7/20/09

Competitive Intelligence in a Web 2.0 World - Part 2: Uncovering the 'What' and 'Who' of LinkedIn

[Note: Another brilliant Guest Post from our unofficial 4th Geek, Laura Walters]

LinkedIn has become the most popular of the professionally focused social media sites, and therefore a goldmine for various competitive intelligence tidbits, sometimes disclosed inadvertently. What I particularly love about LinkedIn is the web you begin to detect between contacts and their current and previous circles of friends and colleagues.

Here’s a brief look at some of what – and who - you can uncover using LinkedIn:

Company Info Bonnie Hohhof over at the Society for Competitive Intelligence (SCIP) gives us a rundown on the company info available:

To start, first Click on the “companies” heading at the top of the LinkedIn page, and you are offered the opportunity to find companies by keyword (can also limit search by country or postal code), by company name, or by industry. You can also get there by clicking on the company name in a person’s LinkedIn record.

Once you’ve identified the company you want to look at, LinkedIn gives you a short description of the company and employee information:

· How many of their employees are on Linked in and a list of their names, titles, and locations from those individual entries. (Provides you a potential list of contacts, locations where the company has a facility, and the types of activities at a location as extrapolated from the titles.)

· A list of their new hires, LinkedIn users who have indicated in their profile that they’ve recently joined this company. List includes their current title, their previous company and title, and how long ago they were hired. (Potential source of information on companies they left, an indication of specific movement from another company, the rate at which the company is hiring new people, and the specific knowledge base of the new hires.)

· Recent promotions and changes, LinkedIn users who have recently indicated in their profile that they’ve recently changed positions at this company. List includes their current and previous titles, and when the change took place. (Where’s the growth ahead in the company, potential dissolution of a specific department and replacement of those individuals in another part of the company.)

· Popular profiles of Linkedin users who are highlighted because they may be actively in the news, referenced in blogs, participating in industry groups, and/or frequently the result of searches and other activities within the Linkedin network. (Identify the ‘movers and shakers’ of the organization.)

A section titled “related companies” also provides additional information:

  • A link to any division or subsidiary company record in LinkedIn. (company organization)
  • Common career paths for the company’s employees – companies they came from and companies they left to. (Companies working in similar areas, potential competitors.)
  • A list of companies that the company employees are most connected to. (People they know and talk to.)
  • The key statistics box gives you a variety of background information on the company.
  • The locations of the company and how many employees with LinkedIn profiles are at each location.
  • The headquarters address.
  • Type of company (public/private).
  • Company size.
  • Last years reported revenue.
  • When the company was founded.
  • The URL for the company website.
  • If available, a link to articles on the company in the popular business press.
  • Common job titles and percentage of employees in each one.
  • The top school employees attended
  • The media age of employees
  • Employee gender split in percentages

A handy box titled “Jobs” lists how many open positions in the company has posted on LinkedIn, a link to a list of those jobs, and then a link to each position’s details. A “news about” section provides titles, sources, and dates for the most recent three articles on the company, with a link to each one. And if the company is public, the page shows basic stock prices.

LinkedIn has partnered with Capital IQ to provide company data.

Legal Intel Shannon Shankstone wrote one of the first articles on the use of LinkedIn for CI in the legal industry for the Marketing the Law Firm Newsletter. She cites a great example of the potential for finding competitor firm client information using the tool:

“A quick search for a well-known law firm listed one of their attorneys as the top result. Although Mr. Lawyer made his connections private, he did not shy away from requesting recommendations. He lists over 40 recommendations, 26 of which are from clients. Some of these clients are (names have been withheld, but are available on Mr. Lawyer's profile):

• A publicly listed hotel and resort corporation;

• A large biotech company; and

• A private equity firm.

At first glance, the CI pro now knows at least 20 of Mr. Lawyer's clients (some clients had more than one person recommending Mr. Lawyer). Were a firm considering approaching Mr. Lawyer as a lateral hire, they would include this information, and an analysis of the clients, to determine if Mr. Lawyer's client base was in line with the firm's business development goals.

If, on the other hand, a firm was competing with Mr. Lawyer's firm for work from a company in the hotel industry, then Mr. Lawyer's recommendations might be leveraged to the CI pro's firm's advantage. While Mr. Lawyer may point to his recommendations as proof that he has delighted clients in this industry, the competing firm may highlight this as Mr. Lawyer having a better relationship with a competitor company.”

Also Noteworthy Way back in 2008 3 Geeks did a posting on law firm alumni groups on LinkedIn. The numbers have no doubt gone up since then, and warrant a periodic search and scan to see what’s new.

There is a blog now dedicated to LinkedIn Intelligence that shares news and updates on LinkedIn technology as well as specific uses for harvesting info.

And there are currently 67 LinkedIn Groups pertaining to Competitive Intelligence. Joining Groups is a way to connect with folks you may not have a mutual LinkedIn contact for (once you join the group and are accepted as a member, just select the appropriate Group as the link to “Add Contact to Your Network”).

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