Today’s guest post comes from Nathaniel Mollen, a student of philosophy at Ursinus College. Marketing is only a little like metaphysics, but it’s made him somewhat of an expert in making dry topics both clear and interesting.

LinkedIn is popular, this is no secret. Since this is a trade blog, it’s more than likely you have a LinkedIn account yourself. As an end-user you know its attractions, but if you’re in marketing, there may be uses for the service still to consider. Its popularity and basic structure have made it a database which by its very nature is self-correcting and almost never out of date. You can call it a Facebook for business – many do – but that’s not all it does, and that’s not all it can do for us: not all it can do for you.

For one, LinkedIn is comprehensive for almost any type business endeavor you are involved with, especially small businesses and the lower level management of large businesses: areas in which in the past there was no easy method of discovering and making connections. Holes do exist, most noticeably in professions like restauranteurs and manufacturing, and you should be fully acquainted with these blind spots. Some important regions, like China, are also underrepresented. However, for most practical purposes, these holes are the exception. There are very few gaps in LinkedIn’s armor.

It gets better. The connectivity of LinkedIn is probably its most obvious feature: as a social media site, it’s barely an observation at all to say it has a vast network. It would be worth nothing, were it not for the fact that it is also an incredibly rich and almost guaranteed up-to-date source for information. Traditional social media sites like Facebook are limited by the sorts of connections you find (the focus is as it ever was: on friends and acquaintances, not business connections). Traditional methods of storing leads or data for CRM are limited by the availability and currency of the information. LinkedIn solves both of those at once. Since users update their information themselves, we no longer have that among our responsibilities and concerns.

Because users update information themselves, and because of the site’s nature as social media, you’ll also find that LinkedIn has a great deal more depth and variety of information. You’ll find not only prior employment and education, but personal interests. Together, these things can make lead and CRM databases much more detailed and can lead to more informed decisions, and in marketing, there is nothing so important as knowing your clientele.

Specific to what we do at ProResource, LinkedIn offers some opportunities in outreach that aren’t present in pretty much any other site due to the way in which it’s structured. Any connection you make on LinkedIn is a lead who has opted in fully, and with whom you have implicit permission to stay in touch. These connections also typically have a much higher open-rate for emails sent via LinkedIn. The way in which the site is structured – with degrees of separation of connection – ensures its relevance. In fact, LinkedIn will actively penalize indiscriminate network building due to the ability of users to mark solicitations as spam and result in the soliciting account’s suspension. In other words, not only does the system encourage solid networks, you couldn’t build one if you tried.

Because of this, LinkedIn is an easy and very effective way to keep your name constantly in the mind of all the people you need it to be in. “Mindshare” is the word here. For business applications, there is no better alternative.

LinkedIn’s utility for employers is what’s made it popular among the people, but its sheer power is what should be making it popular in the marketing world: among us. We would all be remiss not to use it.