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Professional Networking: LinkedOut: What's Wrong With LinkedIn
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Professional Networking: LinkedOut: What's Wrong With LinkedIn - Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: LinkedOut: What's Wrong With LinkedIn

Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: LinkedOut: What's Wrong With LinkedIn

We've devoted considerable space and time to touting the power of LinkedIn, the online networking website that makes it easy to formalize professional acquaintances and receive a visual map of our spheres' reaches. We've shared a few tips for getting the most out of its service, and we've cautioned against the mindset of collecting connections like so many notches on a belt. And while we remain fans, it becomes clear after extensive use that for all its strengths, there are people within our realms of interaction who rebel against the LinkedInning of the world. Whether they've gone so far as to delete their accounts or they merely tolerate the aspects they consider distasteful, it's worth considering their complaints if only to understand what's working and what isn't for some of our valued connections. In that spirit, here’s a rundown of what’s not quite working for people using (or no longer using) LinkedIn.

“LinkedIn is Digital Bragging”
Even at its most innocuous, with the very best of intentions at heart, our profiles and CVs are brag sheets. We compose them in such a way as to present ourselves at our best, perhaps our most professionally desirable, and to some, this can come across as boastful. If we’re given to comparing ourselves to others (a natural inclination, given social media’s structure), it can be disheartening to see opportunities presented to others who we may not consider to be more competent than we are. This is probably nobody’s fault, but one can definitely see how experiencing LinkedIn this way would be something of a downer.

“LinkedIn Propagates Like a Virus”
Perhaps one of LinkedIn’s most insidious mechanisms is its unending prompts to connect with others. The entire network is dependent on our wishing to connect, but because many of us give LinkedIn permission to access our email contacts as a means of finding friends who are already using the service, we’re constantly being asked to “invite others to join our networks,” whether they already have LinkedIn accounts or not. Most of us don’t mind clicking the “invite” button for people who are already on, but we shudder at the thought of being the spammy friend who keeps sending invitations to people who, for whatever reason, are not in the fold. And LinkedIn will send repeated unsolicited emails to non-members on our behalf, without our even being aware of it.

“Too Many People Use LinkedIn to Share Facebook-Like Stuff”
LinkedIn would be a more useful place if our contacts would put their blueberry scone photos on Facebook, and share productivity articles on LinkedIn. LinkedIn’s more specific purpose means its signal is easier to lose in the noise of oversharing. This is perhaps the kind of thing that can be destructive even to a juggernaut like LinkedIn: when the quality of its environment becomes indistinguishable from the quality of unrelated environments, people have less reason to participate.

“LinkedIn is Not a Friendly Place for Blue-Collar Workers”
There are two really big reasons to be concerned about the vibe LinkedIn is giving off, if nonprofessionals feel it’s an unwelcoming environment. First, it decreases the quality of our networks when it decreases its diversity. Nobody wants a professional network that’s homogeneously loaded with just salespeople or just HR experts. Second, it shuts off a considerable portion of the working world, a deep and rich pool from which all kinds of talent can be drawn. Even if we weren’t concerned about the first, we ought to be concerned about the second: good people are sometimes hard to find. They’ve got something to offer us, and (in the spirit of networking we repeatedly espouse in this space), we’ve got something to offer them.

“Endorsements are Inaccurate—and Possibly Insincere”
This complaint has the potential to throw the legitimacy of the entire exercise into doubt. When our connections, who supposedly know us well enough to offer endorsements, testify on our behalf about skills they couldn’t possibly vouch for, the sincerity of the endorsements becomes suspect. Are they endorsing us merely so that we’ll endorse them? Do they even really know us? Are we little more to them than a number on a connections profile? These are questions that LinkedIn shouldn’t take lightly, if it takes its own service seriously. Without delivering meaningful, trustworthy value, the services that distinguish LinkedIn from others in the social media space become illusory. Sure, a lot of this is dependent on how its users choose to use the service, but there is a reason Facebook doesn’t have a dislike button, and it has to do with providing a positive, supportive vibe for its users. LinkedIn doesn’t seem to have anything in place for trying to keep its users’ profiles legitimate, and that’s a very real problem that goes to the heart of its existence.

None of this is to suggest that we’re ready to throw in the towel with LinkedIn, but these are legitimate complaints that we’ve all observed, whether we consider them problems or not. Because the basic concept behind its service remains something worthwhile, perhaps it would be to our advantage to take a different approach to the way we use it, and this will be the theme of our next article on professional networking: making LinkedIn work the way we really want it to.


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Professional Networking: LinkedOut: What's Wrong With LinkedIn - Executive Leadership Articles

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