By John O'Connor

With Microsoft purchasing LinkedIn, the career and professional networking platform that will soon surpass 500 million users, it seems time to assess the power and potential as it affects you, your career and your brand. Don’t agree? Google yourself, a friend and an associate. It’s LinkedIn that powers through the search results first and foremost.

In many respects, I love LinkedIn and espouse its capacity for an individual to create and own their career. My executive search and outplacement clients know I champion LinkedIn’s benefits.

But if they listen, they know I caution them on the temptations, the trappings and the allure of social media. In that regard, the elevated professional etiquette of LinkedIn may be slipping, with its new user interface becoming more and more like the “personal” social media power of Facebook and the like.

Here is the problem I see. There’s a temptation to share posts, pictures, videos and blogs (now called “articles” by LinkedIn), and when all the world seems to be doing it, users may think more is better and that they have to keep up. So I will stand up to the winds of change with my yellow flag.

Think ‘Impact’ Before You Share

Do we really need to go over how damaging some posts on Facebook can be to your career? It’s just too easy and numerous to mention how many people have derailed their careers by bragging about their paycheck and complaining about their employers on social media.

According to most that I talk to, that doesn’t really happen as much on LinkedIn because “it’s professional.” But here is the problem. Now you can share your cat videos and pictures from your after-corporate party, at home, or in Vegas. You can create powerful “articles” on the publishing platform ad infinitum. You can do all of this and claim it is all about your brand and your career.

But in doing that, you also call attention to yourself in some ways that may not be beneficial. What impact does this have on your career? For example, if you’re spending time liking things and sharing info during the day, is that what you should be doing for your job? Is it germane to your professional brand? Are you really creating a following, and if you are, is that really what you want?

What Your Activity Says About You

When I talk as I often do to staffing leaders, recruiters, hiring managers and human resource executives, I ask them if they like what their employees on LinkedIn are doing. To summarize, they tell me they don’t really notice and don’t pay “that much attention” to posts, likes, articles and more. So what’s the problem, John? Net neutral, right? No, I would say not.

What these recruiters and hiring managers also say is that they notice employee’s “activity” on LinkedIn seems to go up when they are looking for new jobs or feel their job is in jeopardy. Recruiters now use LinkedIn company pages to search for passive and active candidates. During that time, they notice “activity” within their current employees. They may not report it, but it’s noticeable, and particularly noticeable when someone’s activity goes way up. It’s an indicator. That employee may be looking for another job.

You’re Creating Your Reputation — Good Or Bad

Even though LinkedIn’s etiquette, in my opinion, still has the most “Emily Post” flair, its movement toward live sharing, video, audio and more personal posting could be a dangerous turn for those who can’t resist the temptation.

For example, as a recruiter, there are a number of areas that allow me to see you and where you may be vulnerable to reputation damage. They are: posting articles, sharing photos, creating video, commenting on posts, liking posts, commenting on posts, connecting to competitors, direct messaging, and overselling to prospects. Now that LinkedIn is becoming more of a sales platform, with products like Sales Navigator, it can turn people off as you try to connect, share, build relationships and grow.

How can you turn the conversation on LinkedIn into something that is brand positive? How can you ensure you’re creating the right impression of yourself and are not lured into oversharing and making career-damaging mistakes? Here are my ideas.

Treat LinkedIn like as an actor would treat a serious role. Know your audience. Play to that audience. Be caught doing things that audience would expect you to do. In other words, stay on your professional brand message. That doesn’t mean you can’t share things that are personal. You can, but make sure those “things” have a professional edge — that they reflect your passion for fitness, hunger relief, or any other causes that echo your personal LinkedIn profile.

Examine your company’s social media policy. It’s not just for Facebook and the like. It applies here too. Get some approval to post articles that are brand enhancing. You may want to get at least one nod of approval by your company superiors, even if you feel you don’t have to (and you don’t, unless you mention the company’s name). But remember: People are watching. When they watch, find a way for them to see you doing something that is forward-thinking and positive.


Category: Editorial