As a dedicated LinkedIn user since 2004, I have always chosen to use a free profile (basic) and have benefited from LinkedIn’s many exciting features, including tags, which give you the ability to place your network into different categories – for example, job titles such as lawyer, CEO, journalist, etc. or topics such as LinkedIn leads, morning meeting participant, etc.
This has given me a keen overview of my network, and the type of communication that could be meaningful to share with individuals using LinkedIn messages. I share articles and send out invitations for meetings and events 3 to 4 times a year by using my tags. Now, LinkedIn has announced that the tags feature will be removed from the free profiles and will only be available as part of the paid “Sales Navigator” product effective from March 31, 2017.
What to do?
My recommendation is that you export the data on your LinkedIn connections, including any tags you have created, before this change goes into effect in March. This can be done under Privacy & Settings. You can read more about the practical details of this process in LinkedIn’s own article about exporting of data. When you’re exporting data, the screen will look like this:
This process will produce various Excel files, which can then be customized, so you can still save your existing tags in a spreadsheet. Below, you can see a simple overview of how I have set it up in 2 minutes:
This means that if you have already created tags and/or notes on your network, none of this data is lost. So far, so good. You now have your spreadsheet for future use and individual messages.
What about the future: Should you continue to use a free profile or upgrade to Sales Navigator?
Sales Navigator is a powerful tool that provides many exciting features, but not everyone will benefit from these features to the extent that it justifies the investment. LinkedIn offers a 3-month free trial in connection with the change, so this provides a good opportunity to learn. Personally, time will tell whether we choose a permanent solution with Sales Navigator at Digital Works.
I have now trained more than 8,000 people in Social Selling and have only encountered two companies that had invested in the system. Experience shows that it requires a lot of organization to ensure the optimum benefit (isn’t it always like that?). The system is one thing, but whether the organization is ripe for hardcore Social Selling is another thing.
At Digital Works, my colleagues and I have a highly systematic approach to Social Selling, and we do use tags, but it is extremely rare that we encounter people who exhibit the same love or understanding of the use of tags as we do. However, I am convinced that if you and your organization are to be successful with Social Selling, you have to focus on how to create value for each connection in your network when you send a personal LinkedIn message.
You will still be able to do this – even without tags, but this will require that you have good control over your network and choose your new connections with the idea of common value, both now and in the future. Because if you choose to connect with “everyone” and have over 1,000 connections – without good structure on your network – it becomes a daunting task to create enrichment and thereby succeed with Social Selling in both the short and long term.