What in the world is happening on LinkedIn lately? I see requests to link as many people as possible, even if you don’t actually know each other. I see Facebook-type puzzle posts: “Only a genius can solve this…”. Everyone is winning awards for one thing or another, apparently. People are sharing holiday snapshots, or their ‘awesome evening in the Ziggo Dome’, and some folks are apparently under the impression that LinkedIn is the place to find a buyer for your home.
Let me start out by saying I’m not a LinkedIn trainer or social-selling expert. What I am is a long-time user (since the site began) and someone who applies a case-by-case evaluation and good old common sense when it comes to using LinkedIn.
What is the core purpose of LinkedIn? If you ask me, it’s the following:
1: For many people, it acts as their online CV. Whether you want to be found by employers or just maintain a professional presence to show prospective clients your knowledge and expertise.
2: It is your online professional identity. Everything you share, ‘like’ or write and post yourself reflects on who you are as a professional.
3: It’s a platform for gaining inspiration and inspiring others.
4: It’s your online Rolodex. It is your professional network and the lifeblood of your professional existence.
Every time I receive an invitation to connect on LinkedIn, I ask myself three questions:
1: Have I ever met this person in real life?
2: Do I have something of value to offer this person?
3: Does this person have something of value to offer me?
If the answer to all three questions is ‘no’, I decline the invitation. If I don’t know the sender personally, but can answer ‘yes’ to question 2 and/or 3 based on their profile, I’ll respond with a message:
Dear …, Thank you for your interest in my professional profile. I’m curious to hear which specific aspect of my profile you found appealing, and how you think we might benefit one another.
In eight out of ten cases, they never respond, so I know we probably aren’t going to offer each other much benefit. Two times out of ten, I receive a reply – half of which actually answer my question. I then open an online dialogue with these people to explore how we might be of value to one another.
What do I get out of the process? The majority of my LinkedIn contacts are professionals who are eager to supply and/or receive real value. As a result, my network is relevant to me personally.
Another thing I do is go down my list of contacts from time to time and re-ask myself the last two questions mentioned above. If I answer ‘no’ to both, I delete the connection. No hard feelings – it’ s just that my professional life is different than it was ten years ago, as is yours, I’d wager.
Oh, and one more thing: the reason why I ask people which aspect of my professional profile they found appealing? That’s because hard experience has shown that some people think LinkedIn is a dating site, and that question helps me weed them out. Once, before I added the word ‘professional’ in front of profile, I got a reply from a woman who said that the thing she found most appealing was my lovely eyes. Well, thanks for that – but Mrs Hilberts and I are quite happily married.
What say you, shall we all return to using LinkedIn to add professional value to one another’s work? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.