LinkedIn Tries to Wiggle Out of Its Work Khakis

Think fast: what social networks do you expect girls in bikinis, political statements, and religious rants? Facebook…Instagram…LinkedIn. Wait what??

Insert screeching brakes sound here.

These types of posts are becoming more and more common on LinkedIn. In fact, a war is being waged in the LinkedIn community upon itself. Newsfeeds are filling up fast with complaints of personal, off-color or racy images, mixed with those defending it. And it’s gotten downright nasty, taking up more real estate than ever.

Examples? (replete with thousands of comments pro and con)

– Before-and-after photos of a woman in a skimpy outfit to demonstrate a personal trainer’s results

– an image of a fast food employees praying through the drive-through window with a customer

– An image of an orange-faced businessman with bad hair who happens to be running for president

-A dad showing off the breakfast food porn his kids made that morning

-Posts complaining about these types of posts

-Posts complaining about posts complaining about these posts

…Get the idea?

The fact is, many LinkedIn members want the network to remain the buttoned-up workplace they know, while others choose to use it as a fertile sharing ground for anything.

While LinkedIn does have a community behavior policy in its terms of agreement (like other networks), its ambiguity leaves the policy’s implementation frayed at the edges and open to interpretation (also like other networks). The specific clause forbids a LinkedIn member to “Act dishonestly or unprofessionally, including by posting inappropriate, inaccurate, or objectionable content.”

But what do those words mean in the age of social media and increasingly blurry lines between personal and work lives?

The grandaddy of social networks has made it clear it wants to stay out of this touchy conversation and leave it to members “work it out.”

But me thinks there is something much bigger going on here.

The loud silence gives voice to the idea that the old network is simply
“pivoting” in true Silicon Valley fashion. All of the signs and symptoms are there. And it would seem like the next logical step to attempt unicorn social media status and attain relevancy in all parts of its users lives.

But no matter how it dresses for casual Friday, LinkedIn screams work. It’s decidedly not the go-to for a fun fix like a Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook. And that’s why the company is taking its cue from the blue-logoed, most popular social network in the world.

Look at the mounting evidence: the red notification that excites and brings on that Pavlovian response for more; the “like” button for posts and new jobs; larger, multi-size imagery; more targeted ads and messages on the sides of the pages; the ability to publish (ala post); the new chat feature replacing messages; network birthday notifications, a snazzy new Facebook-like app, and other telltale signs.

The only thing that’s missing so far? Community acceptance.

The fact is, something is not quite connecting for  millions of LinkedIn users. Could it be that the community DOES like a modicum of  personal and work life to remain separate? Most people feel uncomfortable sharing vacation photos, opining their views on political candidates, or ranting about lousy customer service to a network mostly from former and current employers, professional event or other work circumstances.  We have lots of other places to do that, thank you very much.

LinkedIn wants to have it both ways—to be the “world’s largest professional network”— but  change the definition of what that means in order to grow and more deeply engage its users.

And it may be fighting a losing battle and in the process turn off community members to what is perceived as a degredated, cheapened network.

The fact is, we all have our own definitions and standards of what stays in the outer circle but there are some common threads—that’s not going to change much over time. It’s the reason we don’t wear shorts to an interview. Or tell our boss we got in a big fight with our mate. Or share that we’re going to a political rally on the weekend. It’s this thing called “boundaries.”

My rule of thumb is if it’s not something I would say to a colleague, it doesn’t go on LinkedIn. That doesn’t mean I can’t have fun or a sense of humor or show my personality— it just means I have no interest in doing more than that on LinkedIn.

This is as personal as it gets.

 

 

 

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The 7 Types of Visuals on LinkedIn

Have you noticed that visuals have taken over your LinkedIn status update pages? If you’re too busy or impatient (or both) to scroll through all of them, I’ve saved you the time. You’re welcome.

As a value-added service, I’ve also rated their LinkedInability rating from 1 to 5 (1 means “must disappear ASAP” and 5 means “bring it on”). Note: The names behind the graphics are not revealed to protect the innocent (and in some cases, the embarrassment).

#1 The “If I See This Cliché One More Time ..”

I get it, LinkedIn is work-related so a lot of visuals spread around have to do with that. It’s a no-brainer. What’s odd to me is how many times I see the same thing posted by different people again and again and wonder: hasn’t every single person on LinkedIn come across this already? Sure I can hide the post, but the damage is done. Can’t unsee.

