Some Thoughts About LinkedIn

This past weekend I read a book excerpt in Fortune magazine entitled, The real way to build a social network. Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, co-authored The Start-Up of You, the book from which the excerpt was taken.

What got my attention in the first place was the opening: “Forget Dale Carnegie. He understood how important connections were, but missed out on the authenticity part which … is the key to building a truly helpful professional network…”

Pretty bold statement, right?  But for many of us who use LinkedIn every day, the authors are preaching to the converted.  I know I don’t get as much from LinkedIn as some, but it has become an invaluable tool.

A few thoughts for your consideration:

  • I use LinkedIn to help clients with blind reference checking of candidates for sales and sales executive positions.  Recently a client took my advice by looking at who I was connected to that might, in turn, be connected to a VP of Sales candidate they were getting close to hiring.  Bingo.  I was able to introduce the CEO with a number of close contacts who generously spent a lot of time with my client. The candidate never knew the conversations took place.  He was hired last week.

  • I always look someone up on LinkedIn before speaking with them the first time, or after not speaking with them after a long time. Amazing how things change for people. New company, new position, new contacts. Conversations are so much more productive when you get a fix on the other person’s perspective.

  • When someone I know contacts me to network their way into a new position, I’ll often suggest they look through my connections.  I’m generally willing to make introductions, although recommending them is out of the question for me if I haven’t worked with them directly.  The book makes another point. Don’t wait to start networking when you’re looking for a job.  Take the time to build a network based on mutual value before that need arises. I completely agree with that.

  • I cull my connections regularly.  I’m not a collector of connections on LinkedIn.  In fact I think those that are miss the point of real networking. I believe it’s the quality of the relationships that determine how networked you are, not the number of names you can collect.  For that reason I don’t accept connections from those whom I don’t know, have not been recommended to me, or with whom I don’t have something in common.  I (almost always) send a reply which explains my position, assuring them that my unwillingness to connect with them isn’t personal. I expect some get offended anyway, or think I’m odd.

  • I feel the system is being abused when someone wants to connect with me, but can’t take one minute to overwrite the ubiquitous, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Take a minute and tell me what I can do for you, or even better, what you can do for me, or even better than that, what we both can do for someone else.

  • Salespeople who are not looking for a job should construct their LinkedIn profiles centered on the value they have delivered for their customers through each of the positions they have held. Those who are looking for a job should stress sales performance.

  • I’m not big on recommendations. I have a few that are important to me, but I don’t publish others. I think they are, for many, part of a profile-expanding quid pro quo approach. In those cases, I don’t even read the recommendations.

  • I’m a little miffed at LinkedIn.  There is no iPad app. I don’t keep up with iPad app development news. I wonder when the iPad app will happen.  Anyone know?

  • I’ve used both LinkedIn ads and job postings. The job posting facility worked very well when ESR was searching for another analyst last year.

  • The groups and discussions are all over the map.  Some groups are tightly controlled.  That’s good. Others are like the wild West.  If I want to get updates on new discussions from some groups, I get barraged with spam. If I turn off the notices, I’ll surely miss that occasional important discussion I need to know about.  With all that said, I spend some time each week commenting on others’ posts.

  • By all means, have someone read through your profile. I have a problem with professional profiles that contain very noticeable grammatical errors and misspellings.  I’ve seen some profiles where the names of companies have been misspelled by those that worked there.

  • I don’t quite get it when people don’t include a photo in their profile.  Do they know how to import one?  Do they have a photo?  Do they care?

  • Finally, if you’re going to ask me for a favor, please don’t include me on a Linked in (or any other) distribution list. Especially don’t begin the mass email with, “Since you are someone I trust and respect…”

I’d love to hear whether you agree with my points or have others points you’d like to add.  Comment below.

Comments

  1. says

    Dave,
    Some great observations and opinions.
    I couldn’t agree more with you regarding the ‘race’ to collect contacts. I fell in to this trap a little in the early stages of using LI but am now stricter when accepting connections. Afterall I have spent 20 years of graft and toil in building a network so why in the blink of an eye should I agree to open the door to others who have not earned that right. I met some one the other day who readily admitted not knowing a large amount of his 1st degree contacts. In my opinion in order to qualify as a 1st degree contact you should have met face to face or have done business or added value to the other party at some stage in the past..

    • Dave Stein says

      Thanks, Barry.

