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A LinkedIn Rant

by David Brock on February 9th, 2012

It’s been a while since I’ve ranted, but I’ve hit a tipping point.  It’s about LinkedIn–actually, about how people use LinkedIn.

I can’t imagine any business professional not leveraging LinkedIn as much as possible.  It’s powerful in building your own brand and people’s awareness of you.  It’s a powerful research tool, enabling us to get a little deeper insight into the people we are talking to, helping identify potential prospects.  It’s a powerful tool to exchange ideas and learn new things in many of the group discussion boards.

I tend to do all of it.  I actively start and participate in discussions in a variety of groups.  It’s great for increasing my visibility and for getting to know some very thoughtful people in the broader professional community.  I’m open to most request to connect and I actively try to expand my network.  If we’ve met at some meeting or conference, undoubtedly I’ll ask to connect.  If you’ve requested any of our eBooks or had some other engagement with us, I’ll probably be asking to connect.  Every once in a while, if we have been involved in an active interchange or discussion in one of the groups, I’ll ask to connect.  I welcome building my network in LinkedIn.

However, I’m seeing too much bad behavior in LinkedIn, and I have to whine a bit:

1.  If you reach out to connect with me, at least take the time to build a profile–let me know, through the profile, who you are, what you do, a little about your background.  Just taking the past week as an example, a large number of requests I have received have absolutely nothing (or the minimum LinkedIn allows) as a profile.

2.  It doesn’t take much effort to go beyond LinkedIn’s “Dear Occupant” invitation:   “I’d like to add you to my professional network.”  Add a sentence in front of that–personalize the invitation a little (even if it’s the same for everyone you invite).  We all know the LinkedIn default invitations.  Show that you are investing at least a moment of thought in asking to connect.

3.  Just because we are in the same group doesn’t mean I want you to send me messages selling your services or asking for help in finding a job.  There are places in most groups where you can do these things.  Sending me a direct, unsolicited message is SPAM.  If I get one, from someone I’m not directly connected with, I report it as SPAM–sorry, but I didn’t join the group to get direct emails about what you can sell me.

4.  If we are connected, be thoughtful about the direct messages you send me.   I welcome most, clearly those with whom I have a close relatinship, I’m absolutely delighted to hear from you and do anything I possibly can to respond to your request.  There are a lot more of you that are a little more “distant,” we may not have much more than a passing relationship.  Be thoughtful about your request, is it reasonable given our real relationship and knowledge of each other.  I’ll try to be helpful wherre it’s reasonable—after all, that’s what social networking is all about, but many of them are selling things or asking things that my profile would indicate that I have no interest in.  I don’t often go to my connections asking for things, but if I do, I will be thoughtful as well.

5.  I’ve seen some shockingly bad behavior in discussions.  I few of my discussion threads have been hijacked by individuals clearly selling something or trying to prove whose is bigger.  They’re called “discussions” for a purpose.  It’s great to have a vigorous discussion, to have different opinions and differing ideas, but personal attacks ruin it for everyone else.

6.  If you are participating in a discussion, you present yourself in a better light if you have paid attention to what the discussion is about.  Typically, I start discussions that are tied to my blog posts.  Some months ago, I noticed that people seemed to be responding to the title and had not looked at what the discussion was really about.  I did a test, perhaps unfairly, but I wrote a purposefully provocative title.  The body of the blog was completely different.  I also explained in the body of the blog that I was testing to see how people reacted and whether they really read or just responded to titles.  You know what the result of my little experiment was….. unfortunately.

LinkedIn is a very powerful tool.  I can’t imagine not having it.  I’m continuing to learn how to use it more effectively.  Sometimes, I make errors–sometimes in posting incorrectly on the groups, I try to fix it.  I try to be respectful of my communications to people who I am connected with or with whom I am requesting a connection.  If I’m doing something wrong, please let me know.  I’ll never send anyone a “mass email,” unless it is for a group I manage and it is an announcement relevant to the group.

What are your experiences with LinkedIn?  Any peeves about inappropriate behavior?

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11 Comments
  1. Dave,

    Yeah, that pretty much nails most of it for me…
    * The plain and simple SPAM solicits.
    * The lack of customized invites.
    * The lack of response after connecting (often, even after I send a personalized reply).
    * And the other sales attacks that show no regard for etiquette, known best practices for sales behavior, or social selling savvy.

    I do weigh in on discussions from time to time, but there is so much blatant promotion, disregard for decorum, one-upmanship, lack of real-world detail (pie in the sky or philosophical discussions), and going off track and down rabbit holes, that I don’t get enough pleasure or value out of it, or see anything really happening. I do, however, often lurk to identify those who I believe do have something valuable to contribute and then reach out to them privately, so it’s been great for that.

    Now, on the other side of the sword, while I just gleefully ranted right along with you, the incredible value and wonderful relationships that I *have* gotten out of LinkedIn or forged because of it, far outweigh my rant points. But hey, a guy’s still gotta rant from time to time. 😉

    Mike

  2. Thanks….

    That needed to be said and you have a waay of ranting that is thoughtful and objective.

    I have recently experienced folks challangeing my thinking (that’s healthy) but not in a thoughtful way.

    When someone writes “Todd…. you just don’t get it” without any explanation of what I don’t get, I usually leave the discussion rather than join that kind of pissing contest. I actually find myself pulling back a bit in my discussion participation and use of Linkedin due to some recent comments.