LinkedInability: 1

#2 Weird and Inappropriate Sh*t

Admittedly I am connected to a few folks who put out some pretty unLinkedIn-like graphics, which always get my attention, for better or worse, but I have to question their judgement. For the record, here’s how I decide about posting on LinkedIn…with one simple question: Would I ever bring this topic up in a work convo? If the answer is “no,” it’s a non-starter. Most of these types of posts are more suited for Facebook or fodder for when out for drinks with friends. Common sense dictates you might not want to discuss things like politics, religion, and bodily functions in a professional environment–just sayin’. In fact, someone felt strongly enough about this to create a graphic to make the point.

LinkedInability: 2 (should be a 1 but it spices up my status update feed)

#3 The Clever Cad

 I don’t see these types of visuals as often as #1 unfortunately, but when I do, I do so enjoy them and might even learn a thing or two. These graphics tend to be commentary or educationalsmart, funny, and can have a long shelf life. Bonus points: these  visuals can be shared on your social platforms to impress colleagues with your perceived wit and content curation skills.

LinkedInability: 5

#4 The Senseless Graphic or Venn Diagram

There is something about a circle with words and boy, add those arrows and kapow! These types of posts look, feel, and act  impressive even if conveying obvious or useless information. Let’s face it, visuals trump text every time. But the truth is, most of these chart, diagrams, and assorted data drivel say much ado about nothing…or do they? I’ll get back to you after studying with more coffee and wait for that “aha” moment.

LinkedInability: 2

#5 I am LinkedIn LION, Hear Me Roar

When I first saw term “LinkedIn LION” years ago, I knew it meant at least one thing: you have helluvalot of connections. Turns out this is actually an acronym stands for LinkedIOpen Networker. This means you have 500+ connections and according to this how-to be a LION article,  “…(a LION) will connect with almost anyone on LinkedIn regardless of whether they know, trust, or even respect the person.” Really? You don’t respect them but will connect? Yikes. LinkedIn’s Help Center’s less-than-flattering definition of LION makes its opinion known. Even so, that big kitty sure gets around on the site and it’s pretty majestic as most lions are. It’s like the unofficial LinkedIn mascot that’s not endorsed by it (very edgy)

LinkedInability: 3

#6 The Magnificent Meme

When used properly, memes will not just get attention but make you think, or even better, laugh. For some reason Liam Neeson and LinkedIn have a special bond (OK, the secret’s out, it’s the Taken movie franchise). Since Liam has one of the most viral memes on LinkedIn, those smart marketers at 20th Century Fox seized on this popularity by having him “endorse your particular set of skills” as part of its social media promotional campaign for Taken 3.
LinkedInability: 4

#7 The Cheesy Stock Photography Club

Let’s face it, we are all tempted by the stock photography devil . It’s like when we’re really hungry and we drive by that sad Burger King. It’s quick, easy, and no one will know the better. But pictures don’t lie, since at least 100 other lazy people will use the same exact image on that same day (and maybe even on the same site). But that doesn’t stop this annoying habit. Sure, it’s not as many calories as fast food, but you’ll hate yourself just as much the next day.

LinkedInability: 1

So there you have it… By no means is this an exhaustive list of LinkedIn visuals posts -there are more out there to lasso: The Humblebrag, the Useless Treasure Trove, and WTH is This? Most importantly however, right now, is deciding which image will accompany this post on your status updates.

LinkedInability: TBD

Five Awwwwkward LinkedIn Moments (and what to do about them)

awkward

No one’s perfect. No web site is bulletproof. Put the two together and you’ve got some concerning, mildly annoying, and darn funny things that happen when the two collide. Witness LinkedIn: I’ve seen some wonderful improvements over the years, but other features (or lack thereof) are still head-scratchers. In the middle of these is the juxtaposition of “operator error” and poor site design. Here are some of the most uncomfortable things that happen on LinkedIn and potential fixes.

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Four LinkedIn Fails: Fix These Features Before Adding New Ones

In my last blog, I wrote about how great LinkedIn is—and I stand by that. It is by far the best online business networking tool out there and has added many useful capabilities in 2012. Taking its cue from the best of social media and sporting a more user-friendly interface and page design, LinkedIn is on a roll. But as with everything, there is always room for improvement. Here are four annoying features LinkedIn should fix before continuing to add new products.

#1 Better Activity Notification System: From the beginning, LinkedIn’s notification system for recommendations, invitations to connect, or anything else is inordinately slow, giving a digital meaning to the phrase “snail mail.” Sometimes hours or days later I will receive an email about something I saw or had already done. I’m starting to wonder if they are using AOL mail servers. LinkedIn recently added a “Notifications” function on the home activity page so, when logged in, you can see updates (think Facebook red)—but even that feature has its quirks. Often after I view a new notification, it will still show up as new the next time I log in. Let’s get it right, people.

