Wall Street's all abuzz right now over the monster initial public offering of LinkedIn, the social network aimed at business professionals that until now had been considered something of the ugly stepsister of the social networking world. All the "cool" folks in the tech vanguard, your future Mark Zuckerbergs and Larry Pages, were chatting on Twitter. Everybody and their grandma was posting pictures of their cats and vacations on Facebook. And LinkedIn was, well, that site you joined because somebody at work said you should. And then you checked in once a month, if that. It was far more network than social.
That's changing. And I think that's why you saw Wall Street assign a monster $9 billion valuation to LinkedIn, the highest since Google went public seven years ago. The main reason why LinkedIn looks like a smart bet, at least from where I'm sitting, is LinkedIn Groups. I never checked my page much until I joined several journalism groups about a week ago. Suddenly, I find myself stopping in much more often for insights from colleagues around the country and the world on how best to incorporate online and new media tools into journalistic work.
LinkedIn's true potential value, I think, lies in its Groups. Who doesn't want to shine at work? Who among us doesn't always have the sneaking suspicion someone else in the field knows something valuable that we haven't heard about? Pretty much all of us. So, if you're already on LinkedIn, click the "Groups" tab on your homepage and then click "Groups You May Like" to get some suggestions. Or, use the option to start one yourself. One of the many local groups, Charlotte Business Professionals, lists more than 9,000 members.
A few cautions:
- Don't join more groups than you have time to follow -- notifications from 12 groups will drive you batty.
- You'll find interesting people in the groups. People you'll wish you knew. Don't try to join their personal networks just because you saw their profile. Some likely will find it annoying -- unless you can send them a really persuasive message introducing yourself and your reason for wanting to link to them. You can "follow" them instead (still creepy sounding, I know) and keep posted on what they're saying, without begging them to join their network.
- And in the same vein, don't accept random LinkedIn requests from strangers -- unless they offer a credible reason why you shouldn't view them as a nuisance to be flicked away. I don't know this for certain, but I suspect spammers are starting to infiltrate the networks.
- Don't integrate your Twitter feeds into your LinkedIn page if you're going to be tweeting crazy personal stuff that might make your Twitter buddies crack up, while professional counterparts on LinkedIn are cringing or just wondering if you've lost your marbles.