LinkedIn is one of the largest social networks. LinkedIn’s website has the following stats:
- Over 75 million members in over 200 countries.
- A new member joins LinkedIn approximately every second, and about half of our members are outside the U.S.
- Executives from all Fortune 500 companies are LinkedIn members.
I am sure all of you are on LinkedIn (and if you are not, what have you been waiting for?). It is the one of the three social networks that I engage in. Others being Facebook and Twitter. So how do we as software product managers effectively use LinkedIn. Here are 6 ways that I personally use LinkedIn.
1) Network with customers, friends, colleagues – Of course, this is obvious because this is what LinkedIn is all about. Needs no further explanation.
2) Find prospective customers – Doing market research and competitive analysis are primary job functions of software product managers. Not only should we be talking to existing customers, but also be talking to those who don’t use our products. But how do we find people who use competitor’s products? Simple. Start with a LinkedIn search. For example, let us say you are the product manager for Company X’s CRM solution and you want to talk to Salesforce.com administrators. Do a search on LinkedIn and see who comes up? Are any of these people connected to you? Can one of your connections make an introduction for you so that you are not cold calling people?
What if you don’t know who is using your competitor’s products? Where do you start? Competitor’s website of course. Do they have a list of clients or do they have press releases that announce new customer wins? Get that information and then start the LinkedIn search. You will be amazed on what you can find, provided you have a good network.
3) Find Usability testing participants – You have this brand new product/website that you have created to solve an unmet need in the marketplace. Before launch, you want your team to do usability testing with customers, prospects etc. But where do you find them? I find LinkedIn to be very useful in finding people who fit personas I need when doing usability tests. I have a network of 650+ connections. I am quite confident that I can find almost any type of persona for the work that I do, among my network or their connections.
4) References while recruiting – It is very typical for employers to ask for references from prospective employees. But does anyone expect candidates to provide references who would say anything but stellar things about them? Of course, not. What LinkedIn has allowed people to do, is find people who may not be on the candidate’s reference list but someone who has worked with the candidate in previous jobs. This reference may be valuable in helping the employer get an impartial reference on the employee – especially if you personally know the person you are talking to. I have been approached multiple times by my past colleagues asking for my opinion on people that I have worked with. I have done the same when I am looking to hire someone. But one word of caution – you absolutely should NOT talk to anyone at the candidate’s current employer without the candidate’s permission. You could risk the candidate’s current job and this is absolutely NOT acceptable.
5) Doing reference checks on your future employers – This is the other side of the same coin described in step #4. You are applying for this new job at this great company. You have interviewed with your peers, your future boss, some in the upper management and they are so upbeat. But are you sure this is the true story? What would it be to work with your future boss? How qualified is the management? What is the real story? As a candidate, you need to do your research. You will never be sorry. Trust me, based on my experience, there are many companies out there that just put on a show on how great they are with employees, but very few walk the talk. You can get the real deal using LinkedIn by talking to past employees, even current employees someone in your network may know very well – ask your connection to make an introduction. If the employer finds out about this and has an issue, you should walk – No good employer should have an issue with their future employees doing research on the company as part of their job hunting efforts. To me, when a new employee walks in through the front door to start a new job, I want him/her to be absolutely confident that they are taking the right move. Confident employees perform better in the long run and buy into the mission of the company much better.
6) Continuing education – Are you stumped with a software product management problem and would like to see how other software product managers would solve it? Looking to share your software product management expertise with others? Want to keep a pulse on what other software product managers are up to and keep reading more about software product management? Look no further than LinkedIn Groups. There are so many software product management groups on LinkedIn that are worth joining. I am a member of many of them and read through them as time permits. I participate in some of the threads (but no where close to how much I would like to). Participating in these discussion groups helps build your expertise in product management community as well. And all of this advise and continuing education costs you nothing – it is FREE!
What other ways do you use LinkedIn? Your thoughts on the above?
One closing word of caution – Give more to your network than you ask. Just because you have a network does not mean that you can exploit it by asking people for favors. Make sure you give more in kind than you ask of your network.
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