My Love/Hate Relationship with LinkedIn

[tweetmeme source=”Venetta_Beretta” only_single=false]

Please note:  The goal of my personal profile and “work” on LinkedIn is not to obtain a job or to be sourced for positions.  If job seeking were my goal, I could speak more to the experience of using LinkedIn for that purpose and would apply the appropriate tactics in order to build relationships with those that could assist in that goal. When you are attempting to use a social site in any regard, there must be a defined purpose and tactics tailored to that purpose.  This is true for both job seekers using LinkedIn, individuals looking for thought-leadership on Twitter, and also for corporate brands using social media to meet business initiatives.  Musings such as “So don’t bet on this as a place to get hired even if you’re active on the site like I am” are in no way a reflection of what this platform can or cannot do for you.  Simply, if you are actively looking for a job, you should not be reliant on a single tactic alone such as posting a profile on any website, posting a resume into a database or applying for a position.  There are other actions that you must take in order to produce better results in your job search.  It’s a competitive market, make sure you’re as creative as you can be in order to get in front of your intended audience.                                                              (Note added 1/19/2011)

Okay, so this doesn’t have much to do with LinkedIn as a social platform (I could spend hours on that subject as well), but more so of the behaviors of people that are on LinkedIn.  Actually, it has nothing to do with LinkedIn and the behaviors of people on that site in specific, but with people in general. LinkedIn, in this sense, is just a facilitator of human “behaviors” that irk me, so, unfortunately, LinkedIn as a social network becomes the front and center impetus for the following example(s).

After spending a good year or so analyzing user behaviors within online social networks, you begin to see patterns.

Social Learning #1: People really don’t act much differently online than they do in real life.

As an avid LinkedIn user as well as a social network analyst, LinkedIn is a powerful tool.  Too bad no one knows how to use it.

Will LinkedIn (or a professional “online profile”) replace a traditional resume?  Absolutely not. There are certain things within resumes that help sell candidates that should never be posted publicly.  Like what?  Try, sales numbers, revenue growth, confidential projects and the nature of those learnings, etc.  It’s a complement not a replacement. Funny how LinkedIn now wants your resume for you to now have a “complete” profile.  I am curious how many people upload in order to fulfill that achievement, “Your profile is 100% complete!”.  Who cares?  An official resume shouldn’t be shared publicly if you are not an active job seeker.  And even then, you must keep some things private (trust me, I’ve seen more than my fair share of public resume snafu’s – but I digress).

So we hit on job seeking and the reverse – candidate sourcing (kind of). So what else do your professional relationships help with (aka, what else is LinkedIn good for)?  Sales. As in selling things on a corporate standpoint where you source buyers and corporate hierarchies so you find your appropriate decision makers.

Does LinkedIn make it easy for you to source leads?  Yes, of course.  It’s a public (when logged-in) user-generated professional network.  People put up their professional histories and education and “perform” the social dance of “this is who I know”.  Then they put up their blogs and their slideshare and powerpoint presentations and join groups and ask and answer questions so their entire networks (and those viewing their profiles) can have a better scope of “this is what I know.” You can argue that this is done on LinkedIn as a passive aggressive way to say “hire me”, or “buy from me” after we have solidified our online relationship. So, no harm, no foul.  As humans this is natural behavior to connect with others and to gratify feelings of our self worth.

So, why do I hate LinkedIn?  Because people don’t know how to use it.  People don’t know how to create relationships. People don’t know how to sell themselves and/or their service.  LinkedIn’s fault? No, absolutely not.

I can’t count on my fingers and toes the amount of cold calls I have received in the last year based on my LinkedIn profile.  Is anyone trying to hire me? No. (So don’t bet on this as a place to get hired even if you’re active on the site like I am).  Is anyone trying to sell me something based on “we share a group” and “you work at a huge company”?  Yes.  Every single one of them.

How many people have I called back? None.  Why? Because their messages are irrelevant to me and I don’t waste people’s time and I expect the same of others.  I’m active on social sites so with a minor amount of research you can find out what I do and tailor your sales pitch to me.  LinkedIn,  narcissism, and the internet itself have made this research available to you at no charge.  On top of that, people are narcissists and social networks, blogs, micro-blogs, location based platforms magnify this behavior and social longing.  Use it to your advantage when you’re sourcing for your leads, please.

After all of these horrendous cold calls, I tweeted this:  

(I’m in social media and everyone cold-calling me knows this because they sourced me on LinkedIn to sell me their social media crap – so you would think, “Venetta is involved with social media, it looks like she is passionate about it, her blog is on her LinkedIn profile (that I am sourcing from), oh and look, her Twitter account is attached.   Let me see if there is anything I can use from those sites to help tailor my pitch to something that could be relevant to her. Or, if all else fails, it looks like she has an affinity for dogs.  Maybe I can mention my dog/cat/bird/whatever and reference her dog(s) to make it look like I at least kind of care or went through the motions just to create some conversation and common ground”  This is not a stretch, we’re talking about social media here, something I am deeply involved in and something I am being targeted for on a purchasing standpoint. And really, come on, my name is incredibly easy when it comes to finding me through a simple Google search. Social Learning #2:  People love talking about themselves.  They really do.)

Then, I get a cold-call from Leanne (her full name is being protected because I don’t want to embarrass her or put her company in any jeopardy).  Awesome.  She sees my company on my profile and calls the general corporate number and they transfer her over.  I don’t pick up calls that are routed this way for this exact reason.  She leaves a horrible voicemail talking about her company and the only reason I listen to the full message is so I learn from her mistakes and never do this on any calls I ever make.

Then, Leanne sends an email. (Feel free to click on the image if you care to read it)


At this point, I am only assuming that she used my LinkedIn profile to find me.

So, I double check.  (And thank you LinkedIn for this feature, because I love seeing who views my profile, it helps my personal narcissism grow.  Not being facetious, I love this feature).  And there is my Leanne:

Is LinkedIn the greatest (free) business tool of all time?  That might be a stretch, but yes, perhaps.  Will it ever work for sales and recruitment?  Yes, absolutely.  I’m afraid no one I’ve ever come in contact with knows how to use it in combination with other (free) research in order to achieve their goals (in Leanne’s case, selling me something).  I looked into her company (only because I was writing this).   Do they have a decent service that I would consider? Actually, yes.  Would I buy from them?  No.  Why?  See above.

Sales 101 and social media 101 both have taught us that no one cares about you and no one cares about me.  Social Learning #3: You are irrelevant (as a brand, product, service and person) until you tie your offering to what the other person wants and/or needs.

Be a good human, good recruiter, good salesperson first and then have at the tools within your reach.  They work better that way.

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