When LinkedIn began in 2003, it was tiny. Like really tiny, 20 new members signing up a day, tiny. But it started with a great goal in mind: to be a business, employment, and professional social networking site. The road is paved with great intentions, right? Fast forward to 2017, and I’m puzzled by how many “what the?” moments I have seeing some of the things posted on LinkedIn. I think the term “professional” is very loosely applicable now to some of the comments, posts, pictures, and articles I see every day on the site, and I’m over it. O.V.E.R.I.T. Are you one of the pavers of the road to that hot spot with the pitchfork and devil-horned CEO, or are you part of the confusion crew, like me, who must take a deep breath when you see yet another beach picture from someone’s vacation?
History Class 101
Brief history lesson because we all loved that in school:
- 2008 LinkedIn hires a new CEO who’s then stated priority was to bring clarity to LinkedIn’s mission and priorities. Eight years later, I’m as foggy as ever on what the heck LinkedIn is aiming to do.
- 2010 – 90 million members on the site and the focus of a professional networking platform seems to still exist in this era from my perspective at least.
- 2013 – 225 million members.
- 2017 – 500 million+ members in over 200 countries of which I think two people are still using it to connect and network on a business and professional level. Me and my Dad. That’s it.
I do, heavily, use LinkedIn still as a recruiting tool but in a different way than I did ten years ago. Now I use it to see if you’re posting negative comments, bashing previous employers, complaining about coworkers, or, my personal favorite, tearing apart recruiters publicly because you didn’t get the job. I, personally, also really enjoy the ex-bashing, diet tips, or multi-level marketing comments which provide continual giggles for me as I sigh at my desk. I wonder if the common LinkedIn user is aware that all those words are public and that the age-old advice of “don’t say anything you wouldn’t want to be published on the front page of the newspaper” applies here?
We often hear the term “personal brand” and how our professional reputation can be affected by this “branding” of who we are outside of our actual work performance. Your posts on LinkedIn are no exception to this rule. Wondering why you didn’t get that job you applied for that you were a perfect for? Could be your online posts about the crappy company you worked for that the recruiter saw on LinkedIn. Didn’t get the deal closed with a client you knew you had in the bag? Might be you complaining about another client turned them off. Wondering why you were passed up again for a promotion? Maybe you talked trash about your team lead or posting passive aggressive “this is what a leader looks like” knowing full and well they’d see it caused them to drop your name to the bottom of the list. Just saying, maybe take a second to understand what your LinkedIn reputation looks like.
RESPECT – Aretha Sing It Loud
In an effort to help us all grown and learn, I want to focus on what to change versus just complaining about the state of the union on LinkedIn. Complaining is fun, it makes us all feel miserable together, but at some point, the misery just makes us eat more chocolate and drink more wine, so let’s figure it out and make some changes. What you do and say on LinkedIn all drills down to one thing – respect. Know your audience, know your intent, and ensure that everything you say and do is rooted in a professional respect of everyone who could view your activity. Some other hot points that I think we should all remember and change if you’re one hot mess participates in the downfall of professional networking are as follows:
1 – LinkedIn is a professional networking site, professional meaning “relating to or connect with a profession.” Unless you’re a supermodel, stop posting selfies. Period. The end. You’re pretty; we get it.
2- LinkedIn is almost always, on some level, public and searchable (yes I’m talking to you sourcing magicians who can find ANYTHING that ever was, is, or might be on the interwebs!) You feel like talking trash about your boss from six years ago? Be prepared to be type-cast as a complainy (that’s a word) employee by those of us looking to hire people. Guess what reputation means? It means a belief that someone has a particular habit or characteristic. Uh oh spaghettio, you now have a bad rep from one nasty comment seen by a manager, client, employer, or teammate. We don’t know you personally so we see comments like this and believe you may have a habit of discontent. Or at least you like to talk smack. Either or.
3 – Recruiters, you are guilty here too. If all you do is post “We’re Hiring!” and a link to your company career page, what are you actually hoping for? You’re just posting and praying on a new platform and are bringing absolutely zero value to your organization, your roles, or our industry. Be different (gasp!) be bold. Say something about what you really are looking to add to your team versus casting the big net of please go to our site and apply any of you 500 million LinkedIn members. You can’t complain when you get crap applicants if you are casting a crap net into the talent sea. Target, engage, establish your credibility and your brand as a recruiter beyond just hoping someone applies to your generic post. Represent your company or your clients better than a non-specific vanilla grab at applicant traffic; you should be ashamed (insert aggressive finger pointing here).
4 – Finally, remember there are other social networking platforms that all serve a purpose. Want to post a pic of you and your dog Muffin because she is THA CUTEST EVERRRR? Try Facebook. Want to become a faux-food critic and post highly filtered fancy dinner pics? Instagram is your jam. Feel like a pic of you should be transformed into a rainbow vomiting unicorn? Snapchat will change your life. Never post anything without a particular purpose and goal in mind and know which platform best suits reaching the right people for that goal.
One of my favorite quotes about reputation is from Abe Lincoln – “Character is like a tree and reputation is like its shadow. The tree is who you really are. The shadow is what we think you are.” Protect that shadow the way you would protect the tree. When someone only knows you through social networking platforms, the shadow is perceived to be the tree. Be careful what you say; it sticks around like glitter after a craft project.