Guest Editorial - LinkedIn: How #SportsBiz Approaches the Channel

Jonathan Norman is a sports sponsorship strategist for GMR Marketing, a major U.S. sports and event marketing firm. Jonathan has been in sports marketing and media for more than 10 years, and has worked on several major corporate branding campaigns around sports. His expertise resides in how brands reach consumers through sponsorship and activation of sports properties. Follow Jonathan on Twitter at @Jonathan_Norman and his official blog here.

I’m going to start today’s blog post with a little trivia. How many LinkedIn users list the key term “sports” on their profile? Any guesses? Would you say nearly 1,000,000 of us? 924,329 to be exact (well, as of this moment). This is roughly 2% of the estimated 50,000,000 users globally.

With nearly 1MM users mentioning sports in their profile, it got me thinking. I think it’s funny just how many @sportsbiz folks I’m not linked to on the LinkedIn platform. Does it seem like a larger commitment than just a follow on Twitter? I think so. When we connect on LinkedIn, we’re looking to establish a deeper (if that can even be said) relationship with a colleague, sharing more personal information. I think that the LinkedIn search has even replaced the Google search for those we’re looking to learn more about. I know I certainly do.

The interesting thing to me about #sportsbiz on LinkedIn is just how disjointed we seem without the organizing concept of hashtags. It’s like we’re lost sheep continually looking for a shepherd! The sheer number of groups related to sports marketing is astounding. Take that key word alone, and we’re looking at 247 groups just in that universe. Expand the term to sports alone, and it’s almost 4,500. I know we’re talking in hyperbole here, but it begs the question: how do we use LinkedIn as an industry?

For me it’s all about making new connections and maximizing existing ones, all in the hopes of creating opportunities by driving value out of the relationship. Yes, that’s a mouthful, but really … it’s what it’s all about. How can what I do on a daily basis, help you and your needs, and can we find a reason to work together? The concept doesn’t seem all that much different than Twitter, and LinkedIn has taken a major step forward in the status and following additions on the site.

But I would challenge #sportsbiz to think about how we can connect on LinkedIn. How can we work together to create opportunities, bridge challenges, and build solutions? I would guess that this is a rhetorical question, but I do think there’s real application there. Here’s five ways I think we can maximize the value of our network:

1. Learn more about each other. Get to know your connections’ backgrounds. See where there are commonalities that might be able to help drive value.

2. Take advantage of longer interaction. We have more than 140 characters to communicate with each other. We need to lever this opportunity and maximize it.

3. Don’t just join a group; contribute to a community. I believe this is one of the major opportunities for us. We all have 20 to 30, perhaps even more, groups we’re a part of. Pick one or two that are particularly a good fit and make your communication useful

4. Think about the mentoring opportunities. I still believe that one of the biggest issues we have in @sportsbiz today is the development and cultivation of solid, young talent. We need to commit to doing more to develop it.

5. Lead by example. There many be other ideas you have on how to maximize your value on LinkedIn. Tell us, and then show us. It’s all about sharing and creating best practices.

One last thing. Are we connected? If not, let's get connected: