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Business Observer Friday, Jan. 14, 2011 10 years ago

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Facebook and Twitter grab the social media headlines. But an entrepreneur in the recession trenches contends there's a better outlet for executives.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

Wayne Breitbarth used to be like many Gulf Coast executives and entrepreneurs, especially those over 50, when people asked him if he used LinkedIn.


Linked what?


“I don't need anything else to suck away my time, especially something with a computer,” Breitbarth thought a few years ago. “It seemed like a big waste of time.”


Breitbarth, who runs an office furniture firm in Milwaukee, did in fact put some time into LinkedIn, a social networking web site some have dubbed Facebook for business people. So much time, that Breitbarth ultimately wrote a book on the topic. The book, “The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success: Kick-Start Your Business, Brand, and Job Search,” will be published early next year.


Breitbarth first used LinkedIn, he says, when the office furniture business in Milwaukee began to slow down. He got into it quickly when he began to meet perspective clients through LinkedIn's exponential system of getting to know people through your contact's contacts.


By early 2009, Breitbarth was so into it he was teaching LinkedIn classes to other local executives and people in the business community. He's also hosted nearly 250 events on the topic. “They know they need to be on it,” he says, “but they are just not sure how or what to do.”


The first step to get the most out of a LinkedIn account, Breitbarth says, is similar to attending a networking event in person: You need to have a strategy. Don't set unreachable goals, but don't sell yourself short. Says Breitbarth: “Have a well-defined, documented strategy so you can measure your results or forget it.”


After a strategy, Breitbarth says there are three common mistakes people make when using LinkedIn. Those include:


• Profile procrastination: Breitbarth calls a LinkedIn user profile a “resume on steroids,” the one part of the site where a user can tell the world why his business is the best. The profile includes a recommendation section, where other LinkedIn users can endorse a business or a person. “Don't have a [weak] profile,” Breitbarth says. “If you're going to do it, than do it.”


• Lack of Trust: The trusted network of contacts is key to LinkedIn success, but that's also the element executives tend to slack on, Breitbarth says. “The number one power of LinkedIn is the ability to find out 'who knows whom,” Breitbarth says. “By connecting with all the people in your life whom you know and trust, you give yourself the ability to see who their friends and business associates are.”


• Not a billboard: A LinkedIn profile and trusted network isn't the place to advertise or push services. “It's not for direct marketing,” says Breitbarth. “This is a novel concept for many, especially those in the Baby Boomer generation who grew up with in-your-face marketing.”


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