Monday, April 29, 2013

Your Tipping Point on LinkedIn (The Waldo Factor, part 19)

In recent studies from Market Connections ( and others, there are two topics that keep rising to the top for government contractors:

   - the need to develop a thought leadership/subject matter expert platform and position;
   - the use of LinkedIn throughout the government contracting community.

These two concepts work well together, and each is very important to those seeking to move their company to the next level.

LinkedIn has become perhaps the most important marketing venue for BtoB and BtoG companies to position themselves, to define and defend an area of thought leadership, to demonstrate a clear subject matter expert status.

Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point was a huge success (deservedly so) when it came out in 2000. I highly recommend the book for anyone seeking to understand how small fads become big trends, and how small things come together to make a big impression.

The subtitle of Gladwell's book is How Little things Can Make a Big Difference.

For those of us leveraging social media, there are some very big lessons in this, things we can learn and apply to help our respective businesses' stand out on platforms link LinkedIn.

There are many things I could point out about the book that would be pertinent, but I will limit myself to three.

First is context: where things happen. Context makes little things become big things. As they accumulate in a  particular venue, they stack up and start to move.

Several of the more active people on LinkedIn share ideas, comment on discussions, post articles or links to blog posts- things that are pertinent to a particular group, or to selected groups. The more they do this, the higher their respective value rises in those groups (communities) and the more visible they become.

Second is the stickiness factor. If the right message is placed in the right group at an appropriate time, it becomes "sticky" and resonates within the group(s) where it is posted. Most of us have seen posts in groups that accumulate many comments and stay active for weeks or even longer. Not only is the person who posted the original comment a beneficiary, many of those adding value by commenting are as well. They benefit by adding value to the group, and the group benfits from that action.

The key people are the third and final point I wish to make. The kinds of people that make a difference in The Tipping Point and on LinkedIn are connectors, mavens and salespeople. Gladwell talks about them on the chapter title "The Law of the Few". My definitions are slightly different than those of Gladwell and are used as they apply to LinkedIn.

Connectors are the people in a group/community who know large numbers of people and who are in the habit of making introductions. These are people on LinkedIn you see in multiple groups, who have hundreds or thousands of connections, and who help you make connections when asked.

Mavens are subject matter experts, the people we rely upon to connect us with new information.  Think of mavens as thought leaders.

Salesmen  are "persuaders", charismatic people with powerful selling skills, often seen supporting the ideas of others.

Note that the chapter in Gladwell's book is titled the law of the few. It is Gladwell's premise that it only takes a few people to make a big difference, but it has to be the right people. It is the law of the few primarily because only a few people actually engage in a regular, positive manner. While few in number, there is always room for a few more.

Connectors, mavens and salespeople are all active people, but active in different ways. When they are active around the same subject, it can go viral, or at least viral in a defined community, like a group on LinkedIn.

If that group has people you need to influence, people you want to know better and do business with, you need to be part of that overall information sharing process that occurs on LinkedIn.

If you are part of a company where employees act in unison on LinkedIn, without being too "sale-sy", you can start raising the visibility for your company, evolving that subject matter expert platform your company needs to move to the next level.

Developing a thought leadership platform requires positive, regular action. LinkedIn provides one of the major venues where this can and should take place.

By developing and sharing great content, you can help your company reach its own tipping point.

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