As Part 4 of my Heroes series, I will tell you why I don’t want to be added to your professional network on LinkedIn…based on the following 10 assumptions about you:
- I assume you have heard of LinkedIn and may have a profile on the site.
- I assume you analogize LinkedIn as a job tool and nothing more.
- I assume you treat your profile as an online duplication of your resume.
- I assume your picture is not on your profile.
- I assume if you have a blog or a website and connect to it from your profile, you use nondescript cookie-cutter links saying, “My Blog” or “My Website.”
- I assume you have few, if any, recommendations both for and from other people.
- I assume you do not belong to, nor engage in, any LinkedIn groups.
- I assume you do not ask, nor answer, questions on LinkedIn.
- I assume you have anywhere between 20 and 2,000 connections but don’t know where they live, what they do, or why you’re connected to them in the first place.
- I assume when you send an invitation to someone to ask if they will join your network, you don’t edit the invitation so it arrives in my inbox looking like this:
I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
Am I close?
I joined LinkedIn about two years ago, on a whim and at the suggestion of a friend on a job search and who thought I might enjoy the organic nature of building relationships online.
I jumped in with both feet and immediately started sending generic invitations (like the above) to everyone I knew both with profiles and without. My pitch focused on MySpace and Facebook as party networks, like Cheers! where everybody knew your name and everything about you but not where you worked or who you’d recommend as a job recruit, for a consulting project, or a joint venture.
LinkedIn, as New York Times reporter Sarah Jane Tribble describes as the Chamber of Commerce to Facebook’s after-hours party and MySpace’s all-night rave, was a way for me to connect on a professional level with everyone I knew.
Looking back, that was my first mistake. LinkedIn is not intended to be, nor should it be, a mirror of every other social network.
Yes, LinkedIn *IS* a social network. The line between a professional connection and a social one is very thin when you consider companies have holiday parties where employees invite fiancees; and bosses and workers frequently go out after-hours for a beer.
“What does that inter-connectedness of the professional community do for you?” Patrick Crane, LinkedIn’s vice president of marketing asks. “How can you use that to get things done?”
I used to be able to count on many hands the number of LinkedIn connections who were also Facebook friends and who I also could call up at a moment’s notice and ask if they wanted to catch a movie.
But in recent weeks, I’ve removed connections to people who provide me zero value on LinkedIn. Just because someone is a Facebook friend doesn’t mean they need to be on my LinkedIn network.
I’d prefer to be linked to people who work in aligned industries: public affairs, communications, government, and social media; but not Joe Public who is an attorney, banker, real estate salesman, or cosmetologist.
“You don’t connect to everybody you possibly can,” Crane says. “The relationships that you form in the first-degree connections that you create are based on respect, based on a track record with someone, based on trust, or based on a working relationship….a true reflection of themselves and a true reflection of their personal brand.”
By looking at a list of names who I’m connected to, I can tell you how I know him; why I respect him; whether we’ve emailed, tweeted, or commented on blogs back and forth; where he lives; what he does for a living or what he’s looking to do; and what he last wore when and if I met him.
Can you say the same about your connections? Or are they merely numbers in your LinkedIn book of life?
For two years, I’d displayed my online profile like a virtual representation of my resume. I didn’t personalize anything and if my name wasn’t attached and if you changed a few words, it could have been anyone else.
I didn’t recommend anyone nor asked anyone to recommend me. I didn’t belong to any groups and I didn’t engage with people in those groups. I didn’t participate in questions and answers with people in my network and outside of it.
Fast forward to today and my LinkedIn profile (like this blog and everywhere else I dynamically participate) is representative of who I am as an author, speaker, and consultant on technology policy and online communication.
At an age when everyone googles everyone else for the quick and the dirty, I know what you will see when you google me. My LinkedIn profile, among other profiles on other social networks, will be near the top of the list.
Because of the law of the connectedness of LinkedIn, it doesn’t matter whether or not you are looking for a job, because if you have a profile on the site, a link to your profile is guaranteed to appear near the top of a Google search on your name. Are you confident with your profile that it can represent you if someone looks online for you?
Moreover, are you linked to people you trust and can recommend without looking them up to see who they are?
If I’m connected to you and I notice that one of your connections is someone I’d like to know, are you comfortable contacting that person through LinkedIn to connect her with me? Because if you don’t know your connection like the back of your hand, I question the validity of the connection.
“If the person that you mutually “know” is a person that neither of you really knows, or respects, then the fabric is weakened a little bit. You might get a referral, but what, ultimately, does that referral mean if it’s someone who connects just for the sake of it?” asks Crane.
If you don’t care, then I ask you why you have a profile. Because you can delete it in two clicks.
Which brings me back to the 10 assumptions I laid out above and 10 suggestions for improvement:
- Whether or not you have a profile on LinkedIn, keep it up to date.
- Fill it with colorful language, not drab resume-speak.
- Write in first-person, not third.
- Include a picture. Make sure it’s the same picture I’ve seen on other social profiles you have.
- Join a group. Prove to me that you feel a connectedness to other people.
- Ask questions. Answer questions. Be part of the community; don’t be static.
- Don’t be someone’s connection just because he or she asked you. You can always decline.
- Don’t ask someone to be your connection just because he or she is your friend or is on another network with you.
- Recommend your connections whether or not they are looking for a job. Ask your connections to recommend you.
- If you feel inspired, google me, check out my LinkedIn profile, and send me an invitation to connect.
Don’t send me a generic message, but treat an invitation like a cover letter for a job; sell me on the idea that we should be connected to each other, whether because of common values or interests, or because you’d like to do business together.
But don’t do it unless we have some history on this blog or another blog or somewhere else in cyberspace or the physical world. Anyone can buy and sell in an eBay transaction; if you don’t treat me as a number, I’ll treat you as a name.
For more information on how to use LinkedIn, I point you to Jason Alba’s informative blog, titled, “I’m on LinkedIn – Now What???”
I also suggest you read a recent post on business usage of LinkedIn by Valeria Maltoni, a list of 10 ways to use LinkedIn by Guy Kawasaki, and a group calling itself Linked Intelligence with over 100 ways to use LinkedIn.
I’d enjoy seeing your thoughts.