How you choose to use LinkedIn is your business and your choice, but your ‘system’ probably won’t work for me. That doesn’t make your tactics right and mine wrong, and it shouldn’t make one better or worse than the other.
Unfortunately, that’s not how a segment of the LinkedIn community thinks. In fact, some users have developed an elitist perspective of who should and should not be allowed to use LinkedIn, based solely on how they choose to misuse the system, in their opinion.
I’ve seen it and experienced it many, many times since 2004.
It’s Okay That We Have Different Opinions (and Approaches), Isn’t It?
LinkedIn is a robust, multi-faceted platform that serves a variety of needs for a range of individuals and organizations. Based on the number of users and the diversity of the industries, cultures, business types and sizes, there are bound to be differences in how users work towards the results they seek.
That should be a good thing.
There are users on LinkedIn who leverage the platform in ways contrary to other users. The ‘contrary’ group I tend to align with is more conservative in sending and accepting invitations which apparently encroaches on the ‘rights’ of LinkedIn users who are more open. When you read some of their comments on posts like this over the years, it genuinely seems to piss them off. I don’t get it.
Just as there are different aspects of some religions and varying political philosophies within different political systems, there are different types of users on LinkedIn. In fact, there are many different types of ‘open networkers‘ on LinkedIn. My comments are about some open networkers, but not all of them. The one’s I’m referring to are those who seem offended by users like me who have rules for sending and accepting invitations. Some I’ve encountered and even had discussions with believe everyone using LinkedIn should accept every invitation that comes their way and likewise should arbitrarily send invitations to everyone in the LinkedIn universe, relevant or not.
Let me state for the record that LinkedIn is part of my professional universe, but not the center. It is an important tool, but not the most important. That’s my opinion and philosophy, everyone is entitled to theirs.
My approach in using LinkedIn works very well for me. I am connected with whom I would like to be connected and when I’m not, I have a method for establishing new connections that sits well with me and provides tangible results that matter to me.
Don’t Tread On Me!
Where the problems begin is when users with extreme open beliefs try to impose their will on others. This is most true for those making connections to achieve a number or for the sake of having connections. They and others like them most likely have not viewed the profiles of many (or any) of the recipients, nor do they seem to care. For many of them, it’s a race that has nothing to do with the quality of their connections. Who the invitees are and what they do are not important factors for consideration.
Dialing it down a bit to what I consider a more sincere segment of LinkedIn users are those trying to maintain some relevancy to whom they send invitations. They put a little more care into who they connect with but still may not observe netiquette that fully respects more reserved users. For example, many users, including me, have populated the ‘Advice for Contacting…‘ section of our profiles. I’ve even changed the position of mine to raise it as close to the top of my profile as possible.
Here’s what I have:
This and the fact I have an ‘Open Profile‘ on LinkedIn are intended to make it very easy for anyone to contact me, and know how to contact me with the greatest likelihood of a response. Unfortunately, like turn signals on cars in the United States, this advice and the open profile feature see very little use, if any.
Looking at the Results of Jeremy’s LinkedIn Poll
A few weeks ago my colleague and LinkedIn connection Jeremy Epstein offered up this informal poll on LinkedIn:
“Agree or disagree:
If someone you don’t know send(s) you a LinkedIn request
and the invite says the standard “I’d like to add you to my professional
network on LinkedIn,” you automatically decline it.”
Let me cut to the chase by saying I wasn’t surprised by the range of responses, but I was surprised by the content of some of the responses. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, right?
Jeremy’s poll addresses two hot button areas for me pertaining to LinkedIn and networking in general. One is the ‘first impression.’ To a great extent, many users on Linkedin seem to have thrown this out the window as a consideration for sending and receiving. Which is why my first comment on his post was:
“Agree. What’s so hard about adding a few words to say why they
would like to connect or who referred them?
Sending the generic message is akin to chucking cards at folks at a mixer.”
