Social networks, LinkedIn and our professional lives

Linkedin Chocolates
photo credit: nanpalmero

I am quite wary of increasing the number of people I follow on Twitter (something that has led more than one person to try to “force” me to follow them – which, actually, most of the time goes horribly wrong because I react very, very badly to being pressured to do anything). This has led more than a few thousands of people to unfollow me (which, to be quite frank, is quite alright).

I don’t think I’m an elitist, but I just have a limited amount of brain to process stuff. Plus, I HATE receiving direct messages that can easily be either emails or public replies. I just HATE IT. I am even more careful about the people I add on Facebook, because there mostly I have family members, close friends, a few selected members of the social media community that I’m not that close friends with but whom I like to get to know, and many of my academic research colleagues.

The one network I am delighted to Olympically ignore is LinkedIn. And the irony is, lots of people seem to think I’m committing a mistake by ignoring LinkedIn. Now I can’t really ignore it that much since I sit on the Executive Committee of the Social Media Club Vancouver, and they have created a LinkedIn group (why this is the case still escapes me, but then again, I ignore LinkedIn). I have heard so many different stories as to who should I accept to connect on LinkedIn that I just simply try to ignore it. I have a few of my friends (mostly, close friends) on LinkedIn. People with whom I have interacted mostly on a professional level. Even if they’re my friends, I can indeed vouch for their work.

But adding everyone and their mother to my LinkedIn kind of worries me, because contrary to Facebook or Twitter, being connected on LinkedIn seems to appear as a tacit endorsement. And admittedly, in my case, for the most part, I think I am more than happy to endorse those who ARE already on my LinkedIn connections. That said, I don’t have a professional connection with everyone who has me or whom I have on my LinkedIn list. SOME of those connections are, indeed, professional (particularly those related to my research). But a vast majority, are my friends, and some folks whom I know through social media.

But what happens when you don’t accept those connections? That does NOT mean, in my opinion, that I wouldn’t be willing to endorse the person with whom I’m not connected. I just hate all these assumptions about social networks. If I follow you, people assume it’s because I find you interesting or whatever. And if I don’t, people assume that I am not interested in what they have to say.

Life in a networked society, it seems, is filled with assumptions. As for me, I would like people to stop assuming how I think and what I think. If you need to know, ask me point blank. Don’t assume anything about my relationship with you on account of any social networking connection we may (or may not) have.

Related posts:

  1. When to say NO on LinkedIn?
  2. On being a professional blogger
  3. Ning-based social networks
  4. My recent Social Media Club Victoria talk: “Towards an Action-Focused Agenda for Social Change Using Social Media” (#smcvictoria) @smcvictoria
  5. Studying the behavior of social networks and scholarship

Comments (20)

Rob CottinghamFebruary 18th, 2010 at 10:04 am

Hi, Raul -

I’m completely onside with being picky about where you devote your online attention, and LinkedIn can be especially thorny: the fact that there’s an implied endorsement when you connect to someone can make it awkward to decline an invitation. (Not to mention what it can do to your ego when someone declines yours!)

That said, just off the top of my head, here are three ways I’ve found LinkedIn hugely useful:

1) LinkedIn Groups: Because these birds-of-a-feather communities are professional in nature, I’ve found the conversations there tend to be conducted at a more business-like level than what I’d get on, say, Facebook. And I’m discovering some people doing fascinating work whom I might never otherwise have come across.

2) Network diving: This is something Alex has shown me, and good lord, it’s handy. When I’m travelling out of town, I search my network on the destination (let’s say it’s Memphis). Now I have folks to look up when I’m in town, as well as second-degree connections who might well be worth meeting while I’m there. I ask for a few introductions, and we’re off to the races.

3) LinkedIn Answers: This underused (IMHO) LinkedIn feature lets you draw on your community’s expertise, as well as giving you a chance to share your knowledge and, perhaps, come to the attention of people you’d like to connect to.

Do any of those sound potentially compelling to you?

