When It Comes to Using LinkedIn, It’s All or Nothing

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There’s only one social networking service that matters when it comes to managing one’s professional reputation. Everyone knows it’s LinkedIn.

In recent years, LinkedIn transitioned from the boring, uncool, too-practical social media network to the one — if you could only pick one — professional networking service you absolutely positively have to be on. In large part, LinkedIn has The Great Recession to thank for its rapid evolution from the smart, nerdy kid to every professional’s BFF.  I’m not suggesting LinkedIn saw the Great Recession coming.  But without it, the network’s meteoric rise — in terms of its vast popularity as well as its valuation – would have been more gradual.

When jobs were being shed by the hundreds of thousands on a weekly basis, and the threat of deeper cuts was all the buzz in corporate cafeterias and cubicles and coffee shops, professionals fled to LinkedIn en masse.  In doing so, many were breaking one of the cardinal sins of networking — don’t wait until you have to network to network.

But better late than never.

Since then, LinkedIn has matured, continued to evolve and grow and has carved out a hearty slice of the Big Three social networking pie.  In parallel, many LinkedIn users have evolved in terms of how they treat this one-time third wheel, which existed for quite some time in the shadow Twitter and Facebook.  After a period of education and experimentation, professionals and organizations have come to realize that from behind a PC or tablet or smartphone, LinkedIn can give them a clear view of what is happening in their professional community.  Likewise, a user’s professional community gets a clear view of the individual user and their organization.

That’s the idea, at least.  But unfortunately, it’s not always the case.

If there’s one thing social media insists on, it’s transparency.  LinkedIn is no different.  It offers many benefits to individuals shopping for a new job, to recruiters looking to fill positions, to new business managers trying to grow revenue and to organizations showcasing their products, services and employees in hopes of building a stronger brand.

As a result of the benefits it offers to its non-paying and paying subscribers, LinkedIn has earned a certain level or payback and respect, in the form of transparency.  The reality is this: it’s less about being respectful to LinkedIn and more about being respectful and transparent to our respective LinkedIn networks and contacts.

For example, how many of us know people who rarely, if ever, update their LinkedIn profile — professionals who change jobs or leave a position but don’t make note of it until months later, if ever?  Or folks who post or share content without proper attribution?  Or companies who may exaggerate accomplishments?

This is how misusing LinkedIn can tarnish the reputation of individuals and organizations. When used properly, LinkedIn is the one social networking service than can lift professional reputations.   When used incorrectly, things can quickly backfire.

If you’re not being upfront with what you post on LinkedIn, potential clients, business partners, recruiters, employees and employers will figure it out soon enough.

With LinkedIn, as with most social networks and in life, we advise our clients, their executives and their organization at-large that it’s all or nothing. Black and white.  Cut and dried.

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