I Use LinkedIn … But Don’t Preach To Me

Preach to me, tell me how to use LinkedIn!Last week I linked to Thom Singer’s brilliant post about LinkedIn, and got almost as many comments in that one post as he’s had in his entire blog history (commenters on his or other’s posts include Carol Deckert, Scott Ingram, Jonathon Morgan, Aruni Gunasegaram, Josh Greene, Liz Handlin, Darlene McDaniel, James Seay, Mark Herpel)) 🙂 He hit a real sore spot, and was dead-on. Go read his post: LinkedIn Rant – And A Challenge To Bloggers.

There are two responses that I’m reading, one is “Yes Thom, you are so right!” and the other is “Thom, you are using LinkedIn wrong!” Thom’s post quickly explains his personal connection policy on LinkedIn (which is pretty much what LinkedIn suggests, and Scott Allen endorses). But that’s not the point of Thom’s post, as far as I read. His point is that the guy who invited him, and got declined, tried to “school” him, telling him HOW Thom should use LinkedIn.

And this is what one of my beefs is. I have been involved in LinkedIn and various e-mail lists centered on LinkedIn for over a year, and it still amazes me how people are preaching how you need to use LinkedIn.

Why do I say “preach?” Because the tone that I read in these e-mails or posts is authoritive…. and there is so much passion about a certain position that people seem to be defending a religion! Here’s a short position on where I stand on two preach-worthy topics:

  1. Quality vs. Quantity: this is the undying debate about which is better, a huge network with thousands of first degree connections (quantity), or a small network only made up of people that I “know and trust” (quality). Well folks, different people need different things! But don’t tell me where I should stand on this spectrum! You have your own policy, and let it go at that! I find that recruiters, business development professionals, small business owners and the like are more inclined to have a more open policy on connecting with people that they “just met,” as opposed to people that they know and trust. Wrong or right? I think it depends, and I’m not going to tell you where you should fall. Please don’t tell me.
  2. LinkedIn vs. Facebook (and the others): Which is better, which is worse? Which is going to be around, and which is going to be outdated next week? Come on folks, are you serious? First, how important is this debate? You can take all of 60 minutes to flesh out your LinkedIn profile and then really never go back, and still possibly get value out of it. Every week take a few minutes and accept some invitations. It’s not like we’re talking about investing 20 hours a week here. Should you get on Facebook? Why not? Probably 85% of my Facebook network is made up of business professionals, and the students that are connected to me are very business or career oriented. Do either suck my time? NO. Am I there, in the right spot, at the right time? Could be. If I’m not there I might miss out – and all it took was about 60 minutes to set up a decent profile. Don’t get social-network-religous on me and preach to me about which is the true social network, and I’ll go to hell if I am on the other one (okay, it hasn’t been that strong, but it sure feels like it sometimes!).

This preaching is tiring and boring. Seriously – give it a rest. Thom got preached to and he read right through it – I’m glad he put up that post, and I know he’s not alone in his frustration.

If you are an evangelist for one or the other, or one method or another, slow down and consider what message people are really hearing from you. And if you get preached to, I suggest you just ignore it. Debating or “discussing” really isn’t worth the time it takes. (of course, if you are a blogger, blog on it … it makes blog reading more fun 🙂 :))

10 thoughts on “I Use LinkedIn … But Don’t Preach To Me”

  1. Jason, great post….and you are right, I can care less how the other guy uses linked in….but the guy who called me selfish is way off base, and has shown his true colors. Me thinkith he protests too much, as he now strikes me as a “taker”.

    Oh well. I did get a lot of comments, a bunch of blogs talked about it, and even more emails. I keep getting hits from other blogs, so this is obviously a hot topic.

    Have a great day.


  2. Who decides what LinkedIn is “supposed” to be used for? Individual users can certainly make their own decision about how they want to use it. but when it comes to what to expect from others, I think the only reasonable expectation is for people to use it as LinkedIn suggests. What other standard could be even conceivably reasonable? Now, if you join some group that sets its own standards, that’s different, but otherwise, the assumption should be that other people are going to use it according to LinkedIn’s guidelines, and if you choose not to, you’re the exception, not the rule.

    Great comments about the LinkedIn vs. Facebook debate, Jason. It’s a completely nonsensical debate. It’s like asking which place is better for networking — a weekly BNI meeting, the Chamber of Commerce or tradeshows? Why in the world would you choose only one of them?

  3. I’m not sure I can go quite that far, Dan. And while I understand what Jason is saying about not preaching, I imagine — OK, I know — that there are those who think I’m one of those who preaches.

    See, the thing is… LinkedIn is a network, and as such, we don’t act in isolation. If one person wants to use Salesforce.com one way and someone else in another, it doesn’t matter, because their usage occurs in silos. But that’s not the case on LinkedIn.

    Case #1: I use LinkedIn as a map of my stronger connections. If someone I connect to doesn’t do the same, or even someone one degree beyond them, then when I look for a value-added introduction, and it turns out that one step along the way is just a link add with no substance behind it, LinkedIn doesn’t deliver on its value proposition to me. It has become less effective for my usage of the site.

    Case #2: A significant number of people have gotten so frustrated with receiving LinkedIn invitations from people that they don’t know that they have simply opted out of the system entirely (I can provide numerous references in the blogosphere if you want them). It was so widespread before the current controls went into place that it reflected badly not on the individuals, but on the site as a whole. So people who I want to connect with — people who I know and respect — choose not to participate because of the behavior of those people.

    So while “to each his own” may sound good in theory, in practice it just doesn’t work that way. Our actions do affect those of others, and the widespread practice of light linking / open linking has a negative impact on LinkedIn’s ability to deliver its core value proposition. Now, it may have some positive benefits as well, such as increased visibility within the network for free members, but does that outweight the negative impact?

    I respect each individual’s right to make their own decision — I just want people to make an informed decision. If you want to link to anyone and everyone, just know that it has negative consequences for other people as well as any positive consequences you may think it has for you.

  4. I thought that was well put Scott… I do find your last point thought provoking, in that some of the practices damage LinkedIns value proposition… I get few enough requests that I find it valuable, but I would like some additional tools from them, so that when I have multiple friend requests in a foreign language there’s an easy way to manage.. Many of the tools seem as though they were written when folks were going to be delighted whenever a request came in, which was probably the case for most of us several years ago, and when we had single or double digit connections…

  5. “To each his own…”

    Pretty much says it all – unless one wants to snub LinkedIn’s use policy. They get kinda touchy about that, don’t they … 🙂

    Nice post, Jason.

  6. I love Linkedin. I use it every day. Currently, I’m creating some new groups and finding new ones to join. I’ve met a lot of great business contacts and as my network grows I’m finding more useful. I’m an open networker and happen to own a staffing company but my network and community on LI has extended far beyond my current staffing business. I also do some real estate investing and my LI network helped me locate a good real estate broker in the area I was looking. It also helped me find a reputable SEO company. I’m sure there are a ton of everyday uses that one could reach out to their network and get some help.

    Jeff Weidner
    Yes I’m an open networker


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