Linking for Value
I sent invitations to complete a survey, about LinkedIn usage and value, using both direct emails and in postings to LinkedIn itself.
The survey was a mere five questions in length, multiple choice, and could have been completed in well under 60 seconds, so it's not an exhaustive investigation into the service or the opinions of its inhabitants. It is but a snapshot against which you might compare or contrast your own usage, confirm or upset your notions of its value.
These were the questions:
1. Do you have a page on LinkedIn?
The responses were presented as
2. How often do you "use" LinkedIn, whatever that means to you?
3. When you do use it, for which purpose(s)? (Check all that apply.)
4. How do you rate the value of LinkedIn to your business? (Zero means "no value," ten means "great value," and you can turn this rating up to eleven!)
The input was a slide with values ranging from zero to 11 that entered integer values depending on where the respondent placed the control pointer.
5. How are you involved in your business? (Choose all that apply.)
Of all the respondents, only 1 did not have a LinkedIn page. That person is an owner/independent contractor, seldom uses the service, does so only to read articles, and skipped the question of value (number 4). Let’s call it a zero (though they obviously find some value…)
Of those with a page, a third use LinkedIn daily, a bit more than that use it often, a fifth use it sometimes, and one in 12 almost never use LinkedIn.
As for what they use it for, corresponding with business contacts is the most cited reason, with over two thirds of respondents declaring that. Very nearly that many votes were cast for reading articles or linked articles. A bit more than half initiate business contacts, while a solid half research prospective hires or vendors, and very nearly half research a competitor or post articles themselves.
The average value ascribed to the service is, in round numbers, five, though technically it runs just a little bit higher than that: 5.2. And, remember, that's on a scale of 0 to 10.
Business involvement ran pretty much the gamut of available choices, with owners (42%), marketers (38%), managers (33%), and sales functions (29%) leading by a wide margin over the other choices.
If we look at the combined responses of owners and managers, we find 26% of them use LinkedIn daily and 32% use it often. Another 26% use it sometimes and 16% almost never do. So, nearly 6 in 10 owners/managers use the service daily or often, but conversely, more than 4 in 10 use it infrequently or nearly never.
This group’s usage is almost universally at lower rates as compared to the entire population of respondents. They are 7 percentage points less likely to initiate business contacts, and 13% less likely to correspond with those contacts. They are nearly 10% less likely to research a competitor, 3% less likely read articles, and 9% fewer post articles. Only in researching a possible hire or vendor do they overtake the responses as a whole, and that by fewer than 3 percentage points.
Perhaps it is not surprising that their average value rating is slightly less than 5, though admittedly 4.9 is still pretty much a solid 5, albeit lower than the average of all responses.
When we turn our attention to those in marketing and sales, the numbers perk up a bit. In round values, 40% of those respondents use LinkedIn daily, and 30% use it often or sometimes. None almost never use it (that was a fun sentence!).
Comparing usage to all respondents, marketing/sales people uses the service more broadly than the population as a whole. For every purpose except one we see higher involvement: initiating business contacts is greater by 26 percentage points. Corresponding with contacts? 29% greater. Four points separate the two populations for researching competitors, three points for reading articles, and four points for posting. Only in researching prospective hires or vendors do the marketers/salespeople use LinkedIn less, though that’s by a full 30%.
This group gives the service a 5.8 in terms of value.
So, what does the service look like to those who use it daily? The big takeaway would be a much higher percentage use it for reading and posting articles as compared to the respondents as a whole — 20 percentage points higher in reading, and just shy of double the usage for posting with nearly 90% of these respondents doing so! They also research competitors much more frequently, three out of four availing themselves of that ability. In fact, it is only in the two business contacts categories, initiating them and corresponding with them, that daily users trail the general population, otherwise they are much more active.
And that activity seems reflected in their judgement of its value — 8. Does their daily use lead them to value it, or does their appreciation for LinkedIn lead them to using it daily? This survey didn’t attempt to discern that, but they are obviously connected.
What about those who find little value? Well, half of those respondents who conferred a value rating below 4 use LinkedIn for corresponding with business contacts. Significantly, that is a smaller percentage than for any purpose among the full population, and that fifty-percent-usage is the highest-rated-usage among the low-value-rating respondents. Confusingly put? Sorry. What I mean is, those who value the service least also use it the least, across the board.
How little do they value LinkedIn? They give it a 1.1 score, though the equivalent question arises for this group as it does for the daily users: is the value judgement driving their usage or does their low usage lead to a low valuation? And, again, we didn’t examine that but a connection must exist. These respondents are mostly owners, with managers and marketers the key functions represented.
Coming at the value number from the other end, what about those that place a high value on the service? Two-thirds of respondents assigning a score of seven or greater use LinkedIn daily, with the balance using it often. They identify themselves primarily as owners, marketers, in sales and management, and are more likely to avail themselves of the myriad capabilities of the system than the population as a whole. In every category of purpose, they exceed the whole by between 4 and 30 percentage points.
