This is the third and final (for now) personal case study on how the social web delivers unexpected business benefits. This story features LinkedIn, a powerhouse generator of business connections.

Making connections

I’ve made some of my best business contacts through LinkedIn Group Q&A forums. One example is my relationship with Dr. Ben Hanna, now VP of Dex Interactive. In a casual response to one of my answers in a forum, he mentioned that he was documenting his company’s progress on social media marketing month by month. I thought this was fascinating and asked if I could feature him on {grow}.  This led to a number of articles which remain some of the most popular posts I’ve done.  Ben and I have continued to support each other on various web-related projects.

Human Resources 2.0

Second example of a business benefit: One of my customers was looking to hire a new technician with highly specialized skills. I suggested doing an advanced search on LinkedIn using the zip code (to narrow the location) and keywords indicating the skill set. He followed my advice, identified three viable candidates and he just hired one of them.  I helped my customer with an important personnel issue in one 60-second phone call!

New customers

Another example led to a direct business opportunity.  An account executive from GIS Planning read some of my answers on a LinkedIn Group Forum and became curious enough to click my icon, which took her to my website … which took her to my Twitter account … and my blog.  Of course I had not connected to her directly at this point but that was about to change.

After a couple of months, she called me up out of the blue: “Mr. Schaefer, I’ve been reading your comments on LinkedIn, Twitter and your blog and I’m convinced you are the voice of marketing we need for or company. Can you take on a new account?”

Well, THAT was a nice surprise!

This led to subsequent phone calls with her executive leadership and it resulted in a business partnership with GIS Planning, an amazing company that produces software for economic development institutions.  It pulled me into a whole new industry and allowed me to learn from some wonderful marketing pros.  And, it has helped my bottom line, which is what this is all about, right?

So let’s see how this real-world experience relates to my formula for creating business benefits on the social web:

Connections + Meaningful content + Authentic helpfulness = Business benefits

  • By being active on LinkedIn forums, I was building important new business connections. In the GIS case, I didn’t even realize it.
  • The content Ben Hanna provided spurred dialogue and cooperation between us.  Meaningful content in the form of LinkedIn Group answers provided enough value for GIS to take action to learn more about me. Meaningful content comes in many forms!
  • When I was participating in the forums, I was genuinely offering help with no intent that I would get anything out of it. Similarly, I enjoy supporting Ben’s projects becuase I always learn something and I truly believe in his vision.

I believe this formula represents the core value of the social web — providing an opportunity to use your life’s blessings to connect to others in a meaningful way. We are living in a historic moment. We are the first generation to have access to free, instantaneous, global communication.  If you use this gift well, the benefits can be astounding.

Don’t you agree?

This is the third installment of the unexpected benefits of the social web. You might enjoy these other articles:

Part 1: How to become a CMO in 10 tweets or less

Part 2: On Twitter, even casual connections can lead to business benefits

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