"How dare you put that on LinkedIn!"
Updated: Jun 7, 2020
More and more I see LinkedIn users bickering over what is deemed non-professional behaviour or inappropriate use of LinkedIn; one even recently started dropping F-bombs about how outrageous it was, in what may be the most ironic rant about professionalism I've ever seen.
So what is my take on it all?
Firstly, who are we to tell what they choose to use a social network for - we all have our own priorities in life and business and want to get something different out of it in the same way we all go to work with different motivations. Johnny might see work as a means of earnings bucketloads of cash, whereas Timmy (who won the lottery a year ago) just sees it as a way of keeping his brain active. Don't assume everybody is like you or wants the same things in life, love or the internet. Instead of complaining that they do business differently to you, take an objective look at what their approach is doing for them or their business.
Imagine...Deidre wakes up on Monday morning and posts a humorous video on LinkedIn about being tired. Twenty of her contacts like or comment on the video. Dorothy wakes up and shares a paper on the insurance industry she wrote over the weekend and one of her contacts likes it. Ignoring your take on professionalism, who used social media better? Who gave their customers, contacts and prospects something they felt they wanted to engage with? Who better understood their customer base and the content that they were likely to want to see? I'll give you a clue; it wasn't Dorothy.
In fact, I recently saw a contact of mine had posted a picture welcoming his newborn son into the world. 80 (!!!) of his business contacts congratulated him, proposed meeting up to wet the babies head and/or asked him further questions - that to me is the very epitome of engagement and networking. One of the comments, however, was a disgruntled LinkedIn user who, not only didn't congratulate him but complained that he should be posting this on Facebook. I felt obliged to look at that user's profile, let's call him "Bobby". They had posted constant links to news articles in their industry and the one consistency was that nobody was engaging with anything they were posting. They weren't liking it, sharing it or commenting on it. Now, flipping things on its head, I would argue that Bobby is in fact the one using LinkedIn inappropriately - after all, if I wanted market news I'd be looking at the trade press, I don't need Bobby to share it with me constantly. If he was offering comment on the article, that'd be different, but he is simply regurgitating content that already has a home and of course its own channel of distribution.
As I hinted at above, it is social media, a forum for business professionals to engage with one another and interact. What it is not, is a "shout your marketing message at people" media.
In fact, I must highlight this...the whole point of social media is to interact with people.
Per the previous example, I want to know if a contact of mine has had a child - it's an excuse to speak with them and share in their obvious joy. We mustn't forget that people do business with people - I'd be far more likely to buy from somebody who started the conversation by congratulating me on the birth of my little boy and letting me gush over them for 10 minutes than someone who bypasses all personal and human emotion in favour of getting straight down to business. Having worked at large corporate companies, too often people are encouraged to confuse professionalism with the need to extract human emotion and personality from their work. They're encouraged to be calculated, to speak succinctly and without inflexion or tone for fear of misinterpretation and as a result, their personality is lost.
Don't misunderstand me; I completely agree that there ARE things that are inappropriate for LinkedIn that I see every day. I don't need to do math's quizzes, I don't need to see people's beach bodies in their profile pics (out of sheer contemptuous jealousy) and I don't need people to swear constantly, but what gives me the right to tell them that? Who made me the internet police? Who made me judge, jury and executioner on how a social media platform should be used?
Too often as a society these days we talk of "being real" or "straight-talking" as if it's something to aspire to, yet too often it's used an excuse to be bossy, obnoxious and rude. Straight talking can be great, but not if you alienate your entire network in the process and nobody wants to engage with you.
One of the main complaints though is the "If you're a genius..." or meme posts (see my header!) that people put here. Yes, they're irritating and increasingly prevalent. Yes, they're a distraction. Yes, they're designed to create a false sense of engagement. Consider this though; last month more than 30 people died in terror attacks at the hands of ISIS and you just spent 10 minutes of your life composing an enraged message complaining about someone daring to post a picture to your network designed to lighten the mood. You wasted ACTUAL time you could have spent chatting to a friend, cuddling your child or doing something you love to rant over someone sharing a picture that they'd hoped might entertain you.
If you don't like what someone posted? Don't read it. If they do it repeatedly and it's not for you, quietly remove them from your network, but understand that you are making a decision to cut off a potential employee, prospect or customer. As much as anything, they're telling you how they like to do business and giving you invaluable insight into how they see the world and what's important to them. To analogise (which my friends and colleagues will tell you is an excessive habit) they just gave you the key to unlocking the front door of their business and you threw it away because you thought it was too heavy.
Some may even consider this article an unprofessional post. To them; I thank you for reading and assure you I'll give your professional outrage no further thought.
(Please note that this is a repost of my most popular LinkedIn blog from April 2016)
WRITTEN BY ED HALSEY
Any opinions expressed here are my own and not the views of any of my employers. They are personal views based upon a 15-year career in insurance across underwriting and sales roles at mainstream insurers, consultancy firms and technology providers.