Monday, November 3, 2008

How to Get the Most Out of LinkedIn

by Brian Wallace

In a time of stock market crisis, bailouts and a weak dollar, LinkedIn still raises $22.7 million in funding. How? It’s a relevant site with a number of useful resources for professionals and businesses. Meanwhile, the launch of the site’s application platform last week puts the spotlight back on this phenomenally useful social network.

Many folks involved in social media are so ADD driven to the latest social network, they fail to fully explore and make use of the networks that they are already part of. Enter LinkedIn, a haven for professional networking with an executive representation of all of the Fortune 500 companies. LinkedIn has a lot to offer regardless of where you are in your career, especially with the economy the way it is.

What Exactly is LinkedIn?

LinkedIn has been around all the way back since 2003, and many people use it differently, so I asked the Twitterati, “What exactly is LinkedIn?”

As we can see from the replies above, some people consider LinkedIn to be a full-fledged social network, while others see it as a mere contact list or business network. The devil is in the details.

Should Businesses Care About LinkedIn?

Of course they should. LinkedIn has over 20 million members. LinkedIn can be used by businesses and departments of any shape and size, and requires little social media know-how. Search Engine Guide’s Jennifer Laycock recommends LinkedIn to small businesses that are looking to start using social media but just don’t have a lot of time to do so. Here’s an HR perspective from Jim Stroud of The Recruiter’s Lounge:

“LinkedIn is a tool recruiters cannot ignore. Recruiters who do not want to be bogged down with resumes turn to LinkedIn to find quality candidates and their peers. On the flip side, some recruiters use it to build up a massive list of contacts that they can use for email campaigns. This of course, is not the intention of LinkedIn, but its a fact of life. LinkedIn is becoming the next “Monster” with more and more recruiters turning to it.”

How Do You Get the Most Out of LinkedIn?

The old adage that “it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know” still holds value. LinkedIn takes this thought one step further, making it “who you will know soon to be of utmost importance.” Using LinkedIn, I’ve trained small businesses to spread their wings and get connected with companies that they might otherwise have thought were beyond reach, and to the persons they were looking for in those companies.

So, how do you meet people? Well, you can’t throw sheep or sick your zombies after them. There’s also no chat. And guess what? That’s totally fine. Many who use instant messaging aggregate different chat networks into a single app such as Digsby, Trillian, or Pidgin. So who needs another chat app?

Here are seven features LinkedIn does have that you should take advantage of:

Quick Lookup - Look up who you are having that next business meeting with. You’ll be able to break the ice right away.

Q&A - Post questions to others in your industry. The Yahoo Answers look and feel of this feature has definitely made LinkedIn more active and interesting. A public question can be responded to by anyone that works in really any discipline. Such was the case where Derek Edmond spotted a discussion occurring about the trustworthiness of SEO.

Recommendations - Have clients or co-workers post recommendations, which future employers and clients can view to gauge your skill and level of trustworthiness. Conversely, if you’re an employer, these imply trustworthiness for a potential freelancer or new hire.

Background checks - Look up potential new hires or freelancers. This should be right up there in an HR manager’s toolbelt.

See what your competition is up to - Keep track of what others in your industry are up to. Network updates gives you a feed of recent activity, so you can see who your connections have friended, groups they have joined, and the people they have recommended. You’ll even be able to see when people are switching jobs.

Introductions - Use people you already know to help make introductions. It’s a great way to get in the door with a company you need to contact.

Open Networking - Go out and become a LION! You are an open networker.

What’s Next?

LinkedIn has made a lot of recent updates and additions, including:

Group mania - LinkedIn has been making great strides in the groups area, having added search within groups, discussions within groups, groups you might like, and sharing groups. When you think about how much engagement and adoption groups have brought to Facebook, you’ll really begin to appreciate these changes.

Profile page - since most LinkedIn users spend a great deal of their time on profile pages, the subtle UI (user interface) changes done to the profile page are a great update.

iPhone app - LinkedIn has a pretty spiffy iPhone app that’s worth trying out.

While I really appreciate these additions, I think it would be great for LinkedIn to tell beginner users more about why to use the service. Similar to Twitter using the CommonCraft show’s Twitter in Plain English, LinkedIn could use its LinkedIn CommonCraft video to make beginner users see LinkedIn’s true value of building connections to help accomplish your business goals.

What are your thoughts?

How do you get the most out of LinkedIn? Tell us about success you’ve had on the service in the comments.

Brian Wallace is a social media consultant - get it touch with him on his blog, or follow him on Twitter and Plurk. And yes, he’s on LinkedIn too.

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Exxon Mobil: Biggest profit in history

The largest U.S. oil company surges past analysts' estimates with a posted net income of $14.83 billion and sets a national record for quarterly profit.

By Aaron Smith, staff writer

EW YORK ( -- Exxon Mobil Corp. set a quarterly profit record for a U.S. company Thursday, surging past analyst estimates.