Paul RickettFebruary 18th, 2010 at 10:38 am

I’m a big fan of LinkedIn precisely because it isn’t a twitter or Facebook – its not burdened with the trivia of these two. I use it primarily as my business networking hub and my connections there are about 90% different than those on twitter/FB.

I find the Groups particularly valuable and, generally, the level and quality of conversation on these (at least those I belong to) is far superior to other networks.

I’m also not a believer in indiscriminate networking there. However it can be really useful to have some connections with the super-networkers just to discover names and linkages at companies one might be interested in. I don’t perceive a connection as a tacit endorsement any more than a connection on twitter/FB would be – especially as there is a specific Recommendation function you can use to endorse people you really want to.

Like all social networks it has advantages and disadvantages – but this is one that is more focused than most and, for me, extremely useful.

Stv.February 18th, 2010 at 11:08 am

I find linked in useful for all of the reasons Rob lists above. But in particular, I use linked in as a sort of “work” facebook. I try and keep my facebook contacts to just that – people who I am friends with. That’s why I have a rule about Facebook – if we haven’t had a drink together, in person, I won’t add you as a friend. Meanwhile, I use Linked In to connect with clients, contractors, vendors – people whom I do business with. I do have a few friends on there that date from the early rush to join, but I try very hard to keep the lists of contacts, and how I use them, distinct.

I will also check every potential hire’s linked in profile before hiring them. Being in tech, I’d find it suspicious if they did not have a linked in profile. (I also check for a facebook profile & twitter account, but that’s not a necessity).

But for a small company like us at Pencilneck, Linked In has been a gold mine for finding quality contractors based on linked networks of contacts, and I love it for that.

[...] blogger and friend-of-SoSi Dr. Raul Pacheco has a post today explaining why he's been skeptical about LinkedIn, the business-focused social network. And on [...]

Paul HolmesFebruary 18th, 2010 at 12:23 pm

LinkedIn is the perfect social media tool for businesspeople who are too busy for Twitter, and too serious for Facebook.

It’s a great way to connect with other people, strictly on a professional basis.

I won’t add just anyone to Facebook (been down that road), but I’ll follow almost anyone on Twitter.

With LinkedIn, it’s strictly clients and suppliers.

When I speak to business groups about Social Media and I get the “I’m too busy” question, I always tell them (and the whole group), at a minimum, you should join LinkedIn.

Bob GrayFebruary 18th, 2010 at 2:08 pm

I have to say I am conflicted.
I have been told by a number of sources that I should “get” on LinkedIn, and other networks, even if only to preserve the BobSongs brand.
However, as I don’t feel I’m using some of these Networks… and in fact question if I will ever use some of these Networks… Flickr ?!? Hello !!!
I feel just slightly more relevant than a cyber-squatter.
I’m sure LinkedIn is useful for folks who travel, go to a lot of conferences, and connect tangibly.
I would have THOUGHT that for you, Raul, it would be helpful. For myself, I know the folks I know, and am uncertain of the benefit of “adding” people that I really don’t actually know.

I feel Facebook has become too much about Games, and time-wating, and not enough about content, so I rarely go on to it.

Myspace was supposed to be Facebook for Musicians, but I found it to be more about pushing than sharing, so I go on this even less than FB.

Twitter to me is more interesting, because if someone intrigues me, I follow them regardless of whether they follow me or not, but there are also a LOT of people who I don’t followback. I don’t try to cap my users, but am finding lists helpful in coping with different groups. Like you, I also have different Twitter hats for various diverging interests… #Hockey #Songwriting #Blog.

Thanks for giving voice to the thought in the back of my brain, that quietly keeps saying… “Do you REALLY need all these accounts ?”

livFebruary 18th, 2010 at 3:17 pm

I’m your 1st female commenter – yay!

I mentally bucket my friends from Twitter, FB,and LinkedIn separately, although there may be plenty of overlap at times. My linked in network is the smallest and also the most exclusive because like the others have pointed out, it is conducted as a business rather than casual setting. I found it is useful for discussion groups and keeping in touch with business associates who I may not necessarily be friends with.

