Your world has expanded. Five years ago it evolved around the places you networked and the people you interacted with in non-work situations. LinkedIn changed the rules.
LinkedIn wasn’t the first social networking site, but it was the first to expand business connections in a large enough way to be meaningful. I have a Facebook account and it has been great to connect with old friends from college. I have a Plaxo account, and I love that it includes contact details, but not enough people are really using it.
LinkedIn, though most people don’t really understand how to use it beyond connecting, has changed the way business people network. It hasn’t replaced face to face networking and it never will. It’s just enhanced it, in a significant way.
One of the ways you can use LinkedIn is to identify and connect to potential partners and to form alliances.
Old School: Relying on referrals and a conversation over coffee to see if someone would be a good referral partner.
New School: Old School + reviewing their LinkedIn profile, seeing who you are connected to in common, reading their recommendations, seeing what questions they asked and answered, and reading their blogs, documents and information from other LinkedIn applications.
Searching for specific types of people on LinkedIn is easy with the advanced people search. You can also use the Service Providers directory to find the top recommended people in a specific industry. You might find a partner because they provided a great answer to a question. Using the Companies search you might identify several people within a company that would be good to get to know.
If the people in your network are active, maybe you receive a forwarded profile. You could also tap into your network by using the “What are you doing now” Twitteresque feature. What am I doing? Sean is looking to connect to CPA’s that focus on working with Dentists in the Atlanta metro.
LinkedIn is your resource directory. It grows daily with a new account created every second of the day. Your searches are pretty much guaranteed to get better each time you conduct a search.
When I first encountered LinkedIn in 2006, I thought it was a place for folks in the technology world. The second time around in late 2007 I could see the business potential. Maybe the people changed or maybe my eyes were more open the second time. The next step is for people to move from simply participating to actively participating. When a majority do so, it’s going to be incredible.
Don’t wait to jump on the bandwagon. Do a little more today then you did yesterday. A good place to start is by identifying and building relationships that will provide the foundation for future partnerships and alliances.