Exxon Mobil (XOM, Fortune 500), the leading U.S. oil company, said its third-quarter net profit was $14.83 billion, or $2.86 per share, up from $9.41 billion, or $1.70, a year earlier. That profit included $1.45 billion in special items.

The company's prior record was $11.68 billion in the second quarter of 2008.

The latest quarter's net income equaled $1,865.69 per second, nearly $400 a second more than the prior mark.

The company said its revenue totaled $137.7 billion in the third quarter.

Analysts had expected Exxon to report a 40% jump in earnings to $2.38 per share, or net income of $12.2 billion, and a 28% surge in revenue to $131.13 billion, according to a consensus of estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters.

The company's earnings were buoyed by oil prices, which reached record highs in the quarter before declining. Oil prices were trading at $140.97 a barrel at the beginning of the third quarter, and had fallen to $100.64 at the end.

Compare that to 2007, when prices traded at $71.09 a barrel at the beginning of the third quarter, and rose to $81.66 by the end.

Last of the big quarters

Exxon's special charges include the gain of $1.62 billion from the sale of a German natural gas company. It also includes the $170 million charge in interest related to punitive damages from the Valdez oil spill off the Alaskan coast in 1989.

The Irving, Texas-based company said it lost $50 million, before taxes, in oil revenue because of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. The company expects damages related to these hurricanes to reduce fourth-quarter earnings by $500 million.

Exxon's stock price slipped by about 2% in afternoon trading. Bernie McGinn, Chief Executive of McGinn Investment Management and owner of 30,000 Exxon shares, said he wasn't surprised, given the recent downturn in oil prices.

"That's probably the last of the big profit quarters, at least for now," said McGinn. "You can't make the case that it's going to continue."

Despite the surge in profit, Exxon said oil production was down 8% in the third quarter, compared to the same period last year.

The company also said it is spending more money to locate new sources of oil. Exxon said it spent $6.9 billion on oil exploration in the third quarter, a jump of 26% from the same period last year. The company said it began a new program to tap natural gas offshore from Nigeria.

More investments

Exxon also has an aggressive program for buying back stock, with 109 million of its shares repurchased during the third quarter, at a cost of $8.7 billion.

In a conference call with analysts, David Rosenthal, vice president of investor relations for Exxon, said the company's "first priority" is using profits to continue investing in exploration programs for oil and other resources.

Rosenthal said the company would also consider using new-found funds to bolster its dividend, buy back more shares and to purchase other companies, but he declined to offer specific details.

Phil Weiss, analyst for Argus Research, said he doesn't expect Exxon to break any more profit records in future quarters.

"I don't expect the fourth quarter to be nearly as good as the third because of lower oil prices," said Weiss.

Analysts also said that demand for gasoline is falling, which could impact Exxon and other oil companies.

"While oil companies benefit from high oil prices in the short run, they might lose in the long run," Anas Alhajji, chief economist for NGP Energy Capital Management, wrote in an email to "Higher oil prices lead to lower demand, as we have seen in recent months."

Earlier Thursday, Europe's leading oil company, Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA), reported a 22% gain in net profit for the third quarter, to $8.45 billion. The company said sales rose 45% to $132 billion.

Exxon is the second-largest company in the Fortune 500 in terms of annual sales, behind Wal-Mart Stores (WMT, Fortune 500).

Exxon's stock price has fallen about 20% so far this year, compared to the S&P 500, which has fallen about 36%.

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Secretary Henry Paulson came up with a $700 billion emergency plan to pour government money into the Wall Street firms to save them from collapsing - not to fund a bonus pool for the billionaire boys' clubs of the investment banking firms. It is the economy that is supposed to be bailed out - like the millions of homeowners currently or soon to face foreclosure - not the bankers.

If Paulson does not stop the bailout companies, like Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, from writing big bonus checks to their executives, those payments will make the future viability of the world's best banking system as unstable as a portfolio of sub-prime mortgage derivatives. Stopping the big bonus bonanza would be the right thing to do - and Paulson must do it for five big reasons.

1. It is hypocritical. The Wall Street guys always rhapsodize about the perfection of the free market - until it stops showering them with money. Then people who are already in the top fraction of a percent of the wealthiest people in the world want to be "made whole" with billion-dollar welfare checks.

2. It is unfair. The only justification for multi-million-dollar pay packages is that they reward performance. That means that in a bad year what had gone up must come down.

3. It is infuriating. I've observed many financial scandals, from the savings and loan failures through Enron, WorldCom, and post-Sarbanes-Oxley messes like backdated options. All were recognized as tragic but not pervasive - compartmentalized as the corruption of a limited group of individuals.

But across the country, people see this mess as central to the operation of Wall Street and we are outraged at having to take money that would better be spent on education, the environment, paying down the debt - or lowering taxes - and spend it on making up for the greed and stupidity of a bunch of rich people trying to get richer.

