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Since its launch in 2003, LinkedIn has come a long way. Originally little more than a Facebook for the working world, the professional social network now boasts more than 575 million members. Along the way, it’s become a top recruiting platform, a must-have for marketing, a networking platform and a saving grace for salespeople.

But LinkedIn’s legacy isn’t written just yet. In fact, the social media platform’s future looks brighter than ever. Media consultancy 4C reported last August that the only social media platform to beat Instagram’s 204 percent year-over-year growth in ad spend was LinkedIn, which posted a 212 percent jump over the same period. For all other social platforms, 4C found that ad spend grew less than 50 percent last year.

Why leaders are banking on LinkedIn.

Getting ads in front of the right people, however, is just one of many reasons why business leaders are investing more in LinkedIn. In addition to its networking tools, LinkedIn offers:

1. Best-in-class integrations.

To help salespeople convert their connections into revenue, LinkedIn offers a suite of tools it collectively calls Sales Navigator. Although Sales Navigator offers lead recommendations, connection maps and real-time updates on accounts, its real magic is its partner integrations. LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator Application Platform (SNAP) features integrations across the sales stack, ranging from Engagio to Demandbase to Adobe Sign.

The latest addition to SNAP is Mixmax 2.0. The email automation platform’s latest iteration lets users send LinkedIn Mail and connection requests, view Sales Navigator profiles, get icebreaker suggestions and check prospects’ recent activity. Users can also add connection requests and communications to Mixmax sequences, which automate routine tasks like follow-up emails.

According to Mixmax CEO and co-founder Olof Mathé, the partnership is a natural fit for Mixmax’s mission to help businesspeople communicate more effectively. “Many of our users live in Gmail and our integration with LinkedIn Sales Navigator ensures users can conveniently make richer connections and seamlessly expand their networks as part of their email workflow,” said Mathé in a press release.

2. Smarter sales education.

Nothing about sales is static. There’s always a new tool to discover, trend to learn about or prospect to sell. But while 87 percent of Millennials — the generation your young salespeople likely belong to — approach jobs as development opportunities, Spherion Staffing found that just 14 percent of surveyed workers would give their employer an “A” rating for training and development.

So where can workers turn for training they’re not getting at the office? LinkedIn’s Sales Academy provides online coursework and training resources for salespeople looking to get a leg up. Two currently on offer are “The Art of Selling,” which covers how to understand, target and engage buyers across channels, and “The Art of Sales Coaching,” which digs into management and mentorship tactics that sales managers can use to maximize their impact.

Kurt Shaver, chief sales officer at Vengreso, suggests LinkedIn’s sales training, particularly for inside salespeople. After using it to help train an external team in digital sales, Shaver points to its universally relevant recommendations, high-quality content and peer engagement tactics as helpful legs up.

3. Exclusive research.

What do 1,200 talent developers, 400 people managers, 200 executives and 2,200 employees have to say about workplace training and development? To find out, download LinkedIn’s latest Workplace Learning Report. Surprisingly, the survey showed that all groups surveyed on the subject agree that it’s more important for employees to learn “soft” skills like communication and collaboration than role-specific skills.

But LinkedIn doesn’t just dump the data and forget about it. LinkedIn’s learning center covers topics ranging from talent acquisition to marketing to employee engagement, often drawing insights from its own research. LinkedIn’s “8 Ways to Engage Your Learners” playbook, for instance, combines its first-party data with case studies from companies like Sage.

4. Sector-specific resources.

Neither sales nor networking look the same in the retail industry as they do, say, in financial services. To help leaders take a tailored approach to talent development, LinkedIn regularly publishes guides and webinars that cover best practices in each industry.

LinkedIn’s latest industry webinar, for instance, helps those in the financial services sector maximize its tools. “The growing complexity of the advisory business is requiring Wealth Managers and Financial Advisors to rethink the way they do business,” LinkedIn’s Jennifer Benincasa wrote in a blog post. “Social networks can help financial professionals differentiate their value proposition to prospects and clients.”

In addition to its content for the financial services industry, LinkedIn also publishes articles and guides specific to marketing, higher education, recruiting and more. What’s more, LinkedIn encourages users to fill its industry gaps by suggesting the best content for company pages to share.

No longer is LinkedIn just a place for professionals to connect. Whether it initially meant to or not, the social network has shaped itself into a forum for learning, leadership, sales, marketing and just about anything else its users might want to learn about. With more than half a billion users, LinkedIn really has become the backbone of the business community.

 

Originally posted on Entrepreneur by Rashan Dixon

 

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