    You once told me that some of your best BLOGs are based on something that has upset you. It is refreshing to have you rant because you always do it in a constructive (and instructive) way……

    Keep ranting my friend…..some of us are listening…

    • Todd, sorry for the slow reply. I have seen too much “bad behavior” in social media recently–unfortunately a reflection of our political climate, as well. Too few people listening, probing, understanding. Too few people having healthy debates, too many personal attacks. We can’t grow as individuals or a profession unless we open ourselves to different poinst of view.

  3. Okay, Dave, let me add one.

    So, I just went to LinkedIn Answers, navigated to the questions for Sales Techniques and read a few.

    Really?

    These are the questions that are being asked?

    And the people who are demonstrating “expertise” by answering them?

    Makes me shake my head. (Now, in fairness, there did seems to be a smaller subset of thoughtful questions, and I also saw that Jill Konrath has answered a lot and been rated highly – no surprise there.)

    But this whole LinkedIn topic, like most things, is occasionally deserving of a rant, as long as our ranting doesn’t become our way of life. But I find that looking at things with a critical eye, is also what propels us forward to improve things. The question then becomes, do we rant over things that we can influence or change? Not sure on this one – maybe we can influence.

    Thinking ahead… What can we rant about next week? 😉

    Mike

  4. David, I’m pretty much in agreement with you on your issues.

    The only other one I’d add is that I think discussions in general have gone downhill. So many are blatant promotions (of self or product) rather than discussions – this is the same as spam email to connections, except to a larger audience.
    I guess it’s up to the moderators of each group, but a bit more proactive moderation would probably raise the standard.

    The other discussion behaviour I find is getting more prevalent is just posting a link to something with no comment or personal opinion. Like the default invitation text, somewhat lazy. If you think something is interesting enough to share, then share it with some indication of what you like / dislike / which side of the fence you sit / what questions it raised for you.

    I’m thinking of pruning my groups radically – what discussion or interaction feedback or value is there when the average number of responses to a discussion is less than one???

    BTW your blog is by far the most consistently interesting thing I have found in the group we share.

    • Bridget: Thanks for the comment (and the flattery in your last sentence). The self promotion noise level is getting way to high in much of social media and LinkedIn. It turns all but the promoters off, and then they start trying to out shout each other. Destroys the value of the groups. I too an relooking at my strategies for this.

  5. Hi Dave, well deserved rant! I have been an early and heavy user of Linkedin, but I’d also like to rant about one of the changes that they’ve made related to “thought leaders”. Has anyone read the lack of “thought” that is contained in the majority of those posts? The noise on Linkedin is getting so loud that legitimate content like yours is getting lost. Everyone is trying to be a content marketer these days and rarely do I find any quality. I think this is related to your experience in groups. Too much commentary, not enough intelligence. Well, that’s my rant for today.

    Hope all is well!

    • Keith, it’s great to hear from you. That original post was a little older (I have this cool plugin that recycles them). If I were to write it again, I’d add the comments on the thought-less leaders and the endorsements. Endorsements are becoming a meaningless race for “likes.” How am I to respond to someone I don’t know endorsing me? I’m very appreciative, but it makes me wonder. Are they endorsing me because they like my profile? My bright shining smile, my blog posts, my tweets? Do they expect me to endorse them in return—I really don’t know them.

      Or those that endorse you, then when you don’t reciprocate, the remove the endorsements?

      From it’s inception, this is a disaster. It’s the continued quest of the extreme—volume escalates endlessly and quality plummets. To “hear” a voice, the shouting becomes every louder, and so forth……

      Always great to see your comments!

  6. All, I have had fantastic results with discussions in LinkedIn Answer (RIP Jan 13) and in LinkedIn Groups, but I’ve learned that it doesn’t happen by accident. Of course, no one can “guarantee” a fantastic discussion, but here are a couple of tips.

    When you start a discussion, see yourself as the host. You can *dramatically* improve the quality of responses by, via LI message, asking a few of your connections who are passionate on that topic to weight in (share the link). The first responses REALLY set the tone of the entire discussion.

    It’s also important to interact with people to guide the discussion. Ask additional questions. This is like inviting a bunch of people to a party at your house. Give little touches that everyone sees. If someone makes a response that’s blatant selling, openly ask them, respectfully, to hawk their stuff somewhere else. Even if *that* person doesn’t listen (most will stop right away), everyone *else* sees that the discussion is moderated. You are creating and protecting if needed, a space for a certain purpose.

    Most people throw out a question and cut the dingy adrift in the bay, so they end up on the rocks.

    Yes, sending the default invitation is the equivalent of scanning the room over someone’s shoulder at a networking event. Horrible.

    • It’s been a very long time since I originally wrote the post Christopher. Likewise, I had great results with Answers for a period of time, then the quality started plummeting (at least the quality of questions), so I stopped doing Answers. Frankly, I don’t miss it.

      Discussion groups are, in general hit or miss, but I’ve seen a number of very good quality groups where all the members police the group to keep the quality of the discussions up, minimize the blatant promotions etc. I’m pleasantly surprised with the number of high quality groups and discussions.

      People still haven’t gotten the message about default invitation. 99% of those I receive are still the default. When I accept, I sent a personal response—only 5% of those get a response.

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