I’ve been giving Linkedin workshops for ten months now. After 7 sessions of guiding dozens of participants through the first steps of strategic Linkedin use, I thought it worthwhile to review what I’ve learned.
Linkedin is huge in UK Construction
The first thing is that Linkedin membership is growing in the UK, and within the construction industry. In January when I put together some statistics Linkedin was stating that there were more than 8 million UK Linkedin users, but by Easter they revised that up to 9 million. I checked this morning and it looks like we currently have approximately 10,176,000 UK Linkedin members.
Recently I had a conversation with Carol Hagen, a Construction Software Consultant based in Phoenix Arizona, about how Linkedin use was growing in the UK. She carried out some research and estimated using Linkedin’s own search tools. I’ve now updated these figures this morning and they are:
UK Construction: 243,559
UK Architecture and Planning: 52,583
UK Civil Engineering: 51,411
UK Building Materials: 35,717
In total 382,000 UK Construction Industry people are members of Linkedin. This is the minimum audience; of course many of our clients are not in the construction industry.
Many Linkedin Users Don’t know What they are Doing
One common response to the workshop discussions has been ‘I had no idea you could do that on Linkedin!’. Many attendees have a feeling that Linkedin must be useful, otherwise why would so many people in our industry be on it? However they don’t know what is possible and how the network works. This can be as simple as knowing who sees your status updates or why you should have a picture on your profile.
There are also other problems related to the fact that Linkedin is a network of individuals. I used to get asked ‘how do we stop our staff using Linkedin?’ but now the response is usually ‘We need to teach our staff to do this properly before something goes wrong’. Linkedin is a powerful platform that automatically makes connections between people in a company, so that space needs to be adopted and managed by a responsible person in the company.
Too Much Noise obscuring Value
Some of the most useful tools on Linkedin are impossible to use if your contacts are not using it properly. Here are some examples.
Many groups on Linkedin are huge but largely inactive. It looks like they are incredibly popular, but all you can see is a stream of sales messages. If you are a member of such a group you may be getting offers to connect and marketing messages from complete strangers. This spam fills up your inbox and causes people to stop using them; they go quiet. Many people in groups like this have simply not worked out how to leave – but they aren’t reading the emails in any event. Learn how to leave unproductive groups, and how to turn off unsolicited messages so you can focus on the valuable things.
On your homepage (where you arrive on login), Linkedin shows you what is happening to your connections, but once you have a reasonable number, this activity stream can easily get filled up with people sharing useless, repetitive material. Again, it is possible to opt out of this if you know how. Once you clear out the noise from this activity stream you can start to see the important things about your contacts – those who have changed jobs or who need your help with something.
People don’t know how to Start
Yesterday one of my attendees expressed her exasperation with the hugeness of Linkedin, a strength and a weakness. If you’re not using it right, it can be a little like being in a room with everyone shouting. How are you supposed to think straight?
By the end of the afternoon however, she had a completed workbook and a checklist of tasks to take on. These will set her up on the path to using Linkedin productively, clearing out the noise, making her own profile visible and accessible and starting to help her contacts do more business.
Many of us don’t read manuals when we buy a new piece of equipment. It isn’t until something goes wrong that we realise we have got to make a bit of effort. Are you in that position with Linkedin? Find out about where to begin.
It is worth the effort
Every time we do a hypothetical ROI calculation in the workshop, the reaction is incredulous. How could we imagine that using Linkedin properly would not be worthwhile? The investment of a small amount of well-targeted time every week costs so little and the rewards in terms of just a few new customers can be so great.
I’m inviting members of my group to let me know their ROI stories so that we can share some of them soon.
There’s a Lot to Learn
I’ve been teaching the basics of Linkedin and some strategic pointers in an afternoon, but there is a lot to take in within a short period of time. Having Herman Miller’s lovely chairs on the London session helps, but even if you don’t get a sore backside, you can get a sore head.
I kept the sessions to half a day because it was clear that many busy professionals simply don’t have the time to give up any longer to training. I’ve supplemented the training half days with an online support group, which has now become quite a lively place to share problems, ask for help and generally encourage each other to put a few minutes a day into using Linkedin as the efficiency tool it is. The workbook has helped too; not having to remember everything, simply adding a few extra notes, and having screenshot reminders has been welcomed. But even so an afternoon is a long time to concentrate.
Online Training is Popular
Talking to my network on Linkedin and Twitter in particular, it is clear that an online version of the training would be popular. Not simply for overseas professionals either. It will save us all travelling time for a start.
Yesterday we had some more conversations about the format for online sessions, and I decided to offer a four-part course.
The online training workshop will be split into four one-hour sessions that you can take one a week or spread out further if need be. Each session will have ‘homework’ so you can take the steps to improving your profile, getting your network online and start using it as we go along.
The sessions will be delivered using Adobe Connect; all participants will need is an internet capable computer, broadband connection and headset for audio. If you have a webcam you’ll be able to join a face-to-face discussion, or you can participate just with audio watch/type into a chatbox.
I’ll be publishing the first dates soon – if you’d like to know more just sign up to my training newsletter and I’ll let you know when they are.
In the meantime, you can still see my face-to-face sessions here, including the next London Workshop at Herman Miller in Aldwych on 25 September.