Almost a decade ago, I dipped my feet in the pond of social media. I joined an emerging social medium called LinkedIn and started building my professional network. Now my network has grown exponentially (into many thousands of first level connections) and blossomed into an important vehicle for business and outreach.
Social media has transformed the way people interact and conduct business both in the public and private sector. Many users enjoy the medium because they control it and it is non-invasive. Social media has become a platform to communicate who we are and what we do. Today, most senior-level executive have LinkedIn profiles, including administrators, CEOs, CTO, CIOS and their numbers are increasing.
In my world of working with federal government agencies and private sector companies, LinkedIn has become a great resource. The functionalities can be broken down is a few areas: 1) Socializing/Networking; 2) Basic Intelligence; 3) Events: and 4) Strategic Partnering/Marketing.
Socializing/networking: Social media is in its essence “social.” It is an outlet for networking and connecting with people who share your interests, goals, and professional paths. LinkedIn is useful for reconnecting to people you have worked with in past jobs, friends, and alumni of Universities and colleges. In particular, the service encourages you to join professional and hobby interest groups where you can post articles and engage in discussion with group members. For example, I have a management role in two of the largest and most influential homeland security groups on LinkedIn. I post regularly in those groups and network with other in the DHS and law enforcement fields. Also, as a foodie, I created the “DC Foodies” LinkedIn group to reach out to others in the greater Washington, DC area that may have a passion for food, wine and restaurants. On LinkedIn there is a group for almost every subject from healthcare, governing, martial arts, to quantum physics.
Basic Intelligence: Another function of social media is that it provides you with working biographies of members. Whenever I have a meeting with someone new, I can usually find their profile on LinkedIn and see where they worked, what schools they attended and who we know in common. Also, by following the posts in groups, I can view the latest news from a variety of sources on a topic of interest. This is particularly useful in following government legislative issues (such as cybersecurity) as Hill staffers, government employees, and lobbyists often post the latest and greatest happenings. Also, almost all federal agencies and public entities have their own profiles (and often groups) on LinkedIn that make the basic intel process quick and easy.
Events: There is no better place to go to find out who is hosting what than on social media. This includes LinkedIn, Twitter, Gov Loop, and Facebook in the event domain. Since most publications are intertwined between print and digital media, social media outlets are a fulcrum for seeing what activities are happening both “inside the beltway: and outside on a daily basis.
Strategic Partnering/Marketing: Social media is really the Holy Grail for marketing. Messaging is immediate, perpetual and cost-effective. It is also much targeted and will allow you to focus communications to audiences, both individual and groups that may have an interest in your offerings and services. For those who are specifically focused on the federal market, LinkedIn is an especially good resource for finding teaming members and potentially partners to pursue opportunities. Many small business and 8A companies have established profiles on the site where they market their niche capabilities. By being active on LinkedIn, companies can often find you and reach out for help in areas that may be mutually beneficial. As government encourages diverse and multiple partners to work together on programs, the importance of having a strong stable of networked partners is becoming more of a premium.
We are still only in the early era of social media. It will continue to grow and be fused into all aspects of our lives. Social media vehicles like LinkedIn already have great utility in the workplace both in the corporate world, but also in government. Linking In has become more of an imperative than a choice.