Impact: To be so s-l-o-w or unreliable turns off current members and won’t attract new folks, plus it’s not keeping pace with LinkedIn’s other improvements.

#2 Banish Free Anonymous Profile Viewing Privileges: As a non-paying LinkedIn member, I am entitled to see the names of up to five people who have viewed my profile each time I log in. But guess what? I don’t always see who they are: You can be anonymous when you view a profile or merely “Someone in X industry.” Is it a potential client? Cyber stalker? The Facebook and Twitter models allow you to visit a profile page without the person knowing. Ignorance is bliss in this case. I consider it OK to allow LinkedIn members to be “anonymous,” but only as part of the upgraded service. No pay, no anonymity. Conversely, when you have a paid subscription, you get to see everyone who has viewed your profile.

Impact: Seeing “A LinkedIn Member” view my profile (which used to be called “Anonymous LinkedIn Member,” which sounded even more weird) gives me the creeps. We have a right to know who is checking us out, or else don’t bother to tell us that someone is looking.

#3 Better Target Practice on Jobs and Groups: I could guess how LinkedIn’s algorithm works in order to inform me of who I might know, by connecting the dots with people who are 2nd and 3rd connections, but with Jobs and Groups it seems the system is out to lunch, or even drinks. Potential jobs that LinkedIn sends my way should be based on criteria such as my industry, location, etc. Too often, however, the jobs are geo-incorrect or just out of left field. Same with Groups. I’m still flummoxed by the continual recommendation to join the Florida Communication Professionals group (hmm…maybe someone in that group looked at my profile anonymously).

Impact: It is a waste of time for LinkedIn to suggest jobs or anything else that is not relevant to our careers, and reflects poorly given all the rich data that LinkedIn has on users.

#4 Better Customization of Settings As with other social media, LinkedIn allows you to adjust settings such as privacy, but doesn’t allow customization of specific features. For instance, on your Activity Broadcast, it’s either all “On” or all “Off.” You’re stuck between no updates and being a potential over-poster. What if I want people to see who I am connected to, but not which companies I’m following? What if I want to post updates to Groups but not on the Activity Update? These are not options in the current system.

Impact: In an area as sensitive as career. where people are job-hunting and developing their professional and personal brand, these options should be available to allow users the most flexible options for presenting themselves.

So that’s my list of fixin’s. None of them are deal-breakers, but all of them have been noticed—some for a while now. I look forward to the new upgrades and enhancements that LinkedIn has in the works, but first let’s repair what’s already broken.

Calling All Skeptics: Five Reasons To Embrace LinkedIn Now

Disclaimer: I am not being paid for nor compensated in any way by LinkedIn for this blog. In fact, I’ve probably been one of the most vocal champions of LinkedIn since I joined on the site back in 2004 (I got an email recently congratulating me as one of their “first million” users—now how’s that for feeling special?) Moreover, I recently approached a milestone myself: having over 1,000 connections on LinkedIn.

How some people explain LinkedIn

Do I know all of them well? Hardly. Am I glad I have them all? Absolutely. But some regular, smart people don’t seem to understand the underlying, subtle and not-so-subtle value of LinkedIn, the largest business networking site on earth and can’t be bothered with it. If I had a dime for every time someone challenged me with: “Well, did you ever get a job from LinkedIn?” I could have a meal at Gary Danko every weekend. I always explain the answer, which ends up sounding more like “It’s complicated.” So here goes again, this time in writing. Here’s why you should get on board and some tips to get things started.

#1 Investment in your career Some call LinkedIn the granddaddy (or fuddy-duddy) of social media. It’s not exactly “fun”—you won’t be posting vacation photos or  food porn, but it serves a direct purpose that cannot be overlooked: your career. I’d say that’s pretty darn important. When LinkedIn first opened its internet doors, capabilities were somewhat rudimentary, offering the ability to create a simple profile and add connections. Over the years it’s expanded features and continues to at an accelerated rate: activity updates to let you know what your network is doing, applications, keywords so employers and connections can find you, job opportunity monitoring in your field, participation in groups, and much more. It’s like an online career center if you use all the bells and whistles.

Best Practice: Fine-tune your profile on a word processing document before you publish it. There is no way to see a “draft” on LinkedIn. Turn your activity broadcast off temporarily after you publish your profile to make sure it looks the way you want, no typos, etc.

#2 Build Your Brand: We’ve heard about building a “personal brand” a lot the past few years. For those working for corporations, this may seem unimportant, but in this digital age, recruiters and potential bosses want a 360° view of how you present yourself online. Add to that, a resume is a one-dimensional reflection of who you are as a person and a potential employee. A LinkedIn profile lets you show off skills, interests, and most importantly, give you a voice that cannot be heard on a CV. You can include books you are reading, events you are attending, companies you follow, and other professional and personal touches.

