While job seekers might have the clearest use case for LinkedIn’s new Company Follow feature, it also presents businesses with a great opportunity to take advantage of the web community’s data to keep tabs on players in their market. Oh yeah, and it’s free.

Follow Company

Competitive analysis

Company profiles can help you track competing organizations by displaying new hires and departures, a list of current employees and other data like divisions, related companies and company news through an aggregated feed. Keep in mind, however, that this is all available simply by viewing the profile. Following a company gives you the benefit of receiving updates via email that highlight changes to the information you’re specifically interested in following.

Think before you hit that follow button, however, because a company’s followers are displayed publicly within just one click of their profile, so if you’re a known competitor, you’ll probably want to avoid that list. The alternative is to simply visit your competitor’s profile often and track changes in a spreadsheet.

Bazaarvoice Profile
A shot of our Company Profile

Sales and Marketing

The best salespeople know how to stand out from the herd of other salespeople clamoring for the attention of decision makers. They know that each touch with a prospect should demonstrate that they understand their unique needs or situation, that they aren’t just a name on a list. Company Follow makes this process significantly easier. Received an alert that a prospect was recently promoted? Send them a congratulatory note.  Did your alert contain recent news about a company in your pipeline? Be sure to mention it when you have them on the phone.

Current EmployeesOn the company profile page, LinkedIn displays current employees to which you are currently connected, or to which you are connected through a mutual contact. Use this information to warm up an otherwise-cold call or to determine who you might approach first.

LinkedIn’s limitations

Much of the information on a company’s profile is self-reported. Employees may update their company’s description, specialties and website URL. Data on personnel comes from users updating their profile to reflect their new positions and workplace, and since it often takes weeks for this to happen, the intelligence offered by Company Follow and Company Profiles is less timely and complete than we might prefer.

While receiving network updates and an email digest of recent changes at followed companies is helpful, neither qualifies as a true “alert”. Users may select whether they would like to receive these updates on a daily or weekly basis, but there is not currently an option for receiving them only when, or as soon as, changes are reflected in a company’s profile. These would be welcome additions to the current slate of notification options.

Notification Options
Notification options

A great free offering

Although there are several obvious limitations, LinkedIn’s Company Follow feature is the type of offering that will positively differentiate LinkedIn from competing social media platforms. LinkedIn has long been the business platform of choice, and free apps like this further articulate the business use case.

CPG webinarFree Webinar

Communities that Sell:
How to Keep Customers
Engaged — and Buying

Tuesday, May 4, 2010, 1:00 PM-2:00 PM CST

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