Linked In, Blinked Out

How much of  ‘corporate social media’  amounts to ‘wasting time on the company’s dime?’

The big difficulty for many managers is in demonstrating a positive ROI (‘Return on Involvement’) from their social media projects – a collection of sundry activities loosely billed by the now ubiquitous social media consultants as “connecting, communicating and collaborating.”

I sympathize with those managers’ concerns.

Fearful of being left behind by competitors, they’re also buffeted by the risks of enabling staff to engage with ‘digital dogs’ the world over. (See the cartoon by Peter Steiner, first published in the ‘New Yorker’ magazine almost 19 years ago.)

However, despite worries about the misuse of Facebook, Twitter and others during company hours, there’s one social media network that’s had an easier ride to acceptance within ‘cubicle land’ – and that’s LinkedIn.

Well before its recent IPO, LinkedIn was something my colleagues and I used to digitally park our resumes (CVs) and contacts. Other than that, most people I knew rarely logged in. There was no reason to, unless in the early stages of looking for a job.

LinkedIn’s Social Media Footprint

With the ‘increasing popularity’ of social media among groups such as employers (HR, in particular), recruitment consultants, savvy and self-employed business professionals, and ambitious employees, what exactly is LinkedIn’s social media footprint?

One very visible element is that of ‘social proof’ in the form of recommendations from your LinkedIn connections.

This is valuable  because it allows visitors checking out your profile to learn more about how others rate your professional experience and your reputation.

Done honestly, this helps to make a profile more believable. Critics contend, however, that you’ll never see a negative recommendation. True enough, since few people choose to air any ‘dirty laundry’ in public. Nevertheless, when dealing with a member’s profile you haven’t met in person, be alert for multiple recommendations that seem too good to be true.

I Don’t Know You – But Let’s Connect?

Now let’s look at ‘connection requests’, where persons known or unknown to you, ask to be connected.

I’ve read different opinions about what to do here.

One approach is to spell out clearly on your LinkedIn profile if you have any conditions for accepting connection requests. From memory, I think that LinkedIn says these people are NOT supposed to be total strangers to you.

In my case, they are known to me digitally (I never thought I’d see myself use that word to describe ‘people networking’) but I may not have met all of them yet in person.

Do you accept a LinkedIn request from most anyone who asks? Or are you more selective?

From the perspective of a freelance b2b case study writer, I’m not sure which is the best approach. My policy until a few days ago was to only accept people I know personally or have done business with. Everyone else is usually rejected unless they include more than the default, boilerplate LinkedIn intro message.

Is this too severe? Am I rejecting people who might one day become trusted advisors or clients? I’m open to persuasion here and have begun to pay more attention to those who do accept almost all requests.

Why?

Well, because their argument goes something like this:

Imagine a C-level executive receives an email recommending your services, along with a link to your LinkedIn profile. The executive clicks through, checks you out, and makes an instant decision to add you to her LinkedIn connections. She’s got just a few minutes before the next meeting – and selects the ‘connect with me’ button on her smartphone.

What happens next?

Until recently, my rules of engagement would result in this influential person’s request being rejected.
Yikes! What a wasted opportunity.

Times change, and the days of executives being tethered to desktop computing devices for connecting with others are over in many countries and market sectors. Unfortunately, this mobile, always-on availability means that attention spans (and patience!) are becoming unavoidably shorter.

Sure, it would be great to get a personalized message with an executive’s LinkedIn connection request or response, but in reality, this is unlikely to happen.

Far better to have such a person IN my network than forever lost due to my arbitrary, procedural and mostly obsolete rules of engagement.

Protect Your LinkedIn Connections

A word of caution is called for here. In an effort to protect my LinkedIn connections from being data mined (or worse) by people attempting to sell various services, my connections are only visible to me. The risk may be low but comes with accepting people I’ve met online but not (yet) in person.

What would you do in my position?

You Are Not Your LinkedIn Profile

If you spend any time online researching social media you’ll run into people who are adamant that others are poring over your LinkedIn profile, ready to offer the ideal job, contract or deal to the right person. And that could be you, goes their thinking, with just a tweak here and a keyword added there.

This may be effective ‘Fear Uncertainty Doubt’ marketing for social media consultants but, as I’m sure readers are well aware, there is no pot of gold waiting at the click of an online profile.

Your LinkedIn profile is a useful ‘reference’. Think of it as something that “doesn’t raise any red flags”, as one of my friends likes to remind me.

Beyond that, you need to actually bring more than an optimized profile to the table or be labeled as someone who is, in the words of a Texan acquaintance, “all hat, and no cattle.” And that is definitely NOT a compliment!

Is LinkedIn Important in Asia?

Linkedin seems to think so, as they opened their Asia-Pacific regional HQ in Singapore in 2011, along with an office in Japan. Together with existing offices in India and Australia, it seems that LinkedIn sees significant opportunities within Asia.

By the way, you can put my new embrace of social media connectivity to the test by visiting Mark McClure’s LinkedIn profile. I promise not to blink if you do ;-)

1 Comment

Filed under Content and Context, Messaging and Positioning

One response to “Linked In, Blinked Out

  1. Hey Mark, this is great and inline with how I think about it. Complete strangers crop up and most of the time I accept them now – before it was a straight no. The only thing I don’t like is being sold to on LinkedIn. They can see what I do, my profile, etc… and still people try and sell me something completely irrelevant – that annoys me and everytime I want to write back and say have you heard the word qualify?? No excuses in this case. One thing I’ve noticed is how different industries use LinkedIn – IT and associated industries use it extensively – sharing professional info as they would on any social platform. Some of the other industries (financial, heavy tech industries, etc..) use it in a very limited way. It will be interesting to see if the more extensive use of LI for sharing becomes the norm? I’m definitely seeing more and more activity across industries however, and when people are looking for a job they sure do get active :)

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