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?