LinkedIn: paid account advantage?

Monday, April 4th, 2011 - LinkedIn


LinkedIn: paid account advantage?

If you are a business person or a job seeker, then I hope that by now you know of the advantages of having a LinkedIn account. If you don’t, then they are simply:

  • World’s biggest business social networking site = world biggest opt-in telephone directory
  • High page rank = your personal profile SEO’s well in Google, most often result one on page one
  • 55% of members are decision makers in their organisation = large number of buyers and hiring managers
  • An ability to be found and display your expertise to your target audience = more client lead approaches, less cold calling, and hence more sales
  • Most active social network for recruiters/employers = shorter job seeking time scales

But once you have joined, LinkedIn will ask you if you want to try a paid account? While the trial and various offers often offer excellent value, is the paid account value over the free account?

Job Seeker v Business

There are two types of paid account on LinkedIn, Job Seeker or Business. The Job Seeker account is simply a more economic version of the Business account, which is aimed at recruiters and sales people. Inside each paid option is a further Plus version, which offers more units of certain functions, over more functions.

Paid account Job Application

The first thing a paid account Job Seeker gets over a free account is premium listing in the results of a job search, when they apply to a position advertised on LinkedIn. But is this an actual advantage? Firstly paying to come top of a search makes you look like a desperate job seeker, and secondly just because you come top doesn’t mean that you are the right candidate. There are better ways to come high in a job application on LinkedIn than paying

InMails

As you can not directly eMail fellow users of LinkedIn that you are not directly connected to, the system cuts down on spam. That’s a good thing, as it means that business systems that build themselves on such methods, including MLMers and network marketers, hate LinkedIn.

LinkedIn does offer such a service though via its paid accounts, and its called InMail. As a paid account user, you get six InMails per month. But here is the problem with that offer: that’s low cost eMail for $6/message! That’s about the rate for shipping bricks overnight from one part of the country to another, and all you did was send one eMail message. The unlimited package of InMails costs $500/month, so to cost the same as the US Postal Service or the UK Royal Mail, you would have to send over 1500 InMails per month. If you really want to make contact with someone, there are cheaper ways of communicating that at $6/eMail

LinkedIn advise paid account users to use their InMail allocation by InMailing the person who posted the job/s that they applied for. That’s a daft idea, as it both uses up InMails, and means that you have to sell yourself cold/look like a desperate job seeker. But the major problem is that often, the person who posted the job is not the hiring manager, it at best their assistant and at worst the HR Manager. In summary, don’t follow LinkedIn’s advice on using up your expensive $6/message InMails!!!

Profile organiser

All paid accounts get access to LI Profile Organiser, which – although they claim it is NOT a CR system – gives you between 5 and 20 folders in which to organise your contacts. Sure does sound like a CRM system to me! Using Profile Organiser you can make notes on your contacts, but if they ever disconnect from you, you lose all your notes.

Hence the better and free to use for all system is to download all of your contacts details form the Contacts page, and then upload them to either an external CRM or your MSOutlook dBase. I use the latter, its free and once synchronised with Plaxo, means that when my phone rings I know instantly who is calling me, plus I have all my notes.

Searching on LinkedIn

Search results are important in two areas in LinkedIn. Firstly when you are searching, it would be nice to find the decision maker, buyer or hiring manager. Secondly when they search for you, it would be nice for your to come high in the results.

In a basic free account, the first 100 results are shown. Paid accounts show between 300 and 500 results. Now although that’s great for sales people and recruiters/employers, do you really think that they will trawl through to page 30 just to find you? The lesson here is that – much like Google – you need to LinkedIn SEO your profile so that it appears in the first page, or at least first couple of pages of LinkedIn search results.

See who is interested in your LinkedIn profile

LinkedIn gives all account users the function to be able to see who’s looked at their profile, but in the free account you get a variation based around the number 15, ie: 15 people today, or 5 people per day over 3 days, etc. The paid account appears to offer you a view of everyone. Ah, but that’ll be a NO!

LinkedIn is primarily focused around your network, so it protects you when you go browsing around people outside your network. You have to opt-in to allow people to see that you browsed their profile, with the default set to anonymous. Hence most people, not knowing the default setting is anonymous let alone how to change it, won’t be seen by premium paid account users. Interesting value add for paid users that doesn’t actually deliver.

Open Networker

The last claimed advantage of a paid account is that of being signified to others as an Open Networker. This little round dotted symbol with a blue dot at the top, shows other users that they can InMail you for free. Hmm, but just think about this:

  • If you are a job seeker, and I am an employer/recruiter, don’t you think that I would have a premium with unlimited InMail account?
  • If you are a sales person and I am a potential customer, don’t you think that it would be a wise idea if you had your contact details in your profile or headline?

In other words, the only people who would want to InMail you are fellow free account persons who are not sat in your target audience.

Alternative to paid LinkedIn account?

So what’s the alternative to a paid LinkedIn account?

Firstly, get active: in groups which are targets for the types of people that you wish to talk to. LinkedIn’s three span network system encourages you to network with like minded people, and the easiest way to do that is to join the groups in which they sit, and then get active. Doing this will put you within their three span network, and hence within contact range.

Secondly, once you and they are in the same group, even if they are not active, you can now directly eMail them. Simply choose the connect option, select groups – LinkedIn now shows you the drop-down menu of which groups that you share in common, so simply select one – and then eMail them. I strongly suggest that rather than using the standard LinkedIn invite, that you find out something about them that you share or noticed that they did, and then mention that to create some rapport. This always seem to create a positive response and hence connection.

Thirdly, learn how to use Boolean search. As LinkedIn allows Google to index both personal and company pages, you can hence find anyone who is on LinkedIn, simply by tapping the right search string into Google. If you can then find someone, and know the company that they work for, you can hence make contact. Simply then find the eMail form that that company uses (ie: richard.smith@company.com or rsmith@company.com), and eMail them directly.

If all else fails, and you can find them on Facebook, then Facebook allows anyone to eMail anyone. I’m not sure that I would use this method, as most don’t want to mix business with pleasure, but it is an open and wholly free option!

Is a there a LinkedIn paid-account advantage?

The reason that less than 3% of LinkedIn users actually pay for a premium account I think says a lot about the basic value inbuilt into LinkedIn’s service, and as users we should congratulate Reid Hoffman and the team for delivering such an excellent and mostly free product. The fact that it is now the worlds largest business social network will only add to that advantage, further developed by the problems that Facebook had recently with the spammy-service that is Branchout: yuck!

However, I am unconvinced that for most job seekers, that the marketed advantages of a paid account actually will give you a jobs search advantage. They generally fall on the side of pushing on the employer, and that to me makes the paid account user look desperate over premium.

LinkedIn Groups: the secret and free advantage

The summary message, if you haven’t picked it up so far, is that groups are the free and real premium advantage to connecting with people that you want to connect with, over any other method.

Good basic use of LinkedIn inline with its core aims and principles – to be a business networking site – will always be more effective in bringing both sellers and job seekers into the sights of buyers and employers in a better and more effective manner.

Because networking is at the core of LinkedIn’s value, groups will resultantly always be the natural flow of value to both LinkedIn users and LinkedIn themselves. But few will talk about that, and not many realise that. Learn more about groups, create one of your own, and use that knowledge to your advantage.

Good Luck!

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