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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly on LinkedIn

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Now that I await my next career pinnacle to begin with an innovative, forward thinking telecommunication company with a solid balance sheet and clear executive management direction (criteria I used when evaluating who I wanted to work for), I am better equipped to step back and think about Linked In clearly and objectively on its benefits as a professional.

THE GOOD:

  • OLD Connections: with former colleagues, clients and managers that I otherwise may have lost touch with had I not signed up for Linked In.

  • NEW Connections: with thought innovators, active Linked In participants who offer expertise, share knowledge for free WITHOUT trying to sell anything (an application, a trial, a software, a service, information);

  • RECOMMENDATIONS: I’ve been reminded about some of the good I’ve done in my career when past associates provide Recommendations. The most honorable being the ones who did it without any encouragement, or some of the ones who we faced and collaborated to overcome obstacles together. Reminding me that issues are often not self-induced, often requiring hard work, dividing and conquering, and a positive attitude. People remember how you handled it and fixed matters far longer than what the issues may have been to begin with.

  • INFORMATION: Knowledge, learning and sharpening your skills are important in this fast changing world. What mattered yesterday is not what matters today.

  • FOLLOW: Linked In makes it easy for you to “FOLLOW” companies or organizations that you are interested or involved in — be it as a shareholder, investor, vendor, contributor. You can also “FOLLOW” those that inspire you or whom you would like to learn from — Bill Gates, Richard Branson, to mention a couple that are obvious.

  • ENTREPRENEURS: If you are a business owner you should be on top of what is impacting business today. Even if you are ready to cross it off as irrelevant to your own business (i.e. cloud, data or social media), you may want to be informed to avoid pitfalls you may unwillingly be falling into.

  • SALES PROFESSIONALS: Linked In, to many sales professionals, is a contact grab and that is about it. Don’t just use a name as a contact, title for your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system to keep managers at bay or to accumulate names. You can benefit by “Follow”ing your customers/company for insight on what they are saying or sharing — so that you can expand your insights and identify opportunities for what you are selling.

  • WEB-I-NOMICS: Linked In is a cash cow of information that allows others to gain knowledge. You can curate valuable information for your website that inform and create conversations with your customers, vendors and prospects.

  • EXPERTISE: Linked In features are continuously expanding and bringing value to its users. You can collaborate, curate, post, share information that eventually can signify your expertise on subject matters. You can write blog posts to expose your knowledge to draw advocates, followers, colleagues, managers, customers and vendors. Even sharing quotes, articles from third parties, can attract comments or shares that endorse the worthiness of what you are sharing.

  • GROUPS: One of the first features I started using was joining a couple of groups that related to my career. They allowed me to participate in discussions, answer questions … which tested my expertise, collaborated with others, …. or pose questions from others to provide input from the same industry or professional designation (i.e. Project Manager, Business Development, etc). I have made significant contacts that have brought tremendous growth, learning, mentoring and value.

  • PRIVACY: You are in control of what others see about you because you personally create your profile. You can set your profile privacy to make it difficult for recruiters, spammers or serial sales people from pitching you (which can be annoying to some if not all). You can also see who has looked at your profile (as long as they don’t set themselves as anonymous).

  • JOBS: If you are looking for work, Linked In is a superb repository of information on a variety of recruitment firms, looking up the person you may be interviewing with, connecting with those who may bridge an opportunity (i.e. referrals) look up a company, or link to website, etc.

  • COMMUNICATE: You can make Linked In what you want it to be. You can reach out, touch base with your contacts. I like Linked In feature of letting me know who has a new job to congratulate them on, celebrating a work anniversary, or even acknowledging a birthday. You can control how you communicate and not disclose your personal email by restricting and staying within Linked In MESSAGES. It does allow you to check off if you don’t mind sharing your personal email or as the next step in communications.

