to tangible, positive, real-world outcomes.

What are your goals in using LinkedIn? Are you looking to sell a product, market a service, or promote an enterprise? Do you want to connect with influencers? Is thought leadership in your field important to you? Perhaps you’re on LinkedIn for purely altruistic reasons and want to help others realize their goals.

Why are you on LinkedIn and how do you define LinkedIn achievement? Share your comments below!

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