I have also had people confront me as to why I don’t follow them. I am not offended if people, even those I know and are friends with, unfollow me. It’s not a big deal.

FB is a different story. The people I add are those who are good friends or family. If I must add an acquaintance, I will put them on a limited profile list.

If people are offended by this, c’est la vie.

Blair SmithFebruary 18th, 2010 at 3:19 pm

This a rapidly changing environment for business, and I have immensely enjoyed and appreciated following you and listening and learning.
Thanks for asking questions that require us to think. That brings clarity and answers. What worked yesterday may not work anymore, and was didn’t work in the past MAY work tomorrow. Most new contacts on LinkedIn have come as a result of twitter.com/realtorblair. Sharing valuable information and solving problems in a timely manner.
Keep up the good work!

Monica HamburgFebruary 18th, 2010 at 3:56 pm

When preparing for a talk, I thought, sure I have been ignoring Linkedin, but I wouldn’t recommend that. So I wrote a post (Slides re: Linkedin part of presentation here: ) This should highlights most of my thinking on it. I use it sporadically. And still, badly. I recently attended a good talk which highlighted some of the values (making connections) – and it’s on my “get better at it” list.

Now, on to your Linkedin request comment. I totally, totally agree with your feeling on what accepting a connection of Linkedin implies: an endorsement. I know people use it in different ways – some adding everyone, but I go with Linkedin’s policy that you should only add people you know (well). And as far as I’m concerned, people you know (or at least sincerely believe) are competent. While I may like someone, if I haven’t done business with them, or know them fairly well online or off, I just don’t want someone looking at the fact that I’m connected with them and taking that to mean “Monica thinks they’re OK”. When I respect someone I take who they do business with as an implicit recommendation – for the most part they have faith in the other person’s work – else why would they continue working with them? So, I don’t accept many people because I don’t know them (or know them well enough).

There are so many reasons why people don’t accept relationships online – they could be overwhelmed by the number of people they are already following, they reserve certain platforms for certain people (e.g. Facebook for only people they hang with) or content one puts out simply doesn’t interest them. Being somewhat sensitive myself (working on it all the time) I do understand how assumptions are made and resentments accumulated for these kinds of infractions – but we should all try not to assume the worst. It’s rarely about us, really.

Also, I think I am guilty of your most hated infraction on Twitter. So just want to weigh in on that while I’m at it. :) I totally see how receiving dms can be annoying. Here’s why I tend to send them. Sometimes I want to thank people (if they RT, said something nice about me etc.). Now I try not to “clog up my feed” with things that might not interest most (and thank yous, when they only apply to one person qualifies). Also I feel cheesy saying certain things publicly, and squirm to think of responding to a very pleasant comment with something that appears saccharine or self-congratulatory (again to me) when said in the public stream. So there. And sorry ;)

RaulFebruary 18th, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Thanks everyone for commenting – I need to quickly answer to Monica’s last point on DMs vs public @ replies.

Monica – I am fiercely protective of my email (I receive hundreds of them) and of my DMs. I find direct messages, intensely private. Because I live such a public life (and because I don’t give a damn if people think I clog their feeds – after all, it’s their choice to follow me, and being too noisy on Twitter is one of the characteristics that define me), I use DMs only, and only ever when I am saying something that REALLY needs to be private. Otherwise, I live (as my friend Chris Walts says) on my @ replies tab.

When I follow someone, I give them access the capability to send me a direct message. I hope and expect that they are judicious in their use of DMs. This may sound awful, elitist, snobbish or whatever. But it’s how I feel. I don’t force anyone to follow me. But when I choose to follow someone, I choose to give them access to the possibility of telling me stuff in private that they might not want to have on public streams (and that is of very confidential nature!). I trust them, and implicitly, I expect them in return to make the best use of that access.

I also unfollow most people who unfollow me not out of a “THERE, if you unfollowed me, I can unfollow you too”. I unfollow them to remove their ability to send me a private message. It puts us back again on an equal ground.

