Pride and Prejudice of LinkedIn Membership
You've probably read a lot about it in the news this week, so let me finally address the event: I am about to hit the 500+ connections milestone on LinkedIn, and frankly the business world is abuzz about it. At least that's what LinkedIn would have me to believe.
The business networking site has done a great job at making a name for itself as an Internet standard, mentioned routinely in the same breath with the likes of Facebook and Twitter. Now, any article you read usually offers the LinkedIn share button, but being an aggregated news source is just a caveat of the business professional powerhouse that it has become. But LinkedIn has achieved much more than being the online Rolodex replacement that it had set out to be when it was first founded.But it's done so by redefining its own rules.
I don't remember when I joined LinkedIn, but it was early on, and earlier then most anybody I know. Being an early adopter is part of the job description for an Internet marketer. Back in "the good old days," you'd upload your contacts by exporting your email database and uploading it to theirs. The process has become easier but the idea was to have online access to all your contacts, and only your contacts. LinkedIn notified those people by e-mail to confirm the business connection. Adding connections that you didn't know or hadn't worked with was always considered a LinkedIn no-no.
But all that has changed recently. The new LinkedIn not only condones connections with strangers, it strongly suggests to add them to increase your own visibility and network base. It has got around this by creating groups, interests, skills and expertise, in addition to work experience, as legitimate ways to connect. It also allows you to e-mail whomever you want to -- provided of course you upgrade to the "Business or Business Plus" professional edition. *rolls eyes*
I'm not sure how pleased I am with the new growth strategy that LinkedIn is promoting. Whereas Facebook and Twitter despite their popularity is still an option and social media, LinkedIn is virtually required for today's business professional. And the professional profile photo, has to be just that, professional, or you're considered in the business world to be less trustworthy and not to be taken seriously. Haven't been able to locate your old college buddy on Facebook? Want to know what Friday's date who you met on the Internet truly looks like? Check first on LinkedIn. Unable to view their photo? That's because you haven't joined LinkedIn. See where I'm going with all of this?
I don't find any of this to be alarming or dishonest but rather curious how one website has been able to persuade even the most paranoid, privacy-conscious people I know to provide a recent head shot and road map to where they've lived and worked their entire lives. I credit in part the "profile completeness percentage" that is included next to your name. Good students become good employees and we all strive to reach that 100% mark despite the fact that it means full disclosure. I can tell you this much, the site has been a boon for executive recruiters, HR departments, hiring managers, and background checkers for that matter across the world. Unfortunately, it's also allowed some of those offshore telemarketing companies a legitimate way to contact you. I used to let their voice mails linger forever but now they can find me easier than Waldo in front of a green screen.
Where as Facebook exploits our vanity, LinkedIn feeds our pride and that seems to preempt our desire for online privacy. As for the 500+ connection milestone, I actually would have reached it years ago. But the old LinkedIn warned me against doing so. So it this point, I'm likely to accept any connection that comes my way. Whether or not it furthers my career is yet to be seen, but I can honestly tell you that for me and most business professionals in sales, marketing, advertising and any other business that relies on the Internet as heavily, it's become the most important part of my daily routine. I now check the "who's viewed your profile" section on my LinkedIn profile more often than checking my e-mail. So powerful are they that I even feared writing this article. If Instagram suspends my account, you won't know what I had for my dinner. If LinkedIn revokes my perceived privileges, I soon won't have the money to buy it.