As a LinkedIn specialist, I am always on the ready to deliver good answers to the frequently asked questions. I prepare for them. After I give a talk, I anticipate them. I find that the question asked with the greatest frequency is whether one should upgrade to a paid LinkedIn account. People want to know what the advantages are and when the time is right.
My answer: Yes, and you will know when the time is right. The more skillful you become on LinkedIn, the more you will need and appreciate the features and benefits that accompany the upgrade.
The transition of LinkedIn to a paid platform has been underway for quite some time. Since early 2010, the point at which the site really started on its path of change, LinkedIn has introduced some features that seasoned users, and those gaining traction on the site, now find indispensable. In order to extol the merits of a paid subscription, LinkedIn is enticing those in its massive user base who are skating for free to make the move up by offering a 1-month FREE trial period. (You may very well have this promo message still sitting in your inbox.)
Whereas the provisions of the paid program are clearly listed in the promo, and can be easily accessed on the LinkedIn site, many people still don’t know what the advantages are, and which features they should test drive during those 30 days.
It is becoming crystal clear that on LinkedIn, you have to pay to play. Back in the day, you could effectively build your LinkedIn network at no cost. Not so anymore. Negotiating professional relationships in the Digital era requires more judicious decision-making. LinkedIn now withholds valuable information on those outside a direct connection with you, and has set limits on your depth and breadth of search. Clicks that once led you to what you needed to see now prompt “Upgrade Now” conversion attempts. Many of my clients and students have reached that impasse and see the need to opt into a paid plan.
If you are on the bubble as to whether to pop for the paid, but will accept the free trial offer, here are the questions that warrant your contemplation for those 30 days:
1). Can you stay committed to a daily LinkedIn regimen?
Building a professional network that can generate business opportunities requires time and discipline. To the uninitiated, mastering the site might seem like a long, hard climb. Not until the habit of daily use is ingrained will you see and truly appreciate the power of LinkedIn as a prime driver of business growth. If you are newbie, find your way. If you are a sporadic user who deems LinkedIn as hard labor, then you will fail to see its value. Don’t make excuses. Do what it takes in order to achieve a positive outcome. With daily use of LinkedIn comes greater agility on the site, a deeper understanding of its nuances, and an enhanced recognition of real world opportunity. Without your firm commitment to focused learning during the 30-day trial period, you will not arrive at a basis for justifying the upgrade. So invest the time. Do your homework. Bring an optimistic outlook into each LinkedIn session. Once you string together a few good sits at the computer, you will become more productive, more intuitive, and more creative on the site. Plus, you might even find it fun.
2). Are you interested in building a deep, cohesive LinkedIn network?
The new dynamics of social networking on LinkedIn call for raising your level of professional conduct and more respect-based connecting. Your ability to do business, real business, on LinkedIn is contingent on how purposefully you research, approach and engage with others. If you view your professional relationships as your business lifeline, and are intent on interacting with people on a meaningful level, then the return on your LinkedIn investment will be best realized. The availability of relevant information that can be harvested via LinkedIn filtered searches makes the upgrade an easy decision. So, too, is the InMail feature. An InMail is a targeted piece of communication that offers an inroad to a potential client, collaborator, or influencer when no other routes are apparent or feasible. A cordial, well-crafted InMail presents you in the best possible light, elevates your brand in the mind of the recipient, and increases the likelihood of a favorable response. With the paid program, you also gain greater access to LinkedIn’s dedicated introduction platform, therein allowing your 1st degree connections greater ease in orchestrating quality introductions to decision-makers on your behalf. During the trial period, you are sure to discover that the upgrade is designed around helping you bring good people into your LinkedIn network.
3). Are you receiving more than 5 LinkedIn profile visits per day?
The tipping point in my own decision to upgrade—other than the fact that I consider myself a brand ambassador of LinkedIn to the nth degree, and wish to speak from the point of view of the paid subscriber—is the expanded Who’s Viewed My Profile (WVMP) capability. WVMP has become one of the most frequently discussed aspects of LinkedIn, as both a critical metric and a strategic touch point in social selling. With the basic (free) program, you will only see 5 visitors per day (providing that you have your account visibility settings set accordingly). If you are consistently receiving more than 5 hits daily on your LinkedIn profile, and wish to see them all, then that alone warrants the upgrade.
The upgrade to the LinkedIn premium program is more than merely acquiring the privilege of displaying the gold “IN” logo on your LinkedIn profile that designates you as a paid subscriber. The real issue here is: what can you do on the site for the money versus what can’t you accomplish for free? As with any investment, you have to evaluate the tradeoff and decide if the end justifies the means. Once you get to the point where LinkedIn activity becomes second nature and part of your daily business process, I say pay, and don’t look back.
Do you value your LinkedIn work to the point where you are willing to pay for it?
©2014 by J.D. Gershbein. All Rights Reserved. Since 2006, JD Gershbein, CEO of Owlish Communications, has helped advance the collective awareness of LinkedIn and inspired opportunity-oriented professionals in all walks of business to step up and achieve on the site. His message fuses LinkedIn profile optimization, personal branding, respect-based social networking, marketing communication strategy and classical business development techniques with neuroscience and psychology. J.D. is one of the world’s top scholars on LinkedIn, a globally acclaimed speaker and frequent media contributor on social business strategy. He is also adjunct professor of marketing communications at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Stuart Graduate School of Business, where he is advancing social media marketing as an accredited field of study. His book “The LinkedIn Edge: Creating a Psychological Advantage in Social Business” is due out in summer 2014. Get more LinkedIn wisdom when you subscribe to JD’s blog. You are welcome to connect with JD on Google+, Twitter and of course,LinkedIn