The average value score for the group is 8, though if we look at those complete subgroups as defined by business involvement, and count the value scores for all owners, all marketers, etc., not just those who give it high marks, we don’t see universally high value scores. Owners actually fall below the full-population average, with their subgroup average value score of only 4.8. Management nearly matches the overall average with a 5.1. Marketers rate LinkedIn as 6.0 and sales gives it a 6.6, the highest subgroup score.
Sales and Marketing
Given the high value scores ascribed by those in sales and marketing, let’s look a little deeper at these two subgroups. (For convenience, I will refer to the groups as salespeople and marketers.)
Salespeople are more likely to use LinkedIn daily, 57%, compared to 44% for marketers. They are much less likely to use it only often, 14% versus 33%, then pick up frequency with 29% reporting using it sometimes, versus 22% by marketers. So, pretty consistent usage by both groups in proportions that are not surprising.
The purposes for which they use LinkedIn are of similar magnitudes, though not identical. In descending order the top five purposes for salespeople are correspond with business contacts, read articles, post articles, initiate business contacts, and research competing person/company. Each of those is engaged in by at least half of all salespeople. Marketers’ descending list of involvement is correspond with business contacts, initiate business contacts, read articles, post articles, and research background of competing person/company. Similar to sales in order, but in magnitude the last two are engaged in by only 44% of marketers.
The respondents in this survey are predominantly owners of businesses, with heavy representation in marketing, management, and sales. This seems a logical population since these are the roles most involved in the business of business, rather than the business of making things or serving customers or etc.
In general, LinkedIn is seen as a solidly mediocre value with an average value score of 5 out of 10, derived from inputs of every possible value from 0 to 10. The subgroup identifying themselves as employees give it the lowest score, 3.6, though not all subgroups had sufficient data to evaluate. The highest subgroup score was among those in sales, followed closely by marketing.
Those who use LinkedIn daily/often, as opposed to sometimes/almost never, do so by a two-to-one margin. Keeping in mind that this survey was not completed by a randomly selected group, but by those who chose to accept the invitation by email or outreach via LinkedIn, it’s perhaps likely the frequency of involvement, among all those with LinkedIn pages, is lower — the more active users might be the ones to more actively take a survey?
This last point, about active users being more likely to complete the survey, and how that might affect the results, also applies to the value scoring. It would not be surprising to learn that those who use the service only infrequently, or never, since creating their profile page, find little or no value in LinkedIn. But, conversely, those for whom LinkedIn is a valuable tool, connecting with these infrequent/never users is perhaps correspondingly of no value, which is fine by both parties.
So, Why Use LinkedIn?
I’m struck with the image of a public pool where the majority of the bathers are not in the pool, but lounging on the decking. I’m not sure why most came just to sit high and dry, but at least they’re not in the way, right? Those who came to swim, or float, or dive, or play Marco Polo are in the water. And if that’s what you came to do, this is the place to be.
The value calculation for respondents must be a mix of cost, in dollars (or Euros or Lire or Yen or whatever, if they are a paying member) and time, versus the benefits they receive or extract. While the financials are either small, in the bigger picture of doing business, or non-existent, the greatest cost to using the service is most likely the time spent.
So it is here that I urge a realistic review of your own cost/benefit calculation. Time can be spent only once, and if you are not getting truly good value from LinkedIn, spend your time elsewhere. We all know that social media, of which LinkedIn is merely a business-facing manifestation, can suck an awful lot of minutes out of your life. Make sure those minutes are delivering good ROI.
Circling Back to LinkedIn Photos
I recently wrote about the bad, the good, and the ugly of LinkedIn profile photos, where I showed examples of each and counseled using good photography…of course. You can read that here, but I figured I’d follow up with the technical specifications as detailed by LinkedIn.
In most settings your photo will be displayed within a circle, so crop your portrait to be square with your face in the center. That’s if your portrait is mostly a head shot. If you choose a wider view, say, a head-and-shoulders shot, crop so your face is higher in the frame, but don’t cut off the top of your head because LinkedIn’s circular presentation will exacerbate that. (Also, don’t accidentally squash or squish the photo — just cut off the excess area to leave a square image.)
LinkedIn recommends that the image you upload be at least 400 pixels on each side, and they allow images up to 20,000 pixels. I mean, 20,000 pixels!? Frankly, stick with 400 x 400 pixels — that’s plenty large enough to see you clearly and it keeps the file size reasonable. (They limit your file to 8 megabytes, but I saved a 400 x 400 image as a JPEG with maximum quality and it consumed fewer than 130 kilobytes — less than 2% of their limit.) A smaller file means it’s quicker for you to upload and quicker to display.
They allow files in JPEG, PNG, or GIF formats, so use whichever you prefer.
Here’s their page with this information and more: https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/answer/4981 If they move the page, just search the internet for “LinkedIn photo specifications” and choose an official LinkedIn link.
Keywords: linkedin, photography, portrait, portraiture, questionnaire, social media, survey, usage, valuation, value
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