LinkedIn is a powerful tool that many business professionals use every day to expand their professional connections, highlight their own business experience and participate in discussions on a wide range of business topics. In some regard it was social networking before social network became social networking.
I've been a fan of LinkedIn since I start using it many years ago. It has been an incredible resource and source of information that has benefited me in numerous ways. By default it's where many of us go to check out someone we've just met or to gain a deeper understanding of someone's experience or work history.
But I am here to tell you that a whole lot of you are misusing this powerful tool. How?
First let me give this disclaimer. I will reference "you" point forward. This is intended to be aimed at the creepy smarmy networking posers that don't understand nor comprehend the power of Rippling and building one's connections the right way. I make this statement so as to not accuse you of being that you in the following examples. Okay...with that out of the way, I return to regularly scheduled programming.
So what was I saying? Oh I was about to answer how this powerful tool is misused by you. Well, it's because you are inviting people you don't really know, and who don't really know you, to become LinkedIn with you. Why is this a problem you say? For a lot of reasons.
1. It's creepy. I may have just met you and now you want me to proclaim in some strange sense that you and I are now business BFFs.
2. We haven't established any baseline for a relationship yet and yet the natural assumption someone makes when they see you as part of my LinkedIn network is I've identified you as someone that I've done business with and proclaim to be a good guy or gal.
3. I open my real colleagues and professional connections up to you. Let's say I welcome you in to my professional LinkedIn network and now you see someone that I am already connected to that you want to get to know for mischievous or dire purposes (you suck remember). Well low and behold you bypass me all together and send out a message to let's say my professional colleague Phil. You tell Phil that you and I are connected and that you and he should probably know one another. The implication is because we are all connected thanks to my lame ass move of accepting you into my LinkedIn Network that you're cool like Phil which of course is so far from the truth right (I mean Phil is way cooler than even me and you suck remember!)? Now I've exposed Phil to you horrid presence and thus possibly forever damaging Phil's perception of me (Phil thinks why in the world would Steve be connected to this bozo? Wait, what if Steve is a bozo and he's just been faking it all these years!). In one fell swoop I've allowed you to destroy my credibility, my connection to Phil and perhaps my reputation.
There are multiple problems in using LinkedIn to simply collect business connections. For one you compromise the sanctity of building a real network made up of solid people who know, trust and respect you. You know the kind of people who may be able to help you in some professional way - like open a door for your new product or service or help you land that new job when you need it.
So when is it right to ask someone to be LinkedIn with you?
There will be a lot of "networking experts" out there who will disagree with me on this but I don't really care. This isn't their BLOG.
I think you should only invite someone into your LinkedIn network that you have first-hand knowledge of; you've worked with them in some capacity; gotten to know them over a period of time (minimum of 1 year); they've been recommended to you by a trusted colleague and you've both taken some time to get to know one another.
Don't just invite people for the sake of inviting someone. You may think that having 1000 connections in your network impresses those of us who happen to stop by your LinkedIn profile but it doesn't. It tells us that you likely are "one of those" people who invites everyone under the sun like there's a prize for doing so. Yeah the prize is called poser of the year!
Use LinkedIn to further strengthen and solidify already established business relationships and use it as a tool to stay in touch and connected to the people who mean something to you. Let me reiterate...people who mean something to you. Hmm see how Rippling plays in here? Hello!
Do this and you will be able to find unimaginable value in using LinkedIn and I won't mind proclaiming publicly that we are in fact business BFFs. Send blind, lame invitations to people you barely know (like the example above) and the Stuarts of the world may just forever vote you off their professional island for good.
Food for thought.