  • PERSONALIZE: This profile is all about you! How rigid you are filling in the blanks may demonstrate just that. Give insight to your personality, whether it is gregarious or academic, think of your audience and what perception you want them to have. Use the summary if you’re bursting with creativity. AND … for heaven’s sake, post a photo. I won’t get into the selfies, because we all know if you are on this planet you have a phone with a camera. You may as well use it. Suffice to say, you may be a water skiing enthusiast or were the party favor at the last event, but this is not the place you want to showcase that. Photo finishing has diminished so those businesses offer photo taking services and will even have a scanned image that you can upload at a nominal fee — think Passport photo with a smile — smiling is never a bad idea if you want to appear friendly and approachable.

THE BAD:

  • SELF-PROCLAIMED EXPERTS: There are so many “Experts” on Linked In my head spins at times. In fact, if someone states “EXPERT” on the profile, my first reaction is to think “NOT!”. Ultimately, expertise is a label that others give you. It is often demonstrated by a lot of credible Recommendations from subject matter professionals.

  • SELF-PROMOTION: If all you post is me, myself, I … that is about all who is going to be reading what you post. Your connections will appreciate posts and shares that are interesting and relevant to a professional audience.

  • ANONYMITY: Privacy protection and security are front and center in many people and company’s minds. Therefore, they will set their privacy by default to remain anonymous. On the flip side, I’m not sure others feel the same way, lurking a profile under cover can be annoying to the recipient. In my opinion, being open also relays credibility. I am certain there are a variety of reasons why persons want to remain hidden, I’m just not a fan of this practice.

  • COSTS: Nothing is ever free 100%. Linked In is accountable for its financials and creates nuggets to entice you to subscribe to additional features and benefits. At least it isn’t hidden and you can see your options and determine what is best for you. Heck, you can probably write it off as a professional subscription or networking expense.

  • ENDORSEMENTS: With the added feature of “Endorsements” comes questioning (to me anyhow) how important or how much weight others play on this feature. For example, if you have a lot of connections, you may not do business with them personally — how can they truly attest to the skill being endorsed? The user selects the skills on their profile, which is flagged in front of their connections to endorse them. However, it is cool when an associate endorses you that you do know — it can be a signal that they recognize that ability. The user can distinguish this, while the audience cannot. Alternatively, if someone endorses you, do you feel obliged to endorse them for something that you may not have professionally experienced?

  • AWARENESS: Linked In helps entrepreneurs, executives, employees and companies have presence on its pages. I’m amazed when I suggest to someone to get a profile up and they hesitate or avoid it altogether, citing the reason as privacy. In today’s world, that is hardly an excuse but certainly it is everyone’s prerogative. I also suggest that if you have a company or organization, create your Company Page. Don’t assume either that since it is there that it should remain dormant. Like your website, keep it updated and relevant to the audience or customers you want to attract. If you are recruiting, use the job boards, search out potential candidates profiles, their links, comments, posts to get a feel for the person. The chances are they will be doing the same of you.

  • BRANDING: Be on top of your brand, whether it is “ME, INC.” or a major named corporation. Monitor what people may be saying about your CEO, HR, executive, management or culture. It may start out as a minor squeak but could erupt into a public relations nightmare. Identify and acknowledge who is responsible for this. You’d be surprised how many people stray off topic in groups to give examples of poor treatment by a professional or company. Encourage your employees to be on Linked In, leverage it for the knowledge it presents, and champion subject matter expertise by participation.

THE UGLY:

  • INVITATIONS: This is an area I’ve spoken to colleagues and associates about. It seems many are annoyed by invitations to connect from people “out of the blue” that they don’t know. Again, this is something you can control. You can choose to ignore any invitations from parties unknown. I do suggest if you are compelled with the urge to connect with someone – send the invitation with an explanation as to why you would benefit (or better yet how they may) by connecting and exchanging information via posts. Personally, I professionally had my vision and goal to work for a specific company and searched who I perceived the hiring managers would be and sent an invitation. Lo and behold, this is the same company I will start working for at the end of August! I hardly think a company representative is going to blow you off. Everyone in every company is a customer service representative, whether they have it on their title or not!