Best Practice: Check out all the applications and groups and posting options available on LinkedIn and sprinkle some into your profile. It shows that you are keeping current with your career, industry and care about your presence on LinkedIn.

#3 Get the 411 As a consultant, I am always on the look out for people I know or might want to meet and determine if I have a connection—LinkedIn is a great way to do that. You can see where people worked, what or who you might have in common and act accordingly. Conversely, many people over the years have asked me for an introduction to a network connection and I am happy to do it. It almost serves as a personal referral. Which leads me to my next reason to embrace Linkedin. But before that…

Best Practice: Though you will hear conflicting advice about connecting with people you don’t know, I recommend that you do if you have something in common: interests, industries, secondary connections, groups, etc. Reference anything you have in common in your invitation for context.

#4 Shortcut to Approval  Back in the day, it was standard practice to provide potential employers with references. Occasionally I still am asked for that, though it is becoming as rare as a first-class letter. When LinkedIn added Recommendations, it was something I jumped on. Gathering and displaying how others view my work gives potential clients an instant reference and increases trust immediately. This also applies to LinkedIn’s new Endorsements feature, or what I would call “Recommendations-Light”  to provide skill-based references with one-click. I am just starting to scratch the surface of that feature.

Best Practice: There is a fine line between showing recommendations and going overboard. Some people have 30 recommendations posted. Too. Many. Whittle down to those showcasing your variety of skills from different vantage points—bosses, colleagues and vendors. Though frowned upon by some, I think it’s fine to swap recommendations with colleagues as long as you honestly respect their work.

#5 You Can’t Afford Not To Being on LinkedIn is considered the norm at this point. If you don’t have a profile, or a lame one with information gaps, people will notice. Who exactly? Recruiters, potential managers, and colleagues, connections—and everyone that is looking you up on the web. It’s part of the digital landscape to be on LinkedIn. Even if you have an off-beat or small consulting business, are a student, or not even looking for a job, your absence will be noticed. It’s an inexpensive, easy and effective way to be a part of the online universe and you have everything to gain.

Best Practice: If you want to maximize your LinkedIn profile impact and network potential, use Branchout to connect the dots in your personal life with other social media.

And by the way, if you want to connect, I’m http://www.linkedin.com/in/janicecuban

Next up: Nobody’s perfect:  Suggestions for LinkedIn for the future.

Free Social Media Sites Have Their Price

2010 was a great year for marketing folks to get back some of its mojo and play with some toys in the social media sandbox, but the people who really fueled all the excitement was the collective “me” who enjoyed the dim limelight telling the world what “we” are doing, where “we” are going, what “we” are thinking via Twitter, Facebook  and other social media. In fact, any marketing would be impossible without their participation. But it seems like our oversharing culture also ended up getting stuck in the marketer’s web.

We know many social media began as communities, not money-making rackets. But the game has changed – when the marketing light bulb turned on, many social media sites started using our information as opportunistically as they can. As it turns out, it is pretty much a slam-dunk to contact customers and prospects directly.  The implications of this windfall have reverberated through every company’s communications plan, large or small, who in the past felt one step away from their coveted targets. Customer not happy with your product and slamming it on your Facebook Fan page?  You can respond – quickly and publicly. Getting feedback that your customers want a certain type of deal?  You can Twitter it. Want to attract hungry people close to your restaurant? Bring on the mobile phone coupon and your next diner could be walking through the door.

And while subscribers can opt in or out of communications preferences (including being contacted by third parties) we still complain about privacy on the free sites we use.  Sites that do dismiss our privacy rights need to be punished more effectively to make a real difference (think Zynga, Facebook). I seriously wonder how many of us even read  those fuzzy, long-winded legalese before we click “I Agree”?  Privacy rights should still be expected – paid or not – but we are also more than willing to give up personal information to get on these sites for free. Heck, even WordPress is gratis. And yes I signed up for the weekly digest and we are very happy together.

This also brings up the concept of “free” in general. We know it is an extremely powerful word in marketing. This begs the question: how many of us would be on these social media sites  if we had to pay?  We would have to do a value analysis on each one, and some would very likely be eliminated from our bookmarks. Conversely, every good marketer knows how difficult it is to charge for a service that was initially free. Some have had mild success while others use a softer approach with add-on/upgrade strategies (examples: Linkedin, Twitter).

The bottom-line? The collective “me”  made an unspoken pact with free sites when we got on them to share our desires, jobs, travels, loves, thoughts, and everything else.  Acknowledging the tradeoffs openly may be the first step.