Friday, November 18, 2005

New OpenLink Messages and OpenLink Network

Today, LinkedIn rolled out two new features for premium service subscribers: OpenLink Messages and OpenLink Network.

OpenMessages offers a way to pay to receive messages from anyone in the LinkedIn network, without exposing personal contact information such as email address. Contrast this feature with InMails, which enable paying customers to send messages to anyone in the LinkedIn network.

The OpenMessages feature is available to all premium members as an option. Those who would like to be available to contact from anyone can opt in, while those who would like to only receive InMails or introductions through shared connections can choose to not receive OpenMessages. Each OpenMessage sent counts towards the member's pending introduction limit.

Those that do opt for OpenMessages are given the opportunity to join the OpenLink Network. This network is like a special LinkedIn group: Members of the OpenLink network may select membership in this group as a search criteria.

While many people are attracted to LinkedIn due to the way it can be configured to only allow incoming messages from trusted contacts, some people don't want incoming messages being limited by trusted connections and InMail limitations.

As a premium service subscriber, I have opted in for both of these new services. It will be interesting to see if I receive any addition introductions as a result.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Avoiding Discrimination in LinkedIn

Are you missing out on employment opportunities because of your name? Studies in the United States and France have shown a remarkable difference in being contacted due to name alone.

In the U.S., the study Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination found that resumes submitted with "White sounding names" are 50% more likely to receive a callback for an interview than "African-American ones".

In France, a study conducted by the Observatoire des Discriminations found that a resume with a "standard French name" produced 140 responses, while the same resume with a North African-sounding name yielded 14 responses.

What can you do to avoid discrimination by name? In LinkedIn, one thing you can do is to choose to only show the first letter of your last name to those who are not directly connected to you. To do this:
  1. Click "My Profile" tab.
  2. To the right of your name, click "Edit Basics".
  3. Under "Privacy" header in the middle of the page, select your first name and last initial from the pull down menu labeled "Display my name as".
  4. Click "Update Information" at the bottom of the page.
Of course, there is a downside to only showing your last initial. People browsing though the site that know your name may not recognize your profile when they see it during a search or browsing other people's connections, so you may miss out on being contacted by someone who might otherwise notice your profile and contact you.

Once you accept an invitation or connection from someone, they'll be able to see your full last name. At this point, the person may decide to discriminate against you based on your name. On the other hand, whatever they saw in your profile to motivate them to contact you may outweigh an inclination to discriminate based on name. Contrast that to the person who sees a last name and then never reads the profile.

Some will argue that they have pride in their name and wouldn't want to hide it, and shouldn't have to hide it. Others will argue that they wouldn't want to work for an employer that employs someone who discriminates. I respect those that feel either way.

In a related posting on my Santa Clara MBA blog, I propose that LinkedIn can be used by hiring managers to increase the diversity of candidates for a position.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Build Your Business with Liz Ryan's Ten LinkedIn Tips

Liz Ryan of WorldWit recently shared with the Yahoo! Group MyLinkedInPowerForum the following ten ways to build your business, to which I've added bracketed introductory sentences for some of the tips.

