LinkedIn: How It Can Be Used for Innovation Efforts


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The use of social media to promote and market the outcomes of innovation (products and services) is widespread. This is not the focus of this post as I want to focus on how people working with innovation can use social media in their efforts to create these products and services.

I will cover Twitter in another post, but here we go with LinkedIn.

Some facts on LinkedIn:

You already know of LinkedIn if you read this, but did you know these facts?

• LinkedIn operates the world’s largest professional network on the Internet with more than 347 million members in over 200 countries and territories.

• Professionals are signing up to join LinkedIn at a rate of more than two new members per second.

• In Q4 2014, more than 75% of new members came to LinkedIn from outside the United States.

LinkedIn has become a very powerful business tool since it started in 2003 and thus we need to understand how we can better use it for innovation purposes.

How corporate innovators can use LinkedIn:

In this context, I view a corporate innovator as a person, who is working with innovation in a larger company in a part- or full-time role. This can be people, who are working with innovation management and the development of innovation capabilities and the culture around innovation. It can also be people working in the business units to bring out new products or services through the innovation processes that are in place at the company.

• Identify and connect with people.

Knowledge is the key element to innovation, and LinkedIn is a great tool for identifying people with knowledge. If you are working on a project and you need to get in touch with experts or just others with an assumed interest in your topic, you can use LinkedIn’s advanced search function to identify these people by searching on keywords. This is not the same as having access to this knowledge, but knowing who to get in touch with is the second best thing.

HINT: Your search capability improves dramatically, when you get about 400 contacts and when you buy a Premium subscription.

• Apply the 10 search terms test

This is something I advise innovation teams to do on LinkedIn as well as Twitter.

Consider the projects you are working on at the moment. Now, identify 10 key terms that are important for what you are doing. Make these 10 terms as specific as possible in order to make your results relevant.

Bring your team together and have all of you enter the search terms in LinkedIn as well as with Twitter.

Who shows up on the LinkedIn search? Discuss the results and why this is so. What did you learn from this and what actions can you take?

You can do the same on Twitter based on the tweets that show up. For this to work well, you need to use a desktop application such as Hootsuite in order to get a good view of the results.

Do this on an on-going basis in order to detect changes and trends within your community. This is an easy way to get great business intelligence that can be used for your projects and work.

• Engage in special interest groups.

This is a double-edged sword. There are so many groups so you are almost certain to find some that fit your needs and interests. You will most likely also be able to build relationships with relevant people in these groups. However, there is a considerable amount of spam (non-relevant information and self-promotion) in most groups and thus many good discussions almost get lost in the clutter of (irrelevant) information.

• Create your own special interest groups.

If you want to create your own group, you will run into the above-mentioned challenges of spam and irrelevant information. To fight this, it helps if you consider two things. First, you need to ask yourself if there really is a need for your group and then you need to make sure you have the resources needed to facilitate and moderate the group in a way that everyone benefits if you decide to go ahead.

You might get better interaction if you run a private group in which members need to be approved to join. However, you need to bear in mind that the key issue here is time. Not many people have time to engage in such groups so if you want good results, you really need to deliver on your end.

• Share your thoughts and ideas on LinkedIn Pulse.

Not so long ago, this feature was only available for selected Influencer, but now everyone can post their thoughts and ideas on Pulse. There is of course a lot of noise due to the thousands of posts being written everyday, but it can still be a good way for you to showcase your thoughts and ideas and thus bring attention to the innovation projects you are working on.

You can also respond to posts written by others, which is a good way to demonstrate your knowledge and establish yourself as a thought leader on a given topic.

Some success tips:

• Turn your profile into a communication platform; not just a resume.

This one is obvious, but you should do a thorough job of completing your LinkedIn profile. This takes a little time, but it will establish that you’re serious about using LinkedIn as a way to connect with people.

Have in mind, that you are no longer using LinkedIn only as a resume to pursuit new job opportunities. Your profile and those of your colleagues become an important communication tool for your innovation projects and capabilities and this can help attract even more relevant partners.

• Get as many connections as possible.

The network effects really start kicking in once you get to 3-400 connections with one example being that your searches give better results. Getting 3-400 connections might sound difficult, but you will be amazed by the number of contacts you have amassed over the years once you start to think about this. Most of these are also on LinkedIn.

• Develop your policy for connecting with others.

The above suggestion raises the question of whom you should connect with.

Personally, I decided a few years ago to accept invitations from everyone having a relevance to what I do rather than only connecting with people that I had met in real life or interacted with through other social media channels.

This approach has worked well for me and I recommend people to be fairly loose on whom to connect with although you still need to figure out what works the best for you.

• Send out invitations to connect to people with shared interests.

Building further on the above, you should consider sending out invitations to connect even to people you do not know. It is my experience that people are increasingly willing to communicate and interact on LinkedIn as long as you have some shared interests.

I spend quite some time doing Advanced Searches (using my Premium membership options) to identify people in specific industries and/or geographical locations. I send an invitation to connect if I am working on initiatives that are relevant for the person in mind or if I plan to visit the region in the near future and would like to meet up.

The key here is to write a personal message in the invitation rather than just sending the standard one, which to some people will look like spam from someone just trying to boost their number of connections.

• Upgrade your account.

I have mentioned this earlier, but here I go again. While using the service for free certainly has benefits, becoming a Premium member really kicks things up in terms of your ability to identify and reach out to other people who would be good to have in your open innovation ecosystem. One key benefit of a paid membership is that you get more InMails, which you can use to reach out directly to anyone, even if they are not included in your network of contacts.

I hope this inspires you to new ways of using LinkedIn.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stefan Lindegaard
Stefan is an author, speaker, facilitator and consultant focusing on open innovation, social media tools and intrapreneurship.


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