Editor’s Note: The following story was provided by Evanne Schmarder, veteran campground writer.
Over 10,000 members representing every sector of the RV industry have a presence on LinkedIn, the powerful professional social network, extending their reach and influence. As opposed to the inter-personal chit-chat of Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn functions as a best practices roundtable and prides itself on a B2B model “connecting” users representing over 150 industries, including executives from all of the Fortune 500 companies.
A number of individuals in the RV park and campground business are among those exchanging views through LinkedIn in what amounts to an ongoing virtual, Internet-age “crackerbarrel” session for industry professionals.
LinkedIn’s premise is that relationships matter and users are encouraged to connect with “trusted contacts.” Once connected to an individual, you may invite a connection within their network, thus growing your circle of influence. For instance, David Gorin, a consultant, park operator and president of Best Parks in America, finds his LinkedIn connections a substantive resource. On occasion, as a client question arises, Gorin seeks out experts in his network for answers and insight. “My support network is greatly enhanced with LinkedIn,” he reports. “I’m also fascinated by how the system works – suggesting connections – similar to the ‘six degrees of separation’ concept, but in reality it’s much less than six,” he added.
One of LinkedIn’s most commanding tools is the wide-reaching collection of “groups.” By starting or joining a group you can follow industry or topic leaders, share your professional news, partake in discussions – even connect to your college’s alumni association. A search of the keyword “RV” under the group directory returned 75 search results including RV Park Biz, RV Dealers International Convention/Expo and RV Rental Dealers Group. Industry players may be interested in joining Outdoor Recreation and Travel Industry Marketing Network or other groups focusing on branding, social media marketing, customer satisfaction or even green business practices.
RVDA’s active RV Dealers International Convention/Expo <http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=1941545&trk=anetsrch_name&goback=%2Egdr_1282506991533_2> group provides a venue for engaging back and forth exchanges. In addition to the Convention/Expo, the group is a touch point for the RV Learning Center and RVDA legislative issues. Phil Ingrassia, RVDA communications vice president, noted that the group is yet another tool — not a replacement — to reach out to industry members via social networking. “The entry cost is low, simply a matter of the personnel cost of posting and maintaining the network, and the participants are highly motivated to contribute and exchange ideas,” said Ingrassia. “We use Facebook for the same purpose and have had success there. However, LinkedIn has a greater long form functionality allowing for in-depth dialogue as opposed to ‘sound bites’ via our Facebook page.”
Randall Hendrickson, president of Horizon RV Resorts, started the RV park business group in 2009. “The wonderful thing about LinkedIn is the diverse groups of people from various backgrounds, each with his/her own take on a particular topic,” he remarked. “I really don’t know of another venue that allows for such an exchange of expertise; I always come away with a perspective I didn’t have previously. Discussions posted by group members introduce me to several great views of a subject from colleagues that have analyzed the issue from well-informed perspectives.” This group, like most, boasts an extensive membership of business consultants, technology leaders, management gurus, financial experts – thought leaders in an assortment of fields.
Today’s social networking possibilities offer a smorgasbord of opportunities. With a limited amount of available time in each day the decision on where to place attention can be a challenging one. Deb Kohls, a vice president of Leisure Interactive Inc. and owner of the Outdoor Recreation and Travel Industry Marketing Network, advises that it’s important to have clear goals in social networking, and LinkedIn participation offers an incredibly high payoff. “I often observe our industry striving to connect with consumers, and that’s valid,” Kohls noted. “But there’s so much to be gained by connecting to others with similar marketing needs and business experiences in the B2B realm. I recommend setting aside one hour a week to network with peers, support and learn from one another.”
“It requires a commitment to regularly log in and view the running dialogue in the various groups,” Hendrickson added. “But, once done, there is inevitably a great conversation about topics that matter to my business.”
While you may belong to an unlimited number of groups, choose your groups judiciously or you could be inundated by too much information to process, rendering the benefits of shared knowledge null and void at the click of the delete button. Instead, seek out LinkedIn groups that will provide specific wisdom to help you and your company thrive and you will be on your way to building your own circle of experts and developing a strong personal brand.
Learn more about LinkedIn and join the network of global professionals by visiting www.LinkedIn.com <http://www.LinkedIn.com> . Connect with author Evanne Schmarder at http://www.linkedin.com/in/evanneschmarder <http://www.linkedin.com/in/evanneschmarder> .