4. It makes it easier for our competitors in global markets. The rest of the world has never really tried to compete with our investment banks, intimidated by their power, expertise, and reach. The current mess has opened up new opportunities for non-US financial institutions.

5. It is asking for trouble from Washington. I'd hate to be a politician who voted for the bailout and has to explain how this money got diverted from customers to bankers. If Wall Street cannot accept some responsibility for creating this problem, Congress and the regulatory agencies will be more than willing to step in to make them.

Nell Minow is the editor and co-founder of The Corporate Library, a corporate governance firm.

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Iraq to sell Saddam yacht moored in French Riviera

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The Iraqi government plans to sell a luxury yacht, moored off the French resort of Nice, that was one of many opulent treasures belonging to former dictator Saddam Hussein, a senior official said on Sunday.

The palatial Ocean Breeze is expected to be sold within weeks, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

The 270-foot pleasure boat, expected to fetch $30 million, features gold-tap bathrooms, a mini-operating theater, a helicopter landing pad and a secret escape passageway, according to a report from the British Sunday Times.

Iraq's cabinet had decided to delegate the sale of the yacht to the Finance and Foreign Ministries, the government said.

Dabbagh said an ownership dispute over the yacht had concluded in a French court.

"The ruling was in favor of Iraq," he said.

Saddam, whose decades-long regime came to an abrupt end after a U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and who was hanged in 2006 for crimes against humanity, was known for a lavish lifestyle.

His many palaces were replete with marble, gold-trimmed furniture and sumptuous gardens even as ordinary Iraqis suffered under severe economic sanctions.

Shortly after the U.S. invasion in 2003, U.S. official estimated that Saddam and his family may have amassed up to $40 billion in ill-gotten funds.

U.S. missiles and bombs destroyed another luxurious Saddam yacht, the Al Mansur, in southern Iraq in 2003.

While grand when it was built in 1981, the Ocean Breeze is puny compared with megayachts commissioned by a new wave of super-rich, including a 115-meter $300 million yacht owned by billionaire Roman Abramovich which boasts two helicopter pads.

(Reporting by Missy Ryan and Mariam Karouny; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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Couple 'divorce' son over $20,000 ripoff


An elderly couple have "divorced" their son after he stole their life savings, leaving just 34 cents in their bank account.

Heather and Noel Laurent, both 70, took pity on their son and let him stay rent-free at their Te Puke retirement village.

But while Heather cooked and did her son's washing, and Noel tried to recover from a stroke, he was fleecing their accounts and shattering their retirement dreams.

Brett Andrew Laurent, 38, was jailed for 18 months on Friday after pleading guilty in the Tauranga District Court to 28 charges relating to stealing money and household goods from his parents.

Brett who turned up at his parents doorstep last August penniless and heartbroken after his girlfriend kicked him out stole $10,000 from their bank accounts, stole electrical goods from their home and failed to repay a loan of $10,000, ending the couple's life-long dream of taking an overseas holiday.

"He can rot in hell, the sooner the better," Heather told Sunday News.

The couple, who have been married for 42 years, want nothing more to do with Brett and plan to move from Te Puke so he can't find them once he's released. They don't even want him told when they die.

"He will never come into our lives again. He's had lots and lots of chances," Heather said.

"You just forget he ever existed. We must get on with our lives and forget we had a son.

"We just don't want to see him. We don't want him to ring us, or write letters or come anywhere near us."

Heather addressed the court when Brett was sentenced to ensure he got what was coming to him.

"How could a son, to whom we had given so much help, forgiveness, kindness and hospitality and financial help, ruin our retirement?" Heather told the court.

But this isn't the first time Brett has stolen from the couple and their family.

"We had wiped our hands of him and cut him out of the will when we redid it four years ago," Heather said.

But when he turned up in August they thought they'd open their doors and hearts to him one more time. Little did they know that since they'd last seen him Brett had been to jail and amassed a lengthly criminal record.

"We thought he had changed. He seemed to be good, settled and happy," Heather said.

"We were even thinking of putting him back in the will. Thank goodness we didn't."

Brett told his parents he was working for a furniture removal company and that his work truck had broken down. In reality he had no job and was frittering away their savings in Auckland.

Heather only discovered the betrayal when her eftpos card was declined at an ATM.

"I was just angry. It was anger more than anything," she said.

"I was in real shock. I thought Noel was going to have another stroke.

"We have never been overseas. I need my teeth done, we need a new vehicle. We have saved and saved and saved."

The couple who have a 35-year-old daughter said Brett was the dream child until he hit his late teens.

"Most people think it's their upbringing but it wasn't," Heather said.

"We did everything for (our children). Those kids were never alone, I took them after school to all their activities soccer, Scouts, go-karting.

Brett's dad Noel said it was sad that he no longer had a son.

"All that for nothing. There's no hope for him any more.

"We will never be able to forgive."

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