One of the reasons why I spend SO MUCH TIME on Twitter is responding @ replies, and I try to make a point to respond to each and every one, because I feel that, even if I don’t give everyone access to my private DMs, I give everyone equal access to a conversation with me.

That was one damn long-winded response. And no worries, Monica. I love you anyways :) I thoroughly appreciate your response!

Bob GrayFebruary 18th, 2010 at 6:27 pm

Thanks everyone for helping me to further clarify the expectations and frustrations of the oft-mentioned DM. I will try to be cognizant and MORE selective, when using that option.

Yukari PeerlessFebruary 18th, 2010 at 10:59 pm

My view is pretty much the same as most people commented above. I have friends and acquintants on Facebook and I usually only add somebody I’ve met before or know well enough online. LinkedIn, I try to limit to professional contacts only-and it means even though I haven’t met certain contact before, if this person seems like a good contact to have for the furture, sure I will add him/her.
I agree with your view on DMs Raul. I know, for some people(especially newer acquaintances who don’t have my email address or too lazy to look in their address book)DMs on Twitter and Facebook are handy. But it drives me crazy when somebody sends me important stuff on Facebook as I tend to forget to reply. As for DM on Twitter it also drives me crazy when somebody sends me multiple DMs when he/she could have just written in one email. :(

Hilary HenegarFebruary 19th, 2010 at 10:32 am

LinkedIn. Before I started scrolling through the comments here I was going to lay down a blanket statement saying I just don’t get why we need another means for managing our communities and networks.

I tweet, I FB and I accept people’s invitations to LinkedIn… but I have never used it for anything. I’m busy. Really busy. And I just feel like don’t have any more room in my life for another social media vehicle.

Too, more and more I’m narrowing the boundaries between my work network and my friend network – must our lives be so compartmentalized?

JaniceFebruary 19th, 2010 at 1:38 pm

In my previous career as an economist, I probably would use LinkedIn as a SM tool, however, in my current career in food and cocktails, I don’t see much value. There are lots of serious conversations going on in SM re. things like cocktails and gluten-free baking, however they are happening in other venues, including Twitter, Facebook, and other existing well-established food-related SM networks.
I’ve chosen not to establish a presence on LinkedIn more for practical reasons — with limited time, yet another SM platform to keep updated is not the best use of my time, and I would rather spend that time on content development.

Rebecca ColemanFebruary 20th, 2010 at 9:11 am

For me, Linkedin=meh.
I have an account, I have a bunch of people I’m connected to, but honestly, I seldom check it unless I get an email that says I have someone who wants to connect with me. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten any business out of it.
Like you, I have a limited amount of brain time to devote to social networking, and I choose to spend that brain power on Facebook (friends and business) and Twitter (primarily business). I also belong to about 700 other social networks, but Facebook and Twitter are the ones that I use.

MzayfertFebruary 20th, 2010 at 9:14 am

I am still getting the hang of Linkedin. Like you I have ignored it, but I see alot of potential professionally with Linkedin. I like how they show the connections, and how you can present your experience and business. I am old fashioned and I like to keep myt professional life seperate from my private one.

Carlos ObregonFebruary 20th, 2010 at 10:43 am

For me LinkedIn has been a great source of new business (SEO and SEM), I have gotten contracts from the US, and locally as well. I particularly like reading the posts on the various groups that I belong to. So for me LinkedIn rocks!

Yule HeibelFebruary 22nd, 2010 at 9:36 am

LinkedIn is great for making connections and learning more about how people in your networks make a living, do business, generate ideas. It’s also a terrific way to help others in your network connect in useful ways. For example, I have a UK connection who’s coming to Canada this spring. I can use LinkedIn to see if there are people in my network who might benefit from a professional meet-up with this individual. Likewise, I’ve helped another connection in the US try to figure out art-related careers by pouring over my network and putting her in touch with both individuals as well as groups of interest to her career area.

