As we step into 2013 we are at a stage where social networking has become part of life for a huge number of people. Even those who have chosen not to engage with it have some understanding of what it is and, depending on where they get their information, see the dangers that lurk behind the technology, which might be the reason they don’t want to be part of it.
Over the past few years I have run workshops and supported individual clients on getting to grips with the tools. I am always pleased when I see people I know doing something interesting or experimenting. It’s only fair to say that some of the people I have worked with were active for a wee while and then must have decided not to go any further. Maybe they forgot, or lost interest.
It’s been a bit like that for me in the past year. I use Twitter less than I used to and, having come to it relatively late, have found it useful to be part of a couple of Facebook communities. Like so many people I clamoured for an invitation to Google+ and Pinterest when they were first launched, but neither are floating my boat right now.
My “anchor” social network though has always been LinkedIn. Some of the initial attraction was that it seemed so much more business oriented than the others and this gave me permission to invest time and effort. However I have fallen a bit out of love with it lately. Part of this is because of the tinkering that the good folks at LinkedIn have been doing with the functions. I know from discussion forums that there has been a lot of criticism about the changes and I expect there will be more. The other reason I am not finding LinkedIn as useful as I used to, is the behaviour of other members.
It seems to me that the difference between the tool that is LinkedIn and how it is used is not clear to some and doesn’t matter to others. Just like we can’t expect to be able to build a house because we have a saw, or play in an orchestra because we can press the keys on a piano, getting a business benefit from being a member needs some practice and bit of focus. I stress the “business benefit” element here. When I ask people what sites they use I also ask them how they measure what impact this has had on their business. There are all sorts of analytics tools and measures available and to be sustainable most folk need to see how the input converts into customers/clients.
Back in the day when networking was all face to face everyone knew that to create, develop and sustain a good quality network needed work. That’s not changed because online tools are available.
Here are three suggestions of what you might do (or stop doing) when using LinkedIn that could help:
- Although LinkedIn’s user agreement says that you should only connect with people you know, confusingly it offers a few ways for you to get in touch with people whether you know them or not, which means that my inbox regularly has a “Jo Bloggs would like to add you to their professional network” message . I usually write to the person who had sent me a default message to ask them why they thought connecting might be a good idea. That has led to some great relationships. Recently though I have had messages back asking why I am using a networking site if I don’t want to build a network. Being rude or judgemental as not a great way to start a relationship is it? Unless you take the time to tell a potential connection why you would like to connect you risk rejection and even getting an “I don’t know this person” flag and after five of those LinkedIn will block you
- The response above got me thinking. The numbers have never mattered to me but when I got to 500+ connections I got a lot more invitations. I realise getting access to someone else’s large network will be attractive to some people. I thought it was a good time to look at who I had in my contacts and check how we knew each other and crucially when we last engaged. By using the notes function it is possible to keep track of when and why we connected in the first place and to keep our subsequent interactions up to date. It’s a bit like a client relationship management that took a lot of businesses use
- LinkedIn Groups are the current version of the old “Internet Forums” on which so many of us cut our teeth. I remember how nervous I was about contributing to the discussion never mind starting one of my own back then but realised the value and what I could learn from, and about, the others who had done so. So slowly but surely I stepped out of the shadows (or stopped lurking to use social networking language) and took part. There is a huge range of groups on LinkedIn. Many of them are full of adverts, promotions and even spam and as we get more savvy we are leaving them in droves. The groups that will thrive and survive are the ones which are moderated well and where real discussion can happen. If you can’t find one that does that for you why not start your own?
These are my suggestions and are based on what I have made work for me. I don’t pretend to be an expert or to have all of the answers. I am always keen to learn. So if you are going to spend time on social networking in 2013 it might be a good time to think about how you can make the sites work for you and share with us what happens.