Using LinkedIn for Business: Interview with Ed Steinberg, LinkedIn’s first Relationship Manager

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Edward_SteinbergWhen I first knew Ed Steinberg, he was the head of human resources at the company I was then working at. Since then, he’s gone on to do interesting things, becoming LinkedIn’s first Relationship Manager and working there for several years before moving on to training other sales people on using LinkedIn effectively.

I asked Ed for tips on using LinkedIn that small businesses can use. Read on! My questions and comments are in bold.

Let’s start by talking about you: tell us about how you landed up in LinkedIn and what your role has been.

I worked in Human Resources for a long time, 15 years or so. My primary responsibility was hiring. I realized that referral hires made the best hires and helped grow a company from 4 employees to over 500 people. I had opened up offices on 3 continents and hired a tremendous group of employees.

While working as Global Head of HR at StarCite, a LinkedIn rep came to my office to sell me Corporate Solutions. When I realized what it was, I saw that this was a large extension around the concept of referral hiring that had worked so well for me. It made perfect sense!

I came on board to sell new solutions to Global Corporate HR groups. I essentially was helping them to change the model of how they hired from a post and pray model, into building their own internal agencies that were able to hire based on need, build a pipeline of qualified candidates, and year after year, reduce their cost per hire while increasing quality. Fees that were spent on headhunters were spent on more licensing and advertising on LinkedIn, building a brand that made more new hires possible.

I then changed my roles from selling new clients into servicing existing clients. I realized that by spending more time on existing clients, partnering with them to learn their goals and struggles, enabled me to develop customized solutions that helped them to meet their goals, and helped them to measure the impact that LinkedIn was having for them. Once they were able to prove that this processes were working, they were able to shift more of their budget into LinkedIn, giving many more recruiters access to these powerful tools.

We work with small businesses and startups and we’re a small business too – how do you think small businesses can take advantage of LinkedIn to compete with more established businesses?

I think the advantage that small businesses offer is their personal touch and unique style. They should leverage that you a very small network at first. Get their clients to endorse and mention, specifically, what they offer their clients. That simple process can get you noticed from similar people on LinkedIn with similar needs. Start by developing and engaging with your network. If you have traction with that approach and people are engaging you, you may want to open up a group and invite your clients to join, so they can share information with other or potential clients.

What do you think is the most useful LinkedIn feature for small businesses?

I think that small business can do two things really well on LinkedIn. They can use the tool to market themselves, very specifically and very cost effectively, simply by identifying people on LinkedIn with similar backgrounds to their recent customers. They can then leverage what they have done for these clients (if not confidential) and use it to market themselves as more of a warm lead. Since people in certain industries know everyone, it creates more instant credibility if you have done work for their competitors or partners.

The other useful feature is the ability to find partners. Whether it is people to work with you, or people that can add value to your clients, you can build up a repertoire of skills and qualified contacts.

Unlike other social sites, company pages on LinkedIn can’t interact with other users. Why is that, and do you think that will change anytime soon?

I am not sure what is the question? Company pages provide a ton of information and helpful statistics. They are run by individuals but really owned by the company. They can interact with individuals by following that organization and then can send specific messages to those people that choose to follow them. Company pages are also a gateway to find out who you may know at an organization.

My understanding is a Linkedin page cannot send messages or comment on individual user’s updates the way a Facebook page can.

It can’t send an update to the page but it can send an InMail.

Right. So, by blocking pages from interacting with other people, is LinkedIn more of a platform for individuals, making them more accountable (instead of hiding behind the company profile) and helping them build their personal brands?

I think that LinkedIn is good for both. It creates opportunities for the individuals to be recognized and be responsible but it also gives companies a forum to get their messages to potential consumers as well as potential employees. I don’t think LinkedIn works for individuals without having the companies on here. And it doesn’t work for the company without the potential of having a hire out of it, or being able to brand and sell to consumers.

Individuals that own their own pages and put in the information to brand themselves well get much more out of LinkedIn. They are more accountable and more likely to have someone come to them for information or with an opportunity.

I have seen LinkedIn used most often for sales and for hiring: do you agree?

I slightly agree. I think they are used often for these activities. And I think sales and hiring are big wins for companies and individuals so they get good press. But I think people do more than that on LinkedIn. They use LinkedIn to make simple connections everyday that pay off big over time. People that find a new accountant, or a new lawyer, a new mentor from a group or an old friend at a new company. So there are many ways to make it work. With tools like LinkedIn Today, that filters relevant stories to your home page, more and more people will turn to LinkedIn as the source of great information from the web and filtered from their network. Tools like LinkedIn Signal will enable researchers and investors to keep track of information around a specific company or topic, and track it over time. Many people will help define new ways to use LinkedIn that we haven’t even thought of yet.

How should a startup use LinkedIn for hiring – any tips you’d like to share?

Depending on how many positions there are a few things they should do. First of all, build a good network and make them aware of your opportunities through status updates. Make sure you talk to current employees first. As many hires as possible should come from referral hires!

You can also post jobs that will find their ways to the home pages of qualified candidates, that is low cost yet still cost effective. But don’t forget to be proactive, and search fro those people that already have the skill set you wish to hire. Not only may they be interested, but also I find that birds of a feather flock together, so they usually know someone else that might be an available good fit.

If I have five minutes a day to spend on LinkedIn, what should I focus on: status updates, discussions, optimizing my page, or connecting with other people?

Status updates, new connections and group discussions in that order. And then flip the order a few days a week to make sure that each of those important activities gets attention.

What’s the secret to an effective company page: interesting content, keyword-optimized content, or regular updates?

Engaging content has to be the first element, but developing messages that speak to regular followers and keep them engaged is a secondary tool. The question I would ask is if your focus is hiring or selling – that might change how you set u the page, but some companies do a great job of melding these two things together.

What’s your favorite LinkedIn feature?

LinkedIn Signal (www.linkedin.com/signal) or LinkedIn Today (where I get to read the articles my network is reading).

What are your favorite online tools – productivity, social media management, or anything else?

That depends on what I am doing at the time. For business, I love LinkedIn and I find I do more and more on my iPad these days, whether it is grocery shopping or marketing and business plans. I have been enjoying some of the new business tools found on sites like SBA.gov to help support a new venture that my wife and I will launch this spring. For fun, I love Stumble Upon as it shows me the things that are of interest to me on the web.

Best of luck with the new venture, Ed, and thanks very much for talking to me: you’ve given us great tips for marketing on LinkedIn!

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