Linkedin Groups, Profiles and Networking Etiquette
By Kevin T Buckley, CPC
Linkedin is a different social networking tool than Facebook or Twitter. The first two are geared to the casual user whereas Linkedin is a business networking tool. So far, the spammers haven't invaded LI in full force. You do get the occasional interloper hawking his/her must-have solution, but they are easily identifiable.
The key idea is to avoid being tagged as a nuisance, lightweight or spammer by your posts. Many of the LI Groups have posters. Everyone has an opinion to share of course, but should you be you responding to each and every discussion posted by a member?
Posting relevant and insightful comments rather than the ordinary and the expected will distinguish you from the uninformed poster. Keep your comments streamlined and avoid long-winded expositions. Just as there are people who enjoy hearing themselves speak, there are people who love to see their lengthy posts online, unedited.
There is no quicker way to lose your audience and jeopardize your credibility thatn by appearing to be selling something on a discussion board.. You can find yourself blacklisted and often will be asked to leave a particular group. Avoid even the appearance of impropriety. There are con artists beginning to take notice of LI and the goldmine of contacts that it contains. The question becomes how can you best tap this resource and establish a professional presence for now and the future?
First, take a long look at your current profile. What does it say about you? If you were reading this person's profile, what impression would you get? Does this sound like someone you want to interact with? Regardless of your experience level, refine and edit your profile until it doesn't just shine - it sparkles. Eliminate all text which is mundane or bland. Don't overload your profile, rather, concentrate on your real accomplishments and give the reader a sense of what is important to you as a business person and as a human being. Remember, other human beings are reading your words. Machines have not replaced the human mind and considerations of a person's values and principles speak quietly and effectively to the person seeking connection with someone who reflects the values that you believe in.
Next, evaluate your picture. When you created your profile, did you just slap a picture in there for the sake of having an image? Is the image in focus? Is it quirky in a not good way? Does it throw your face into half-shadow? Are you smiling and do you look accessible? A poorly chosen picture detracts from the overall effect of the profile and what you are trying to accomplish. Goofy posing, mysterious looks and puzzling profile shots do the same. They do not portray you as someone who is self-evident, naturally confident about who they are and ready to meet and greet the world on its own terms. The same holds true for a picture which is a full length shot or puts you so far back in the frame that people can't see your face. Choose your picture carefully, it says a lot about you and the care that you take to project a friendly and welcoming face to the world.
We have all marvelled at reading posts which morph into a mutual attack between two respondents. It is amazing how far people can forget themselves when they are engaged in one-upmanship on the internet. Situations can quickly escalate beyond all reasonable response until the moderator or webmaster finally has to pull the plug on the discussion thread until people calm down. Never type in a post something that you would not want your youngest relative to read.
When it comes to the Groups that you choose to ask to join, be discriminating and if your Linkedin profile is to assist you in securing the job you are seeking, ensure that the groups chosen make logical and strategic sense to join. You can rank the groups list through the reorder function which allows you to rank the griups numerically in order of importance. You have a maximum of 50 groups that you can join. Choose your affiliations wisely.
Avoid using a group's discussion board to overtly canvass others for job leads. Most group managers don't allow this. You will first be issued a warning and then, at their discretion, you may be removed from the group if you continue. Read the group's member terms and conditions. This will help you know what is and what is not allowable in that particular group.
Don't forget to use the Group search engine and enter search terms which will bring up other potential groups for evaluation. Check and see how many members there are in a given group.
Avoid being the type of poster who comments on each and every discussion - unless of course you are a subject matter expert and your opinion is highly valued. This type of activity can be a ploy for attention or for keeping your name in the forefront. At best it is over-exposure and in the worst case it could well be perceived as an egotrip - especially if you are light on experience or expertise in comparison to other regular contributors.
This is also not the best place to advertise your particular blog and what the blog theme is. This can better be placed on your public profile with a link to the relevant web page. Use a status update instead.
How often should you broadcast your status updates and what they should contain do vary from person to person and your level of experience and authority in your career. Some people like to do this on a daily or twice weekly basis. The key question to ask yourself is: Is this important enough to tell my entire network about? Will they really care about the book I'm reading or the event I attended if it isn't directly or indirectly career-oriented? Be careful about tweeting and facebook updating with this information if your facebook and twitter updates are very casual or distinctly un-businesslike in nature. In fact, when it comes to social media, try not to mix the business updates with the personal pages because when those lines are blurred, the reader may not receive the impression that you intended.
Some items that appeal to people include well-researched articles, informative (not necessarily trendy) books, websites that are directly related to the business interests of people in the group, industry-specific events that are of interest to group members within reasonable geographic access. awards dinners and similar recognition of one's peers events, innovative inventions or ideas that are either directly applicable to the audience or that have universal application.
Pruning your groups list periodically is udeful to keep those of most relevant interest in the first top ten that appear on your profile.
Recommendations and the requesting of them should be handled very diplomatically and you need to be sensitive to the time and consideration that you are asking for. Some of the best of these mini testimonials are customer supplied. Receiving a testimonial from a former colleague or a subordinate does not carry exactly the same weight as one from a respected superior or senior customer executive. These types of testimonials do however give a sense of what you are like to work with and the qualities they have seen in you. It takes time to write an effective testimonial and this speaks of the regard in which you are held by significant people in your business sphere.