  • MESSAGES: Theoretically, the only inbound messages you should get are from those that are a connection. However, Linked In offers a paid feature as part of subscription packages called IN-MAIL. The package you subscribe to determines the number of IN-MAIL messages you are allowed — which are basically unsolicited messages from others. If you are a recruiter, in marketing or a social media advocate, you may have more connections than average. That can also lend itself to a larger number of virtual strangers messaging you.

  • DATING: Linked In is not a dating site. Unfortunately, some boneheads do try to use it as a soft way of introducing themselves and approaching you if you inadvertently accepted the invitation under the umbrella of business networking. I hear ya … but they can’t seem to read the “Married” part of your profile.

  • SOLICITATION: Even if you actively monitor who your contacts are or are selective, you will often find yourself a recipient of a message that solicits (or recommends) a service, software, product or site. Message to senders: This is not a wise way of prospecting, never mind cold calling a complete stranger. Use it as a tool to gather information, not send information.

  • PRIVACY: You go through all that trouble of keeping your information private, being selective on who you network with then BAM! Some nerd (to be polite) sends out a group message and you find your name muddled in with a bunch of other people. Yes, pretty much everyone is shaking their head before X-ing you out of their connections after you disclosed their name. People can look up your connections but be respectful of that information. I advise you stay clear of group messaging. That’s not networking anyhow, that is broadcasting. There is an appropriate feature that Linked In offers by telling you that you have a connection within a certain company that you can reach out to and request a referral.

  • GRAMMAR: Some may wonder why I include this … it should never get too old to continually remind people to check their spelling on their profiles — you are promotingYOU and who you represent/work for and you owe everyone attention to detail. Even if it is just a comment, ensure that you use proper grammar and check for spelling … heck, double check the spelling of the person’s name if you are going to use it. (I have distinct spelling for my name and it is often misspelled). Run your summary or post through a Word software program and spell check it before uploading is a good idea.

  • CLUTTER: As with any website that has experienced growth, you may have noticed Linked In has a lot going on your page when you visit. It uses intuitive software to predict who, what you should know, what you are interested in reading based on past clicks. There are far more article suggestions now that populate Linked In as they opened up the ability for anyone to post. The choices you make, the clicks you enter, and the time you spend on Linked In is your own individual preference.

  • COMPETITION: There isn’t much competition to Linked In on professional social networking, however, they are still competing for your attention while you are online. They will continue to navigate and update thus change is a given. They will continue to tempt you with subscription benefits in order to continue generating a revenue stream. I predict that what you see for free will eventually be eroded or what you want expanded upon charged for.  

  • AUTHORITY: As endorsements continually grow along with the number of people who are writing posts, it may be getting more confusing as to whom really has the authority on a topic. Linked In chooses a number of Followers you have on your Posts, so it is basically a numbers game. (I’m not sure how they do it, but I gather that it is a combination of your network number and how likely people are to read or share your posts and what that additional viewership entails). A higher profile is typically dependent on who you are (i.e. Bill Gates), how many followers you attract, or have the number of comments on your posts will indicate expertise based on those numbers. If you have a post that gains a lot of attention, it could be recommended by Linked In under its PULSE highlights.

  • NEGATIVITY: You can see for yourself in groups or on posts. Sometimes, heated debates erupt or I think some people say silly things to get attention, albeit often negative. You are what you post, comment, write and it is your personal brand that you are impacting. Treat it genuinely and respectfully.

  • MANNERS: Thank you are the two most powerful words in business, social media, Linked In, or anywhere. Be known for your manners. Be honest, be authentic. If someone compliments a post or shares it, thank them. Social media in all its glory boils down to “if you scratch my back, I will scratch your’s”. There are a number of examples, but one that maybe is not a right or realistic expectation …. if you notice you have a fan who continuously comments, compliments or shares your posts, recognize them by name and say “Thank you”. If you can, even read some of their posts and comment or hit like if that is how you feel.

There you have it: the good, the bad and the ugly of Linked In. I’m sure there are a lot a great experiences along with a few nightmares. The bottom line is, it is a great repository of YOUR career information. Think of it as a tool. How well it works for you is how attuned you are.

“I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.” ~Abraham Lincoln

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