For meetings professionals and travel agents, the social network LinkedIn can be an effective tool for facilitating and building business.
That’s the experience of former meeting planner Brian Harris, president of Destination Site Selection and www.ResortVenues.com, in Aspen, Colo.
Through LinkedIn, Destination Site Selection has connected with meeting planners in the legal, financial and medical industries, said Harris, whose firm specializes in corporate groups and luxury leisure in Las Vegas, the Caribbean, and the Rocky Mountains.
Getting past gatekeepers
“LinkedIn has helped us stay in contact with clients and extend our reach into the top decision-making circles,” Harris told Travel Market Report.
“You are able to connect directly to the people you want to talk to, the decision makers, not their gatekeepers. That helps our destination partners as well.”
Landing new business
LinkedIn doesn’t replace traditional marketing, but it gives Harris connections to pre-qualified contacts he would not meet otherwise, he said.
In one recent example, Harris landed a group booking as a result of a lead that came to him through a LinkedIn contact.
“Looking at second-level connections (through a mutual contact), I came across the chair of a medical association I worked with years ago. I contacted the chair directly and requested to be connected on LinkedIn.
“Months later I got a referral for a colleague of his who ended up booking a 75-person five-day conference at the new Viceroy in Snowmass.”
More personal than email
Harris was familiar with LinkedIn from a decade of planning meetings for the University of Colorado. When he opened his own shop in January 2010, LinkedIn was an easy way get the word out.
LinkedIn also has proven to be “a viable way” of staying current with clients and vendors, “in a more personal method than email marketing,” Harris said.
How LinkedIn works
LinkedIn was the first social media site designed for business users. Networking à la LinkedIn is all about business connections –– not posting pictures of what you did last night or instant shout-outs about what you’re doing right now.
Success is based on quality, not quantity.
Unlike consumer-oriented social media sites, LinkedIn encourages users to be picky about who they accept. Instead of friends, there are networks, with indirect links to people who are one or two steps removed from your own network.
Invite someone to join your network on LinkedIn who you don’t already know or don’t have a plausible business reason to want to know, and you’ll likely be ignored.
Marketing, not sales
Is LinkedIn a major revenue generator? No. It is a marketing tool, not a sales tool.
That’s why LinkedIn members tend to be picky about inviting people to join their networks and accepting invitations to join other networks. Let a stranger into the group and you could open the door to the kind of incessant hard sells that can be so annoying on other social platforms.
“But if you’ve got a professional profile and you are not stretching outside your realm in trying to expand your network, it can be a different story,” Harris said.
“I’ve been accepted by people I would never have had a direct line to without LinkedIn.”
More buttoned up
LinkedIn is also about focus, Harris said, whereas Facebook and Twitter are more mass market vehicles. Both sites encourage all and sundry to jump into the conversation.
“Corporate clients want something that is more locked down and buttoned up, which is where LinkedIn comes in.”
LinkedIn participants, both young professionals and seasoned veterans, “are focused on forwarding their career, not a crowd chattering. That’s why we put a lot of credence in LinkedIn,” Harris said.