The other is even more simple. Why do I want or need to connect to you? I operate in a very specific business and a number of users on LinkedIn have little or no interest in it, just as I have no interest in many of the industries represented on the platform. So why would I want to network with people in industries not relevant to my professional interests?
Seriously, If You’re Not Accepting Every Invite, Why Are You Here?
Here are a few responses to Jeremy’s post from users who, as I see it, openly condemn those not receptive to any and all invites:
“Disagree. What’s the downside to increasing your network?
If you’re using SNS for non-work related functions, then I can understand
the desire to limit your network to maintain privacy.
However Linkedin is (ideally) for professional use, so limiting your network
is tantamount to a business refusing to advertise or trying to limit its customer base.”
“Disagree, what is the point of the system if I only focus
on existing contacts and/or personalized notes. Seems counterproductive to me.”
“I disagree. What is the point of having a networking app if you have
no interest going outside of your already established network?
To me that’s like going to a networking event and refusing to talk
to anyone because you don’t know them personally.”
“Disagree….not about how well someone can articulate a request ….
I invest a huge amount of effort in building my network however like now ….
On a train on the go a “hit send” is my only option.”
I appreciate their opinions but now it’s my turn. Based on how I utilize LinkedIn I see each of these as short-sighted, inconsiderate comments and methods that would produce lackluster results for me. None of these (as I read between the lines) has a real focus on who they connect with and why. In other words, very little apparent quality control. I wonder if their offline ‘network mixer’ approach conflicts with their online social media approach.
Generally speaking, the assumptions being made by these and other commenters is that I and others are ‘refusing to advertise‘ or ‘have no interest in going outside of our established network‘ which for me could not be further from the truth. One thing none of these commenters seems to consider is making new connections on LinkedIn based on having met someone outside of LinkedIn. Don’t those engagements count as expanding the network? Is there a LinkedIn referee tracking whether I’m connecting with someone I don’t know? Does it check to see if the relationship originated outside of LinkedIn? Actually, do people still network outside of LinkedIn?
Jeremy chimed in as well:
“I agree with Guy Timberlake.
Why put the onus on the recipient to look around and
“see if there’s value?” Spend 20 seconds to offer something.
If your first outreach isn’t worth 20 seconds,
what does that say about long-term potential?”
Things That Make You Go Hmmm.
At last count, there were 93 responses on the thread with a fairly decent division in opinions. However, there were two responses that made me stop and scratch my head.
One gentleman shared this:
“If you already “know” the person you are already networked with them, so what’s the point?
Networking is about creating “new” connections; not that you have to accept every request but if it makes sense, wht (sic) not accept it? Otherwise you should keep a “private” profile so new people
are not tempted to connect with you.”
This one represents the cream of the elitist crop to me. Seriously? I have to change my privacy settings to avoid the indiscretions of others?
So this is like Lord of the Rings and those of us who actually have self-control over how we send invitations have to take the ring and chuck it into the fiery pit so those users with no self-control can resist the urge of sending shallow and misguided invitations?
This is part of what I see as a general lack of courtesy and respect from a good number of users. By the way, for the commenter who was on the train above and for everyone else who uses this cop out, the web app and mobile app do not allow you to personalize the messages. My ‘fix’ for that is only sending invites from the website unless it is someone I know.
Here’s another remedy. Send an InMail first then send the invite. That’s why I have an ‘Open Profile.’ This way you can explain in advance why you would like to connect before using one of features where you cannot personalize the message. Of course, this only applies to recipients that vet their invitations. You can usually tell this in the ‘Advice for Contacting…’ part of their profile, in case anyone was wondering.
The last comment I’ll reference is from a young woman who is either a psychoanalyst or FBI profiler. Her comment was:
But if you look at the comments of all of those who agree you can see a pattern.”
Do tell Maddie, do tell.
Could This Be A Job for Miss Manners or Emily Post?
I think a healthy dose of social media netiquette is in order so here’s my nod to Alexandra Samuel’s 2011 post ‘25 rules of social media netiquette.‘
Some folks should pay close attention to numbers 20, 21 and 25.
“The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.”