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If you are like many SAP professionals, you’ve already joined LinkedIn by setting up your profile, connected with a few contacts (both people you know and people you don’t know), and joined some SAP specific groups. 

You sit back and wait for the benefits of several hours of hard work at social networking.  You are hoping to interact with like-minded SAP professionals; people who care about their work, and want to share what they know and learn more.  You’ve set your communication preferences to receive daily email updates from your groups.  You’re ready.  Let the good times roll!

Pretty soon, your inbox starts filling up with daily summaries of your group discussion boards.  It doesn’t take long to get tired, very tired, of “discussions” like these (names changed to protect the guilty):


Online, Virtual & Instructor – led Trainings on SAP BI 7.0 ,
SAP FI/CO, SAP MM, SAP MDM, SAP PI 7.0 for Competitive Price

                             Thanks, but I’ve seen your announcement every week
                             for several months in about ten different SAP groups.  How
                             about offering some useful information, instead of the
                             same plug every time?


Providing ECC6 access for SAP learners with minimum charge,
please contact spamalot@hotmail.com.

Spamalot, I’ve seen your post about 75 times in the
last four months.  How about taking a few weeks off?

Social Media Marketing for Real Estate Agents
Posted 1 hour ago by Sue Smith, VP HR & Training at Eli Lilly

Sue, why are you posting this to an SAP group? 
And if you really are a VP at Eli Lilly, then isn’t
your job keeping you busy enough?

Would you like a Swiss type private bank account without Swiss style
problems? 
Posted 13 minutes ago by Gregorie Fauchet, sales at
Offshore Company                                    

                                    All of us SAP professionals definitely need
                                    a place to stash all that cash we are making
                                    these days.

And if you should happen to miss reading these discussion headlines this week, no problem!  You’ll continue to see the same “discussions” week after week after week.   

You decide that the groups you belong to are a waste of time, so you think, quite logically, “I’ll start my own group.”  You decide to get specific with the group’s mission, and connect it directly to your daily work.  Let’s suppose you are a client employee or a consultant living in the Chicago area, working on SAP Business Intelligence projects.  You want to connect with other people in your geography who are doing the same thing.

You set up a new group called: Chicago Area SAP BI Professionals. You invite all your contacts to join the group, and you post announcements about your group to other SAP groups on LinkedIn.   In a few weeks, you’ve got 30 members, and a few somewhat useful discussions going.  Getting a group like this going, continuing to search for new members, encouraging and monitoring discussions–all this can easily require several hours per week of your time. 

The group starts out well, with some engaging discussions, but after a while interest drops off, and the discussions stop.  You keep trying to fire up the group with useful topics, but after a few months your interest level also decreases. 

Your next strategy is to build up your list of LinkedIn connections.  You’ve got 100 connections at this point, but you keep seeing people with 500+ connections, or even advertising in their profile that they have thousands of connections. Wow!  That must be better than just 100 connections.

You spend 60 hours over the next three months building up your SAP connections to 400 people.  They aren’t all BI specialists, but that’s okay, because they might know someone who is, or be aware of a BI project at their company.  You are spending so much time building connections that you don’t have the time to interact, except on a superficial level, with anyone you are connected to.

Believe me, I know this drill.  I’ve been there.  I have over 2,000 SAP and JD Edwards connections.  I belong to over 40 SAP and JDE groups, and I’ve started half a dozen groups myself. 

It’s time for all of us to make some changes in how we use LinkedIn.

First of all, not all groups are useless.  There are some excellent groups out there, and there are many legitimate job openings posted as well.  One of the best SAP groups is the Education@SAP group, moderated by Ken Schieffer.  Ken does a great job keeping the spammers out, and keeping clients and consultants informed of relevant news about SAP’s training and certification programs.

