Wednesday 27, June 2018 by Jessica Combes

The dark side of LinkedIn


Personally, I appreciate what professional networking site LinkedIn has to offer but sometimes connecting with new people can go very, very wrong

A LinkedIn profile is a professional stamp on the internet where you get to showcase your skillset and link your portfolio of work. Potential business partners, recruiters, or employers can see what you have created, who has endorsed you, and speak to any mutual connections for referrals.

Done right, utilising LinkedIn can save a lot of time, effort, and frustration in the networking/job hunting game. It can be the one thing that gives someone an edge over the competition when a recruiter is drowning in CVs or a business is looking for a solution offered by you or your company.

In a tight-knit city like Dubai, there is ample opportunity to connect with people online with the very good chance of making their personal acquaintance at some point in the near future; I honestly know about 85 per cent of my connections in person.

Another reason I like networking online is because being in a room at an event where I must talk to a high number of strangers is my idea of hell, and I would rather be force fed shards of glass. As a social introvert, I relish the chance look at someone’s profile and take in a bit a bit of who they are and what they have done, and see if we have the potential to build a mutually beneficial relationship, since online profiles are very telling.

Generally, the strategy works.

On LinkedIn, users that feel the need to use the video function, like an eight-year old girl writing in her diary, to share every thought that occurs to them with their #LinkedInFam will get sidestepped; users with emojis scattered about their profile like confetti will get a hard pass. Anyone asking me to agree with a post by typing ‘Amen’ gets removed because frankly, I get enough of that on Facebook.

For the most part LinkedIn users tend to play by the rules, which means I’ve occasionally let my guard down (and the creepy in) and learned that while connecting with certain individuals can be harrowing, part of the problem is that LinkedIn does nothing to address certain issues, such as your (personal) email getting spammed.

You need to be a bit short sighted to use your work email address to sign up for a social network account.  That email isn’t yours; it belongs to and can be accessed by your company at any given time, and since you cannot access it once you leave the company, your private profile is left to the mercy of the IT department. It makes sense to use a personal email account for social media.

A major flaw in LinkedIn’s privacy settings, for a really long time, was not allowing users to hide their email addresses from everyone (including their contacts). LinkedIn has a perfectly functional messaging platform; users should have the opportunity to give out their email addresses at their discretion.

The number of times I’ve connected with someone in good faith, only to have them start sending me emails with whatever product or service they’re peddling, has moved firmly into double digits.

Once, someone connected with me, retrieved my email address from my profile and gave it to their colleague who started sending me press releases. I deleted the first few but eventually wrote back to ask where they got my email address, and that’s how I discovered one of my connections had given it to them.

When I politely raised the issue, he admitted to doing it, “I hope that’s okay” and apologised and was almost out of the woods until he told me I could avoid this issue in future by adding my work email as a second ID. You know what else would have worked? Looking at my profile, seeing which company I work for and paying me the courtesy of asking for my email address and if it’s okay give it out. Yes, he got removed.

When I raised this issue with LinkedIn via Twitter the response that came back was “You should only connect to people you know.” Um… It’s a networking site... And beyond that, LinkedIn was less than helpful. At the time of writing, this has been addressed and you can hide your email, but man did it take ages for LinkedIn to address that one!

It just seems that networking behind a keyboard instead of face-to-face means certain rules of etiquette have fallen by the wayside. Faux pas are numerous, but there are three key practices that people seem to have forgotten:

State your purpose for connecting:
You wouldn’t arbitrarily dial any old phone number and start talking to the person on the other end, so why would you send a connection request without a message providing any kind of context? Have you met the person? Do you work in the same industry? Do you have a project you would like to propose? Give them something to work with when deciding whether to connect.

Granted, there are people who will accept every request, but there are also those who guard their time and won’t think twice about deleting it. You may have a fantastic proposal for someone, but not paying them the courtesy of an introduction could blow your chances immediately.

Give a little to get a little:
Once you’ve connected with someone for a purpose, don’t beat them over the head with your product/request/proposal. Communicate with them to see where they stand – are they taking on new projects, or they looking to expand their business in a way that you can step in and help? Are they the decision maker, or can they introduce you to someone else?

This is all part of due diligence that needs to be done. You wouldn’t walk into a room and start badgering different people to do business with you, going from group to group making a sales pitch – it’s pushy and reeks of desperation. The same applies here.

I accepted a connection request from someone industry-related and immediately received a message from them, which I expected to be a message about working together. It was a link to their company and nothing else. If they were too lazy to send me message with their link, why would I want to engage further with them, or refer them to my network? They were deleted immediately.

Be patient
Sometimes uncontrollable delays can affect timelines and it’s just ‘one of those things.’ Maybe a decision maker has a family emergency and becomes unavailable for a few weeks, or sometimes they leave their position and someone new must come in, catch up, and take over. 

An initial follow up after your first message is fine; weekly prodding is not. Like a diversified investment portfolio, your networking efforts should be varied so you’re not relying on a ‘yes’ from one person only. Ideally you should be cultivating enough relationships at any given time to avoid the panic of not doing anything. Six months from the initial message, that same decision maker or recruiter may be in the position to work with you and even refer you within their network, why risk alienating them in the short term?

With more and more people starting their own businesses and more and more of them trying to hustle for clients, letting this sort of behaviour run rampant means LinkedIn risks becoming just another social media site, when its development team should be working to position itself as the first stop for professional networking and increasing their lead on other social media sites.

Finally, when all else fails, there is the block button.