ICMG, an insurance industry association I’ve been involved in since 2004 (thanks to John Kertis), asked me to write up a little something about Linkedin that might be helpful to the membership, and by extension, the organization. (These Comments also seem to be relevant to any industry association, Linkedin Group, and/or professional.)

Fall 2011 on Clairhaven

Fall 2011 on Clairhaven

Frequently I’ve heard and seen the following Comments about Linkedin and Social Technologies….

“I don’t really know that much about it. I’m accepting connection requests, but that’s about it. Who has the time for all that anyway…”

“I’ve joined a couple industry groups, but to be candid, I’m not really participating. I’m barely keeping up with regular email, let alone social networking…”

“I’ve got a profile in there, but I can’t remember my password…”

“I really don’t get the whole Social Networking thing. When I need to speak with someone, I just pick up the phone and call them. If they’re interested, they’ll call me back…”

“I doubt people ever search for me online. Why would they do that, anyway?”

“Social networking is for people that sell to individuals, not businesses. Insurance AGENTS should be using that stuff, but not me. I sell to company executives and they don’t use Linkedin and all that…”

“It’s impossible to keep up with all that Social stuff. As soon as I’ve got something at least somewhat figured out, they go and change it on me…”

“My company blocks access to Social sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Linkedin is open, but people frown on it when you update your profile or status. People think you’re looking for a new job…”

“Look Mike, I can see why YOU want everyone to use all these Social things because you’re in that business. But… I’m a deal-maker… OR I run an insurance agency… OR I’m selling services to insurance marketing executives… OR I work in the Senior market… OR I recruit, train, and support 1000s of agents…. I don’t have time for Social Networking. Plus the people I work with aren’t using it or even asking about it. So it’s a waste of time for me. I’ve got a job to do and numbers to hit…”

On the surface, these are all legit Comments, no doubt about it. However, we all know the common euphemisms that apply to Comments such as these. I won’t take the time to restate the common and standard responses, such as “Well, if ‘everyone else’ is jumping off a cliff, does that make it right?” Instead, let me point out some statistics and other data-points that might lead the reader to decide to take a different path, more forward-looking and though-leader’ish.

A few data-points about Social Networks in general:

65% of Adult Americans that use the Internet use Social Networks
http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Social-Networking-Sites.aspx

93% of Americans believe that a company should have a presence on social media sites and 85 percent believe that these companies should use these services to interact with consumers.
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/study_social_media_presence.php

The top age group, by volume, that uses Social, is 35-44; second is 45-54.
http://derekshowerman.com/2011/07/07/age-demographics-for-social-media-usage/

Retirees age 65 and older are the fastest-growing group of social networking site users.
http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/planning-to-retire/2011/08/30/retirees-fastest-growing-users-of-social-networks

Social network use among Internet users 50 years old and older has nearly doubled to 42% over the past year.
http://mashable.com/2011/04/06/baby-boomers-digital-media/

A few data-points about Linkedin in general:

In June 2011, LinkedIn had 33.9 million unique visitors, up 63 percent from a year earlier. (1)
As of March 2011 the service had 44 million users in the US and 56 million outside. (1)
LinkedIn members are on pace to do more than four billion searches on LinkedIn in 2011. (2)
The average American has 634 ties in their overall network and technology users have bigger overall networks. (3)
(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linkedin
(2) http://blog.linkedin.com/
(3) http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Technology-and-social-networks/Part-3/SNS-users.aspx

Lastly, a few data-points about the ICMG Group on Linkedin specifically:

Just like the Annual Meeting itself, it’s a big network and growing, but also includes non-members who are participants in the industry.

ICMG Linkedin Group has 450+ Members and growing daily.

Going further, many of the Group Members have over 500 Connections on Linkedin themselves. Most have at least 150+ Connections. If a study were done, it would not be surprising to find that the average ICMG’er on Linkedin is connected to over 100 insurance industry professionals and colleagues – and all these numbers are in growth mode right now.

The Group activity is meaningful.

Up significantly in 2011, Group Discussions have been used for announcements like new insurance products and distribution partners/channels, links to relevant articles on topics like health insurance and PPACA, and Q&A on different challenges and solutions native to our business and industry.

So as an industry participant, “What’s in it for me?” you may ask.

Think about it. If you post something in the ICMG Linkedin Group, 450 people in your industry have the chance of seeing it. If you post something INTERESTING in the ICMG Linkedin Group and 10 people make a Comment, add 10×100 or 1000 MORE potential industry views of your Announcement, Comment or Question. And what is the cost? Time.

What about research? Need a warm introduction to a potential strategic partner? Need to do some research on someone before starting a relationship? Looking for a service provider in your network? By connecting with industry colleagues and participating within industry discussions, can you see how both sides of this coin can be satisfied?

Others:

  1. Never make a cold call again.
  2. Never start a strategic relationship without great information about the prospect or the company.
  3. Always go into meetings prepared with current information on the topic and the people.
  4. Communicate with your target audience in a relevant manner for free.
  5. Constantly increase your IQ on a variety of topics.
  6. Shorten your sales cycles.
  7. Draw your clients into your information stream, increase exit barriers and competitive advantage, and cross-sell new products and solutions.
  8. Understand the inherent accountability to peak performance and trust that Social Networks build and reinforce.
  9. The list goes on and on and on…

Are these helpful pieces of information that might change your mind about the environment? If so, you might then ask, “OK, Mike. I see what you’re saying here. What should I do to take advantage of all this opportunity?”

First, get in there and update your profile – completely. Manage your property. If you want to see a good example of all the parts and pieces, arrangement, keywords, applications, and so forth, feel free to browse my profile. I’ve done a LOT of research – every single element is done for a specific reason. Use me. Pay attention to the details – they each have a purpose. Above all, make sure your profile is connected to your professional email address. The general concept in play is “Online Reputation Management.” Nuf said.

Daily Activities
5 Minutes: Update your status with something useful. Reply to any Comments as quickly as possible.
10 Minutes: Scan your network’s status updates. (Here’s the thing: Build the Shares newsfeed section into a powerful part of your river of information.)
As you scan, by all means, Like and Comment on other Shares, as appropriate, remembering that your network will then see the updates that you Comment on and Like. Try not to read-only, instead add value with insights and promotion of content.
5-10 Minutes: Open and scan the Group email blasts as they come in. At least look at the subject and author.

No time to add 20-30 minutes a day to your schedule? Look for something to cut.

Weekly
5 minutes: Look at the network Recommendations on the Home page Network updates. Float your mouse over unfamiliar names that have recommended influential people in your network or vice-versa. Are these potential business partners?
10-30 minutes: Try to make a few Comments in a few Groups to add value and build influence.
If you haven’t already, look at the member list and send Connection requests to people you know. Send warm introduction requests to people you want to know.

No time to add 15-30 minutes, perhaps an hour a week to your schedule? Use down time in between things – JUST NOT WHEN YOU ARE DRIVING, PLEASE.

Monthly
10 Minutes: Update your profile with any material changes to your job, interests, awards, etc.
30-60 minutes: Make/Ask for 3-4 Recommendations for/from current clients wrt projects, etc.

No time to add a half-hour to an hour a month to your schedule? Make time – get up earlier or do it while eating breakfast. (Do you really need to watch one more game/show/movie with undivided attention?)

Two final comments:

All boat rise with the tide.
Don’t get left behind.

Good luck. Happy to help. Please Comment and Share. I wanna know. Thanks.