Sunday, April 27, 2008

Use LinkedIn for Learning, Not Just for Finding People

Steve Lubetkin of Professional Podcasts LLC forwarded over a link to a great podcast on "Undocumented Ways to Use LinkedIn." In it, Stan Relihan of the Connections podcast interviews Dave Millman on some of the more unusual ways he has used LinkedIn, which include using LinkedIn as a form of market research, doing in minutes what used to take weeks.

"There's no substitute to personally talking to the people in a marketplace or the people who have expertise you want to tap to get a true sense of what is happening in that marketplace…"

While Millman uses a LinkedIn search to identify the people with the expertise or information he wants, he makes a point of going outside of LinkedIn to make contact, even to the point of calling the main switchboard of the company they work for. Millman finds that if you tell people you value their expertise and ask them if they can help you understand something, that they are more than happy to help. "People who don't like sharing aren't on LinkedIn."

One of the more interesting points Millman makes is that his use of LinkedIn is focused on learning rather than on finding. The "documented" uses of LinkedIn – People, Jobs, and Service Providers – all concentrate on finding. Millman's "undocumented" uses of LinkedIn enable him to learn more about the world by going directly to the people who know what he needs to learn.

Relihan refers to LinkedIn as a "dynamic living database," one where the truly valuable information resides outside of the database itself. Interesting concept.

Incidentally, I have 174 test pilots in my LinkedIn network.

'Undocumented Ways To Use LinkedIn'
(Dave Millman)

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Anonymous said...

Seems like there will soon be more powerful tools for market research on LI than the Q&A function:

Oliver Picher said...

Thanks for the comment, Tom. The idea of using LinkedIn or Facebook to conduct more specialized market research is an intriguing one. I think these social media sites can be fantastic tools for qualitative research, but I'm not sure that they are ready for quantitative research for a couple of reasons:

First, the community on the sites is a self-selected population and probably not representative of the population in general.

Second, a pollster's "reach" in the community is dependent on his or her own social map. Unless the survey tool provides a way to, say, reach all LinkedIn users equally, there is going to be a built-in bias in the survey population. And, if the survey tool does do an end-run around the social map, then how is the survey processing leveraging the power of the social map? (Which is what social media is all about, anyway.)