  1. When you have significant news in your business - for instance, a big product launch or a joint venture - use LinkedIn to notify your contacts by way of a profile update. And in your accompanying email message to the network, say "I would love to catch up with you - want to make time for a phone call?" It's that keeping-up process that sparks conversations about opportunities both for you and your contacts. It's in these conversations (which could be done by email, although probably not as well) that ideas will arise about prospective clients, partnerships, and other revenue-generating projects.
  2. Use LinkedIn to understand the relationships between people you know and people you want to know. For me, this is the heart of LinkedIn's value - the ability to see at a glance how people you don't know, but would like to, are connected to people who are closer to you. So when you find Mr. Lofty Dude in the LI network and realize that he used to work with your former admin assistant - a data point you almost certainly wouldn't have acquired on your own - you can reach out to the admin and get, not only an introduction, but some intelligence about Mr. Dude's current dealings, needs, and hot buttons.
  3. Connect, by all means, with your former colleagues from every company that has ever employed you. There is something about old-workmate ties (unless you, er, aren't the sort that former teammates think of fondly) that can't be duplicated in most relationships of shorter duration. Seek out these old workmates, tell them what you're up to and who you're most interested in meeting, and offer to help them out as well. One good lead would be worth the price of LI membership - oh wait, it's free - or anyway worth the price of your time doing LI searching and connecting.
  4. [Introduce yourself to people working at companies related to your target company.] Let's say that you would dearly like to work with General Motors, but you can't find anyone at GM who seems especially suitable for contact as you search the LinkedIn database. No problem. Find a current GM vendor or customer in the functional area you're interested in, and reach out to him or her. Is there something of value that you could offer in exchange for the introduction you want? In an ideal world, your sterling qualities and dazzling personality should convince this new acquaintance that introducing her client to you is something of value all by itself. But don't bank on that. Offer to extend an invitation of your own, or design his or her new database, or something.
  5. Use the LI database to understand more about your prospects. This is the beauty of LI - what other source will tell you where many or all of the senior execs of your prospect organizations used to work (given that only half a dozen of them have profiles on the company's website)? Let's say that you want to do some work for ABC Company. And lo and behold, half the ABC execs worked for PayPal back in the day and the other half worked for FedEx. Great intelligence! You see that they have a strong Notre Dame alum thing going on, and some connection to Stanford as well. Now you can use your FedEx and PayPal alum contacts, your Notre Dame folks and your Stanford fellows to help you get 'over the wall.'
  6. [Reach out with a targeted and tailored introduction.] You wouldn't email a complete stranger, even if you obtained his business card (say, by stealing the win-a-free-lunch goldfish bowl of business cards at P.F. Chang's) to say "Hey, why not buy some stuff from me?" So please don't reach out to new LI contacts by saying "Maybe you could help me make a new-business contact." I wouldn't recommend that. Instead, read this intended contact's profile. Let's say you are reaching out to me, who runs an online community. Two seconds of reading my profile would give you some ideas of things that might interest me. I guarantee that a typical working person could offer me something I'd be interested in. So, when you make your LI outreach, mention that thing that you could offer! Write "I would love to connect by phone, both because I'm interested in your relationship with [my most-desirable prospect company] and because I have great friends in the social networking community whom you should know." Bingo.
  7. [Consider the value of your contacts for others.] Many people in the business community, especially avid networkers, have numerous connections that don't do any (short-term, revenue-generating) good for them personally but that could be invaluable to their new networking contacts. Think about these valuable contacts as you reach out to people whom you hope might help you. For instance, I know lots of headhunters who have great media contacts - contacts I would drool over - journalists who regularly call them up for insights on the job market. Unfortunately, apart from occasionally mentioning in her stories that Joe Recruiter says that the job market is looking up, the journalist can't do much for Joe - she isn't going to write a profile on him any time soon, for instance. But she might write a profile on someone that Joe has just met through LI. Of course, Joe wouldn't throw around her name carelessly - but he might say, "You know, I can't guarantee anything, but for your kindness today I'd be happy to introduce you to my friend, an editor at the San Jose Mercury News, who might be interested to talk with you." Rock on.
  8. [Tap into the "mother lode of shared knowledge" for your area of interest.] When you spot a cluster of people on LI who all know one another and are all accomplished in the same arena, that's a really special thing. It means that a group of folks who perhaps worked together, or met online, or are part of a group together, represent a kind of mother lode of shared knowledge around a particular area - say, SEO or CRM or German opera. That's huge, because jointly, these folks may comprise the lion's share of the current thinking on the topic. You can reach out via LinkedIn to one of them, and say, "You know, I'm trying to get up to speed on the operas of Handel. Might I sent you an email message with some of my key questions, and ask whether you wouldn't mind sharing your thoughts with me and also forwarding my message to your friend Jack Sprat, who could undoubtedly add a valuable perspective?" With luck, in the case of an inquiry like this, you are able to repay these experts' valuable time with a gift of some kind (perhaps tickets to the opera). But many such people would refuse any compensation at all. It makes a huge difference how you present your situation and how graciously you pose your request. So much depends on good manners, doesn't it?
  9. Leverage Google News Alerts. LinkedIn in combination with Google News Alerts makes a great business tool. Let's say you are looking to talk to folks at Fidelity who work in one product area. Use LI to find a name (or two or three names) of people at Fidelity who seem relevant to your situation, and whom you'd like to reach. Set up a Google News Alert on Fidelity, and set one up with the target person's name (or a few names) so that you can learn when he or she has been quoted, is speaking on a panel, etc. This kind of intelligence will tell you what's currently on the plate of this person, the issues he or she cares about, etc. What's more flattering than an LI outreach message that says "I was so sorry to miss your speech at the Financial Muckety-Mucks Summit, but I was fortunate enough to read your thoughts on petro-dollars on and to catch your NPR interview last week." Dang! Be diligent, but be careful that you don't sound like a business stalker.
  10. [Make reconnecting to former clients smooth.] Vendors like to reach out to former clients, and that's good, but it can be awkward when you haven't kept up and have no idea what the former client is now up to. But of course, if you've got the contact info, thanks (let's say) to Plaxo, you're going to use it! LinkedIn solves the problem. Presto, you can track what your former client has been doing since you last saw him - no awkwardness. On top of that, instead of an open-ended "let's catch up" message, you can say "Wow! You're at Fidelity! You know, I see that you've only been in the job a few months, so we should definitely talk. It so happens that I've become something of an expert on Fidelity lately......" Now, that's power networking!
Thank you Liz for sharing!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Motivating People to Use LinkedIn

If you're trying to motivate other to use LinkedIn, you may find as I have that different people require different pitches to get them interested.

I find that people seeking jobs are the easiest to motivate. I show them how they can use LinkedIn to connect to people in the industries, companies, fields, and/or geographic areas that interest them. For example, a search on the keywords “Venture Capital” yields over 500 hits in LinkedIn for me.

For those not seeking a job, you can try other pitches, such as the ability to find contacts for business alliances, partnerships, sales pitches, recruiting, etc.

Finally, you can share the saying that it’s better to build your network before you need it rather than when you need it. People are much more likely to help you in your time of need if you were available for them before you needed help.