LinkedIn; The Good, The Bad, and The Annoying

LinkedIn; The Good, The Bad, and The Annoying

Since the beginning of September, there have been not one, but two articles published that slammed LinkedIn. Is the professional network site that bad?

Since the beginning of September, there have been not one, but two articles published that slammed LinkedIn. Both authors write their own columns on technology and business, and both seem to be fed up with the social media platform. LinkedIn is supposed to be the “professional” social network. A place where professionals and their professional persona’s, gather and expand their networks, talk shop, recruit new talent, and increase their influence. These two posts, however, have ardently stated that LinkedIn is anything but that. The mission statement of LinkedIn—To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful—has been missed. At least, according to these two authors. Has it?

LinkedIn as it Should Be

At first, LinkedIn looked like just one of the many knockoffs of Facebook. At least, it looked that way to me. But over time I’ve come to see it as a helpful place to expand my network. I’ve also come to hate it as well. This isn’t about me hating or liking the site. Because, after all, you didn’t read this far to hear my opinion and my opinion alone. LinkedIn’s purpose was to enhance everyone’s professional experience and career in a way that only a social media platform could. Look at it this way; LinkedIn is the virtual equivalent of a networking event. You’re supposed to show up and get to know other people. If you can help someone, then fine. If you can’t, then that’s okay too. The main argument here is that this virtual networking event has devolved into a clutter of spammy sales pitches and pushy people who call themselves influencers. Has it? Some may argue “no.” And others will argue, emphatically, “yes.” I find myself stuck in the middle. Because there is no one reason to call LinkedIn completely “bad.” Conversely, there’s no one reason to call it completely “good.” Then we should look at both the good and the bad. In between both is the annoying. Before we get to that, I have to do my job and mention that you can use LinkedIn anytime you want. So long as you’re using the best internet deals in your area. There, let’s move on.

The Bad

Let’s start with the “bad,” and get that out of the way first. LinkedIn was meant to be a place where professionals go to network and find contacts. It wasn’t meant to be a place where people are constantly bombarded with sales pitches. Unfortunately, there are plenty of spammy sellers out there. One such example; When I was hired as Content Writer, I went on LinkedIn and changed my status to reflect that. Within a week I got a connection request and a message. LinkedIn gives you the option to send a note with each connection request. Part of the reason is to introduce yourself. Make an impression. Another reason is to ensure it’s not just some spambot trying to connect with people willy-nilly. This connection came with a note. It said something to the effect of “I think we can help each other out, let’s set up a call.” I didn’t want to say yes, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to have another connection. Well, the phone call turned out to be a waste of my time as this person had obviously not done their research. They’d seen “content” and assumed they could sell me some service related to content. The content marketing goals of my job, clearly stated on my profile, didn’t match up with theirs. While this is common, the next story is even worse. Living in San Antonio, we’re home to the greatest basketball team that’s ever played the game- The San Antonio Spurs. As you’d expect, there are always deals on season-ticket packages. And there are sales associates who sell those packages. These sales associates are on LinkedIn. One such associate requested a connection. And with the connection came a message. This one stated that I could get a season ticket package to give out to potential clients, or to members of my team to boost morale, or as an incentive. Again, if this person had done their research, they’d learn that I wasn’t in charge of anybody at the time. I was also not directly meeting with clients. As much as I wanted to mess with the guy, my conscience won out and I told he’d be better off trying to sell to someone else. This is the most common issue with LinkedIn- people who see a title or someone who might have some cash, and they pitch them their service. A little bit of time spent looking into my profile would have saved them this time. They could have then focused it on someone who might actually need, and be inclined to buy, their services.

The Annoying

As much as I hate people connecting with me on LinkedIn to pitch me, I’ve resolved not to be that person. After all, what I do, and how I do it, is not something that I can wrap up into a tidy little package and hand off to anybody. This is grandstanding, it’s a fact of my job. I write, and it takes a lot of time to do it. Because I’m constantly creating content every day, I need to fill the creativity well. That involves interviewing people. Without LinkedIn, I would have to dig through websites and make a lot of phone calls to get to a specific person. LinkedIn can help cut through all that by giving me a direct line to the desired connection. That rarely happens. Sigh. There have been several people that I could directly help if they would just agree to a twenty-minute interview. But they either don’t monitor their LinkedIn profile directly, or they have someone else do it for them. As a result, getting in touch with them is impossible. What should have been an easy way to network with valuable business contact turns out to be another dead end. And so, it’s back to the long way. I have to call their company and try to talk my way through a couple dozen layers before I get in touch with the right person. Or maybe I’m just going about it the wrong way?

The Good

Let’s end this on a high note, shall we? There are some good things about LinkedIn. First of all, I use LinkedIn to check the pulse of my industry. As a content writer and someone who works in the publishing industry, I can’t afford to ignore what other people are doing. I do check other news sources for my information though. I would be remiss, however, not to keep a direct eye on my target audience. It also helps to know what’s going on in my industry. Secondly, despite all the spammers and connections who ignore me, I have made good connections. I’ve met a couple clients through LinkedIn and the experiences have been positive. They recognize my skillset and how it can compliment them in their professional endeavors. Another will always ask me for insider advice on publishing, which I’m happy to give. The fact that he keeps coming back and asking leads me to believe he needs more than just advice though. But that’s for another post. Thanks to LinkedIn, however, my professional career has been made easier. It’s no walk in the park, but a social network that makes networking easier is much appreciated. I can’t imagine growing my personal network through just face-to-face meetings. As confident as I appear to be on LinkedIn, in person, I’m awkward and socially inept. So that’s where LinkedIn helps me out. Which is nice. But they’re not the “magic bullet” to making my career take off. I still have to put in the work to make that happen. Sigh.

Why isn’t LinkedIn like LinkedIn?

LinkedIn, for all of its flaws, still has advantages. And those who are aware and know how to leverage them, LinkedIn is great. But LinkedIn has missed the mission of its mission statement— To connect the world’s professional to make them more productive and successful. I would say I’m marginally more productive and only slightly more successful. Part of that is my fault. I pick and choose how to use the platform instead of going all in. The other part is on everyone else on LinkedIn. Look at it this way; a lawnmower is meant to mow lawns. It’s not meant for cross-country driving. Although there are stories of people who have succeeded on such a journey with a lawnmower, it’s not commonplace. LinkedIn was meant to be used as just a networking site. It’s for professionals to talk shop and share knowledge. Instead, there are way too many sales people trying to use it to make their next sale. And they’re not even doing a good job of that. LinkedIn has benefits, but it will only reach its full potential if everyone uses it the right way.