In 2014, the professional networking juggernaut LinkedIn, turned 11 years old. For just a youngster, the company has achieved some amazing things. What Reid Hoffman founded and Jeff Weiner continues to build upon today, drives two people every second to join the platform. The company has over 330 million users. The company's goal is to acquire 3 billion members... which would represent every working professional on the planet.
I guess some would call me a Linkedin fanatic. But hey -- if you are going to be addicted to some form of social media, it might as well be something that can benefit your life or your business in a tangible way. The more I use the tool, the more I recognize how important it is. I believe if you were to do one thing during 2015 to build your business, you could not go far afield by diving into LinkedIn in a big way.
Many of you are saying to yourselves, -- "Hey, I am already there. I already have 500 connections." But let me be clear: Being on LinkedIn is far different than making it useful.
Susan Adams, a friend of mine who is a Senior Editor at Forbes, and a first degree LinkedIn connection (I actually have done an interview in person with Susan) wrote an excellent article recently called, "Eight Things you should do on LinkedIn When You get Laid Off."
In that column, she offered some excellent advice but with all due respect to Susan -- the time to use LinkedIn is today -- before you get laid off.
People too often think that LinkedIn is only for jobs and then only when you need one. But the time to use and connect with others on LinkedIn is before you need it.
Looking back one year ago, I had 10,780 first degree (aka Direct) connections on LinkedIn. Today that number stands at 12,708 -- an increase of nearly 2,000. My total accessible network via LinkedIn is now roughly 23 million folks which includes my 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree connections along with fellow members of LinkedIn groups.
Let me tell you why 12,708 connections plus on LinkedIn can matter and three ways in which you can use the platform.
In my book, Up Your Game: 6 Timeless Principles for Networking Your Way to the Top, I cite numerous ways in which LinkedIn has helped me in my businesses in the tech world. Below, I will share with you three of those ways. If you study them and dive into LinkedIn in 2015, it can change the trajectory of your business.
1. Raise Millions of Bucks -- In 2009, I was in New York and met a fascinating guy -- Hylton Van Zyl, one of the heads of Research and Development for Credit-Suisse, one of the top financial institutions in the world. He was kind enough to share his business card with me and I connected with him on LinkedIn.
Three years later, in March of 2012, as CEO of a the great digital interviewing company, HireVue, I sent out a LinkedIn blast to what were then my 196 direct contacts in the New York City area. Hylton Van Zyl responded. He introduced me to Neill Ochiogrosso with Investor Growth Capital in New York. I followed up with a note to Neill, and a meeting was arranged. The meeting with IGC (which was triggered by a simple LinkedIn connection) resulted in a capital raise of $22 million dollars for HireVue.
2. Hire Your Best Employee Ever -- In early 2009, Fusion-io was struggling to build a management team. The most important person I needed to hire as CEO at that juncture was a Senior VP of Sales. So, I turned to Linkedin and posted the following message: "Who is the best IT Sales VP on planet Earth?" Scott McKinley saw my post. Scott and I had not spoken in over a decade but he was part of my LinkedIn network. When he saw my LinkedIn post, Scott kindly emailed me directly and suggested I go after a fellow by the name of Jim Dawson, who at the time, was Sr. VP of Sales at 3Par, another data storage company. So using the power of LinkedIn, I was able to make contact with Jim, take him to lunch, and a few short weeks later hired him to run my Fusion-io sales organization. Two short years later, due in many ways to Jim's outstanding sales leadership, my best hire ever, the company was on its way to doing over 100 Million in annual sales and going public on the New York Stock Exchange.
3. Reconnect With Long-lost Business Colleagues and Friends -- Earlier this year, my PhD wife, Dr. Linda Bradford, was looking to expand the footprint for her 3d online virtual world technology. See www.3d-view.com In particular, she was looking to partner with an online university. So I reconnected on LinkedIn with my old friend Graham Doxey, CEO of KNOD -- a Global Learning University. We exchanged some LinkedIn messages. The result was a strategic alliance for Linda and today I am a member of the KNOD Board of Advisors.
The moral of these stories is this: Business is all about connecting. The more you connect, the more efficiently you connect; and the more credibly you connect, the more success you will have. LinkedIn enables you to connect more efficiently and more cost effectively than ever before.
If this sounds intimidating, don't let it. Just start today and make one connection at a time. If you commit to it, you will be stunned at the results you achieve over time. Just in the last week, I have connected with executives from Kroger, State Farm, Fed Ex, Mars, the Brinks Company, At&T and Microsoft -- all for the purpose of growing sales for HireVue.
Let 2015 be the year for you and LinkedIn and you will be happy you did.