      I know I’m going to upset a bunch of people, but when I see LION attached to someone’s name on LinkedIn, I usually run the other way.

  2. says

    Dave,

    Good stuff and I agree with all of it. Barry I feel into the same trap and I’m taking Dave’s advice and culling.

    On the topic of Groups etc. what is your take on LinkedIn Answers? I am a member of several groups and when I see a good question I think I can answer I do. I’ve looked at Answers and it seems like mostly it is a place to troll for leads. What is your experience?

    -Les

    • Dave Stein says

      Hi Les,

      I spent some time on Answers when it was first introduced. I found that a tremendous amount of bad advice was being proffered by vendors and so-called experts, some of them racing to get the most number of “best answers.” I got very frustrated very quickly. To be fair, there were many good answers and recommendations, but the bad outweighed the good.

      One benchmark for me is the periodic, “Who is the best sales trainer?” which appears on various group discussions. Although you can get some valuable insight, you have to weed though the noise. Since it’s my job to know the answer to that question, I feel qualified to make that judgment.

  3. Benjamin Tice says

    Dave,
    I enjoyed reading your thoughts. LinkedIn has helped me to be a better resource for others when connecting people for potential projects. I differ from you somewhat in that I will usually give someone the benefit of the doubt when connecting with them. I use the approach I have learned in making a sales call, with everyone in the business potentially helping in the sales process even if not the primary decision maker since they may be a key influencer or provide valuable info to help me through the process.

    • Dave Stein says

      Thanks for the comment, Benjamin.

      One concern about just accepting invitations from anyone is an unintentional misrepresentation of the nature of those non-relationships to others in my network. If I connect to John Doe, whom I don’t know, Jane Smith, with whom I do have a relationship, would naturally assume that 1) I know John, and 2) John is someone whom, through implication of that connection, has either provided value to me (or I have provided it to him)… Or at a minimum, I know that John has provided it to someone else.

      Of course this is all a matter of personal preference, style, and the way we view business relationships.

  4. says

    Dave,
    Great blog. Really hits the mark. My biggest fear with social networking, in particular LinkedIn, is that it is getting very “noisy.” I wonder if many of these tools will become oversaturated and lose effectiveness as they become more and more one way communication vehicles. I literally get 5 to 10 requests to connect each day from someone trying to sell me something – “Firms employ us to increase their sales” was one example I received just this morning. Where do I sign up? Often they have no profile and as you said, do not even change the invitation. If people are going to “network” with a goal of “selling,” then provide me with some value. Have a good “prospecting” introduction that will capture my attention. Try to get recommended to me from someone so at least that will create some legitimacy. Right now I am seeing hundreds of people just prospecting away without any real direction or process. It’s the wild wild west.

    • Dave Stein says

      Thanks, Jim.

      I think some of these abusers get tired and eventually fade away. I’ve informally tracked a few of them. Gone. The problem is they are quickly replaced by 5 more prospectors panning for gold using LinkedIn.

      You hit the nail on the head, though… Value.

      (And to those opportunists seeking to “network” with me? “Picking my brain” is NOT networking.)

  5. says

    Nice summary of some interesting points here Dave, thanks for posting this. Our organization has a LI group and we struggle mightily with keeping the discussion constructive. It has 15K+ members, and a reasonably active discussion board. But the number of submitted posts and comments that are junk is staggering – 150+ a day, sometimes more. We’re forced to review and approve everything before it posts, otherwise the discussion board would become essentially unreadable, overwhelmed with spam and off-topic weirdness. Which reminds me: would your readers be interested in an AWESOME WORK FROM HOME OPPORTUNITY, A FREE WEBINAR, A JOB IN MALAYSIA, AN E-BOOK, or some VIA$GRA? Let me know.

    • Dave Stein says

      Thanks, Bob.

      ESR has been reluctant to start a LI discussion group for that reason. How much VIA$GRA can one person take?

  6. says

    Dave, great post. Like you, I don’t get as much out of LinkedIn as I probably could. But I’m sure there are a bunch of resources I’m not maximizing. Loved your point about the photo.

    Last year I had a second-degree contact ask to connect. I accepted. The very next day, he asked for an introduction to one of my contacts. I declined. But who knows? He might have been that brassy at an in-person networking function, too.

    And Dave and Bob, thanks for the grins.

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