LinkedIn Premium as a Data Tool
LinkedIn is an undisputed success. It is a great tool for reaching out to professionals. I would even say that if you are not on LinkedIn and participating in some of your professional groups you may just not be up to speed on the most current issues in your field.
But, as every tool has a design use, many creative people come up with new uses not anticipated by the original tool designer. For example, the conventional pliers were nodoubt designed by someone who wanted to hold items with some force and to be able to hold on to those items such as hot metal, pulling a nail out, etc…But more creative and comical uses were devised by Moe Howard to grab Curly Howard by the nose and to drag Curly out of a room by his nose held by the pliers in Moe Howard’s hand.
LinkedIn is increasingly used by professionals in two less conventional fields of commerce.
The first is competitive intelligence andeconomic espionage. It allows the enquiring professional to search for either current or former employees at a senior level within a given company. For example, if you are interested in what Zedland Industries is doing, just look for people affiliated with Zedland Industries. You can then sort by the levels desired. Most CI professionals begin speaking with those professionals above and below the target area or department. This allows the CI Professional to become familiar with certain company terms and traditions. It allows the CI Professional to ask questions about a technology, or a marking direction to get some idea as what might or might not be planned.The answer to the question, “Why are you no longer with Zedland Industries?” can generate a wealth of knowledge just based upon simple answers such as:
My sale division was outsourced to field representative companies and distributors.
My division was closed in a cost cutting move.
Our division in Portland was consolidated with the Los Angles region and I did not want to move.
All of these answers give the CI Professional useful information on approaching the desired targets. The approach to the targets could be on LinkedIn as co-professionals in the discipline, it could be as a recruiter, it could be as a faux vendor. But the prior knowledge of the company and its employees current and former make any approach taken nearly devastating informed.
The second use for LinkedIn subscribers I have seen is for the use of litigation. The one example I can share was a software company that had developed niche software that appeared to have certain defects. Through LinkedIn the plaintiff was able to reach out to over 40 previous employees both sub-rosa as well as eventually through subpoena to determine the exact problem with the software. The research conducted through the professionals located on LinkedIn demonstrated that the software was not only defective, it was known to be defective and the defect, when raised by several whistle blowers, was not only not fixed but the whistle blowers were terminated.
In the past when knowledge of former and current employees was a preview of the Human Relations Department went viral and is open to the public either for free or for a very small fee.
How do you combat this? It is not so easy. Aside from the legal matters of employee confidentiality agreements which often fail in practice and in administration one needs to create an alarm system. A system where by if someone is investigating your company you can be made aware of this. The first is to request that employees report any contact from any outside person asking about the company and what they have been doing or what they are doing, including recruiters. The other is to create a series of faux employees and former employees as a more active measure. When the faux employees are contacted – it is the start of a process to determine the nature of the outreach to the faux employees.
LinkedIn is an amazing tool both for sharing knowledge as well as for a bit of well reasoned mischief.