More than a decade ago, I joined an emerging social medium called LinkedIn. I was serving as the Director of the newly created Office of Legislative Affairs at the Science & Technology Directorate for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This is where I first came to recognize the value of LinkedIn as a networking tool.
I was responsible for outreach to The Hill, to industry, and to the academic scientific community. I remember searching LinkedIn as a means for finding biographical data for the people I needed to meet, such as the schools they attended, where they worked, and who we knew in common. The information that I culled proved invaluable for cultivating relationships with Congressional staffers whose support for policy and budgets were critical to the success of the DHS S & T Directorate mission.
I recall how being on LinkedIn in the early days of DHS made my job easier, especially with the many challenges I faced that were associated with [starting] a new government agency. The social medium was particularly useful to me for following public policy related issues, because most Hill staffers, government employees, and lobbyists post the latest and greatest happenings.
Now that years have passed, my LinkedIn network has grown exponentially into many thousands of first level connections and has further blossomed into an important vehicle for business and personal outreach. I now own or manage 16 LinkedIn groups, including several devoted to my passions for homeland security, cybersecurity, and emerging technologies.
LinkedIn has become part of the fabric of how I (and a majority of my peers) communicate, operate, and conduct business. For me, the LinkedIn platform and its groups serve as interactive, informative forums. Many of these members are security professionals who have important roles in government or industry, including CISOS, CIOs, CTOs, or members of the C-Suite who possess deep subject matter knowledge.
For instance, during the recent “WannaCry” Ransomware attack that rapidly spread across the globe, I was asked to provide a quick brief on the developments for a couple of organizations and for a media story. From perusing the timely posts and discussions in several of my homeland security and Information security LinkedIn groups, I was able to pull up the latest stats on breached targets, the likely origination of the cyber-attack, and patching remedies to quell the spread of the ransomware.
In my world of working with federal government agencies and private sector companies, LinkedIn has become a great resource. I have found that the security-oriented LinkedIn groups facilitate open discussions that involve current and ex-NSA/DoD/DHS (and law enforcement) professionals who use the platforms regularly. By following and interacting with pertinent posts, I can gain the latest news on topics such as cybersecurity technologies, threats, policies, and trends from a variety of expert sources with exceptional insights.
LinkedIn has also proved invaluable for marketing. As a government relations and marketing executive, I work with and I am on the boards of several security related companies and organizations, and often I help brand a product or service. For marketing, messaging on LinkedIn is immediate, perpetual, and cost-effective.
I have often used the site to InMail prospective clients. Because of my visibility on the platform, I have also been regularly approached to assist companies with homeland security and cybersecurity ventures. As a result of one of these LinkedIn communications, I was able to help a large private German company by introducing some of their unique technical products that were of strong interest to U.S. transportation security efforts.
For thought leadership on homeland security and cybersecurity issues, LinkedIn is a real force for digital influence. It is an effective platform for educating, evangelizing, and promoting discussion of the cutting risk management issues. My posts, shares of my published writings, and original content on LinkedIn often receive several thousand of views. As a result of the exposure, I have been invited to address conferences and events to speak on topics of cybersecurity, physical security, the Internet of Things, and other emerging technologies.
Because of the mix of specialized requirements, partnering with other companies and experts in the security world is often the rule rather than the exception. LinkedIn is an especially useful resource for finding teaming members and potential partners to pursue opportunities. Many small businesses have established profiles on the site where they market their niche capabilities. By being active on LinkedIn, companies can often find partners and clients and reach out to them in areas that may be mutually beneficial. As both industry and government encourage diverse and multiple partners to work together on programs, the importance of having a strong stable of networked partners is becoming a premium.
We are still only in the early era of social media. It will continue to grow and be further fused into all aspects of our lives. Social media’s main purpose is networking and finding those share missions and interests. LinkedIn is a vehicle that already provides the ability to reconnect and touch with people who have been a part of our social lives in the past. It also has great utility in the corporate world and in government for cultivating networks and reaching out to those we can do business. For security professionals, the medium has been hyper-active for those purposes and being on LinkedIn has become an imperative.