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10 Lessons Learned From My Grand LinkedIn Experiment

Sep 12th 2017
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At the beginning of this year I resolved to send a personal e-mail to all 900+ of my LinkedIn 1st level contacts. Statistics show LinkedIn has about 467 million users including 5.5 million accountants. 

What was my project? Every weekday I would send 12 InMails (LinkedIn’s version of e-mail) to first level contacts. The e-mail explained my project, asked how they used LinkedIn as part of their business and expressed an interest in what they do. 

I closed with a few words about my business and the case for posting articles regularly. They were personalized as much as possible and at about 20 minutes a day, it took about 5 months.

10 Lessons Learned

Any numbers used are approximate. There’s a difference between “Happy Birthday,” “Thanks” and an actual answer to your question, but here is what I learned during my “experiment” with Linked In this year and I hope it helps you in your efforts as well:

1. People Do Respond – 75 people answered my question, while 93 people started a dialog. 

Lessons Learned:  Obviously about 700+ did neither.  Many people are passive users, ignoring the e-mail prompts they receive indicating someone is getting in touch.  FYI:  If LinkedIn has only about 106 million active monthly users, this means about 23% visit regularly. I’ve also heard only 29% of LinkedIn members visit the site each month.

Conclusion:  People attend a class promoting LinkedIn.  They join.  For many, that’s the extent of their engagement.

2. Expect a Huge Lag Time – It’s been said the average LinkedIn user visits the site for 17 minutes a month.  Meanwhile, the average time spent on Facebook is 20 minutes, which I assume is per visit, not per month.

Lessons Learned:  It may take some time to get a response you your InMail if the user is only focusing 17 minutes a month.

Conclusion:  Patience is a virtue.  You many expect the answer “LinkedIn isn’t a big part of my business” if they visit infrequently.

3. Post Regularly – On your home page to can either write articles (igniting Compliance concerns) or post links to different articles you like.  If your firm has embraced LinkedIn, they likely have a preapproved archive.  If yours is a small firm, there are plenty of services offering articles previously published on the Internet in turnkey fashion.

Lessons Learned:  It doesn’t matter how many 1st level contacts you have or groups you’ve joined.  You must post frequently.  Personally, I try to post at least 3x weekly.

Conclusion:  Visibility equals credibility.

4. Think Before Posting – You’ve heard the expression “viral”.  It’s usually preceded by “Oh No!  We’re too late!  It’s gone viral!”  When you post an article or link to your homepage, it gets seen by your 1st level contacts.  So far, so good.  When you comment, or even worse, share, that post and comment is sent to your 1st level connection’s friends, who can further distribute it exponentially.

Lessons Learned:  The comment you think is funny may not be seen the same way in the wider audience.  You are a representative of your firm.  Try clicking on the comment button on a popular post.  You will likely not recognize the name.

Conclusion: Don’t post anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable seeing on the front page of the New York Times. 

5. People Between Jobs Aren’t In a Rush to Update their Profile – Plenty of people who have taken early retirement or are between jobs don’t list their change of status on LinkedIn. 

Lessons Learned:  The reasons are obvious, but you need to reach out to them personally.

Conclusion: You don’t know until you ask.

6. Joining Groups Makes Sense – LinkedIn has 1.5 million groups.  This includes employees and former employees at companies, alumni groups, professional group, hobbyists – You get the idea.  You want to join some.

Lessons Learned:  Besides being a giant recruiting site, joining groups is an efficient was to extend your reach beyond your 1st level contacts.  I might have 900+ contacts.  When I post an article of update, that’s the extent of my reach unless contacts share.  When you join the right groups affiliated with your profession or target market, suddenly to you access to 5,000, 10,000 or 19,000 other people.

Conclusion:  If you want to build your brand, this is a cost effective way of doing it.

7. People Found Me and My Network Grew – At the start of 2017, I had about 900+ 1st level contacts.  Today I have about 1,100+.  This came from several sources.  I actively used the “People You May Know” on their “My Network” feature.  Articles I wrote connected to my LinkedIn profile.  People in My Groups must have liked what I had to say.

Lessons Learned:  Growing your network should only help.

Conclusion:  There’s a handy “Delete” button is case you have accepted an invitation from a banker in a Third World Country.

8. Target Market – Midway through my project I decided to build a list of people in my industry who use my service and contact them directly.  I got responses.  Two of my most recent bookings came from this source.  Many people who didn’t use my service politely declined.  (They have their own internal resources.)

Lessons Learned:  The more specific your questions and the tighter your audience, the higher the likelihood you will hear back from them.

Conclusion:  See above.

9. InMail has Significant Limitations – I use the free version of LinkedIn.  I’m in good company.  It isn’t perfect.  First, you type into a tiny space on your screen.  Next, you discover the “Press Enter to Send” command.  You think you are moving to a new paragraph, but your InMail has been sent.  If you send lots of InMails, you don’t exactly have the familiar e-mail interface.  You need to search by name and find the right one.

Lessons Learned: These are quirks.  It’s a learned skill.

Conclusion: See above. 

10. LinkedIn Does a Decent Job of Alerting You To Incoming e-mails – You don’t need to continually check back for responses to InMails.  LinkedIn sends an alert to your e-mail box.

Lessons Learned:  LinkedIn prompts you to take action.

Conclusion: They can only do so much.  You need to respond. The biggest takeaway was learning LinkedIn provides my practice exposure far beyond my conventional reach.

Replies (2)

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By jacksonjoh
Sep 14th 2017 14:28 EDT

Thanks so much for the information. I recently launched my business and reached out to all relevant contacts on Linked in about it. The response rate was fairly consistent with yours.

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Replying to jacksonjoh:
Bryce Sanders
By Bryce Sanders
Sep 14th 2017 15:56 EDT

Glad to hear it. It has lots of potential for prospecting along with increasing your visibility.

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