And speaking of LinkedIn groups: they’re really helpful.

There are at least two kinds of groups. Groups can connect you to like-minded people, or rather, to people who are working on issues you’re interested in; they also provide networking opportunities simply because you might have an affiliation. For the latter category: I’m a member of the UBC alumni group, the Harvard alumni group, and (subsequently) the Ivy Referral Network. That puts me in touch with a whole lot of professional people right there (now, if only I could figure out how to have a career when I grow up, I’d be all set I guess, but… )

In addition, however, there are interest groups, including groups around sustainability, design, TED ideas, art, geographic / regional groups, and so on. Those groups can be really, really useful for gathering information, seeing trends, and so on.

I have participated in some discussions (one in particular was really eye-opening for me personally), but generally I don’t need to do that at all on LinkedIn. My network(s) doesn’t (don’t) wither if I don’t “show my face.” This makes LinkedIn unlike Twitter, imo, where there’s an awful of backscratching and all sorts of clutter. I refer to non-informational messages as clutter, including SM marketing as well as the pressure constantly to re-thank people for #FFs, for RTs, for @s, and so on – I “get” that this is really important to plenty of folks, but, personally, it drives me bonkers to see my tweet stream cluttered up with this stuff, and worst of all I find that often it’s the only “resonance” that Twitter brings. That is, if you don’t participate in this odd definition of politesse, you’re kind of frozen out by “the community.” Anyway, that’s my gripe about the social media networks (or at least about how they’re used by some people), and I have to say that so far, NONE of that happens on LinkedIn.

One last thing about groups – often there’s an overlap between affiliation (say, UBC Alumni) and interest (say, water issues: Raul, that’s your baby, right?). So, for example, today my email notification from UBC Alumni include the pointer to this discussion:
“Imagine H2O Water Innovators Showcase, March 11th in San Francisco”
which you can read about on LinkedIn here:
http://www.linkedin.com/groupAnswers?viewQuestionAndAnswers=&discussionID=13985036&gid=59693&trk=EML_anet_qa_ttle-0St79xs2RVr6JBpnsJt7dBpSBA
(whoa, long url – I hope you can read that page, it’s on the University of British Columbia (UBC) Alumni page, s.v. “Discussions,” started by Ashmeet Kapoor.
See, if I were Raul, I’d get something very specific out of LinkedIn in this instance, unless of course he’s already informed about “Imagine H2O,” which is “an innovative nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire and empower people to turn water challenges into opportunities,” as I bet he probably is. But then again, maybe he’s not…? ;-)

NathanFebruary 24th, 2010 at 3:08 pm

While I actually find LinkedIn quite useful for a lot of purposes, one outshines the rest.

I’m an Undergraduate student at the Sauder School of Business. We are told every day that our careers depend at least 80% on our networking abilities, and I fully agree. AT LEAST 80%. This networking is seen as from us to the business community. At our conferences, speakers and sponsors are absolutely mauled by students trying to get their cards, say a few words, and go home to add them on LinkedIn. If the student had a decent chat with the professional and had a chance to properly introduce themselves, then why not showcase their resume and merits through their LinkedIn profile to the business professional?

However, the most important aspect of LinkedIn for our networking purposes is not with business professionals. It is with each other. I’m sure at least 75% of my 250-something connections is composed of peers at Sauder and other business schools. How does that differ than Facebook or Twitter? In just a few years, this 75% will (hopefully) become business professionals, as will I. At that point, I will have an automatic professional network all across the world and in many different industries. It’s an incredible thought. I’m truly excited to see this happen and stay in touch with my classmates in a professional manner post-undergraduate.

Derek K. MillerMarch 12th, 2010 at 12:28 am

I have yet to find a reason that LinkedIn would be useful enough for me to justify joining Yet Another Website.

Perhaps if I were still a freelancer, and not fighting cancer, and didn’t have a good job already, it would have a point for me. As is, nope. If I ever get better enough and need to be back on the job market for any reason, I’ll look at it again.

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