Another group that is well run and doesn’t have a lot of time-wasting discussions is the ASUG group. As Jim Spath points out in one of the comments below, there are two ASUG groups with almost the exact same name.  The older one, setup by a user outside of ASUG’s control, is ASUG – Americas SAP User Group.  The newer group, setup by ASUG’s management, is Americas’ SAP Users’ Group – ASUG. 

I think where we can all benefit more from LinkedIn lies in the power of reaching out to our contacts on a one-to-one basis.  Do this in the spirit of, “this person’s profile looks interesting…maybe we should talk…find some common ground…and see if we can help each other”. 

You can email your contacts or send a LinkedIn message to individuals who belong to the same groups you do.  Start reading their profiles, and figure out who you could have a conversation with that might be useful to both of you.  Schedule one or several phone calls per week as your schedule permits.  You will find ways that you can help your contacts, and they will find ways that they can help you.

Remember, wait until you can start these calls in the spirit of “what can I offer this person”; otherwise your contacts will sense that you are calling primarily as a ‘taker’, not a ‘giver’.

LinkedIn can serve as a bridge from the virtual world to the physical world. Remember that Chicago area SAP BI group?  Why not set up a lunch or a happy hour so you can meet each other face to face?

If you are looking for employment as an SAP client employee, please download my job hunting tips at www.ERPtips.com/hosted/HowtoFindaJobinAnyEconomy.pdf first.  Networking is an important step, but my job hunting tips explain how to best position yourself to be first in line when there is a need for someone with your skills.  Simply put, networking with people at companies who are advertising job openings is often a waste of time. 

I’ll probably still read some of the group discussion emails, but I’m changing my frequency from Daily Emails to Weekly Emails.  I will stop receiving emails from some groups, and I’ll resign from some groups. 

I’ll still post a few marketing oriented announcements about ERPtips Express, presentations we are giving at ASUG, etc.  But I’ll also post thought leadership pieces and interviews that I write about ERP training. 

And I am going to call three contacts every week, to find out more about them, their work, and to see if we can help each other professionally.

LinkedIn offers me a platform to lead, and to be seen as a leader.  That is a role that I aspire to in my professional life as someone who is very involved in ERP training.  The best way I know to do this is to offer free access to my work on ERP training.  I’m not saying
that’s how you should use LinkedIn, but that’s how I should.

Additional Resources:

Jon Reed has an excellent article and series of Youtube videos on using LinkedIn: http://www.jonerp.com/component/option,com_mojo/Itemid,57/p,76/

Did you know that LinkedIn has a specific SAP Community Network (SCN) app?  That impresses the heck out of me.  (Hello, Oracle?) You can set up your LinkedIn profile to automatically display your SAP Community Bio. Information about the app is here. An SAP press release on the LinkedIn integration is here.


 

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13 Comments

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  1. Holger Stumm
    Hi Andy,
    thanks for starting this thoughts. And I agree 100% with your headline. I went through everything you mentioned.
    And I have to admit – I maintain my personal network, and as a German, I maintain my US-connections and international networks and necessary references well through LinkedIn. But other than that, I strongly feel, that LinkedIn is useless. I discarded all groups. Why should I discuss Chicaco BI, when I am in Darmstadt, Germany? Why should I discuss SAP technologies, when I am on SDN as active blogger?
    LinkedIn is a US-centric Dinosaur, and if you maintain US-Business, its great. (Hi Hakan!) If you are German, than XING generates tenfold more business for me (without the usual US-loudspeaker-ballyhoo)
    So, I keep my account, cheers to all my american friends and do serious busines and serious networking somewhere else.
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  2. Nathan Genez
    I have no use for the LI groups.  I get the weekly spam emails about job postings and broke off from a most of them.  I guess there might be some good groups out there but I’m not willing to put forth any more effort on this topic…  and I’m someone who spends quite a bit of time between SCN, Twitter, and LI…  but I just haven’t seen much of interest on LI regarding true social interaction.  It’s more of an online resume with the occasional reach-out to someone long ago. 
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    1. Chris Paine
      +1

      could not agree more strongly with Nathan’s comments.

