Here's a confession: Over the past few months, I have become addicted to LinkedIn.
It has been a strange development because, for the longest time, LinkedIn had no appeal to me.
Every so often, I would get a notification via e-mail that someone wanted to connect with me. In some cases, I actually knew or had met the person, so I would click on "Accept," even though the benefits were not completely clear, other than my network continued to expand.
For whatever reason, my indifferent attitude toward LinkedIn changed a few months ago.
It may have been caused by a decision to become more pro-active about business development and marketing for my consulting business.
For a long time, the business had done well mostly through referrals and a willingness to meet people for coffee at the drop of a hat.
But when I started to get serious about taking things to the next level, it became obvious that other approaches and tools needed to be embraced.
So how does LinkedIn fit into the picture?
Its value lies in the ability to create a digital network to complement and enhance your real-world network. LinkedIn makes it easy to reach out to people that you know, have met or would like to know because there is a personal or professional connection.
For anyone who wants to establish a stronger digital presence, LinkedIn can be an effective tool that doesn't take the time and effort required by other services such as Twitter, Facebook or a blog.
At the same time, LinkedIn is a "safe" environment for people who would like to use social media for professional reasons.
By connecting with people on LinkedIn, you establish ties that can be tapped in the future – whether for business development, a job, an introduction to another person, or an invitation to someone to speak at a conference.
For me, there are two "killer apps" on LinkedIn.
First, LinkedIn makes it easy to get information about someone you're meeting, doing business with or would like to meet.
Rather than using Google, a search on LinkedIn usually provides a wealth of information about someone – a photograph (always good when meeting someone for the first time), experience, schooling, social media presence and mutual connections.
The other "killer app" is the ability to see who has looked at your LinkedIn profile, which I find completely addictive.
Those who don't subscribe to premium LinkedIn services can see the last five people who have checked out their profile. Upgrading to the $95-a-year service lets you see everyone who has looked at your profile.
This is an interesting and useful feature because it can provide good intelligence about who might be interested in your products or services.
Not every person who views your profile is a potential customer but knowing who has checked you out could offer some insight to drive business development opportunities.
As much as I hate to admit it, I check this feature at least once a day.
It has been interesting to see how my use of LinkedIn has changed and, truth be told, I'm probably just scratching the surface of its available features.
For anyone who has dismissed LinkedIn, it is definitely worth giving it a second look.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mark Evans is the principal with ME Consulting, a communications and marketing strategic consultancy that works with startups and fast-growing companies to create compelling and effective messaging to drive their sales and marketing activities. Mark has worked with four startups – Blanketware, b5Media, PlanetEye and Sysomos. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshmarketing and meshwest conferences.
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