      LI is a great tool if you’re a recruitment consultant – but for knowledge sharing and discussion – I’d say its time has come and has gone. I don’t get people trying to sell me stuff on SCN…

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  3. Claudine Lagerholm
    Hi Andy,

    For me LI has been useful mainly as a follow up tool but not so much for finding new contacts.  For ex, if I meet someone at TechEd but don’t interact with that person regularly, LI helps me keep in touch even when that person changes jobs/companies. But I find that the contacts I do have were a result of my interactions outside of LinkedIn. 
    How do you find the networking opportunities on SCN and at SAP events? Can you find the “right” contacts by networking with others on SCN? 
    Best,

    Claudine

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  4. Jim Spath
    Andy:  I agree there are too many groups.  At some point I’ll un-join a few to cut down on the noise, but LI has made it challenging to connect to people without a group connection, real or not.  As you mentioned ASUG, I’ll point out there are 2 groups with very similar names.  The older, and larger one, was set up by a user outside the ASUG control:

    ASUG – Americas SAP UserGroup

    That one still has the “old” ASUG logo.  The newer, but smaller group, was set up by ASUG HQ:

    Americas’ SAP Users’ Group – ASUG

    It has the “new” logo.  I’ve joined both, as a contact might be in one or the other, but not both, and it’s been easier that way.

    Holger, I agree with you completely, by the way.  Likewise, Nathan.

    Jim

    p.s. your line endings are very short.  You might think about reformatting for better flow.

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  5. Kevin Wilson
    Andy,
    I agree with you on the groups. I run about 6 myself and it is time consuming to get it up nd running and adopted by sufficient people to make it a useful tool. With SCN in the mix why even go there?

    What I use LinkedIn for is for my references and I kind of just fell in to it that way. Without soliciting for recomendations, I have received them as I come and go from SAP projects. It turned out to be a great tool because now potential clients can see what I’ve been up to and also see whether my clients appreciated my effort there.

    Nice blog
    All the best
    Kevin

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  6. Jarret Pazahanick
    Good blog as always Andy and I am a member of 50 groups and recently started to question the value of them given all the mail (even if you set to weekly). I have also found the quality of the job postings on the occasion I followed up were pretty weak as far as rates/opportunity.

    I do think it is a great tool to stay connected with people and I really liked your idea on calling 3 contacts a week to find out more about them, their work, and to see about helping each other professionally and am going to start doing that as well.

    I also agree with Kevin that the reference feature is very good and in addition our company has actually won two SAP projects that originated from some reaching out to us via Linkedin.

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  7. ajay vonkarey
    Andy:
    with much due respect to your experience and name in the industry, I agree to your key points of social networking groups.
    But in all honesty – your blog was something similar – towards the end you were promoting your services. How different is it from the folks doing the same on LI.
    Overall I think there are more benefits to social media than not.  One reason why SAP has invested in Linkedin.

    Ajay

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  8. rajesh mahajan
    Dear Andy,
             what examples you have given are really good ones to explain the idea. The repetition of same topic again and again just kills the time. Even the same jobs getting advertised months after month puts the question mark on the sanity of group.

    I also retired from many groups when my mail box was getting filled with tons of mails.

    Many times I thought who to get rid of all this. I was not finding the way.

    You have raised the right voice.

    Regards

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  9. Anonymous
    Hello Andy,

    You are absolutely right. A nice new feature LinkedIn introduced recently is flagging contents as inappropriate. While I will flag every “Social Media Marketing for Real Estate Agents” and “Would you like a Swiss type private bank account without Swiss style problems?” without hesitation, I’m not sure if we should flag the “Online, Virtual & Instructor – led Trainings on SAP” posts. Despite being repetitive (and useless, in a sense they are still SAP-related. What are your thoughts?

    Regards,

    Abdullah

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