An open letter to the slackers in my social business network.
Admittedly, this post started as a rant on the lack of effort put into many of theLinkedIn profiles I see everyday in my own social network. As an active user with nearly 5,000 connections and a come-and-go member of 47 groups I get around.
In what is now my fourth round of revisions, it seems as if this has now become more of a “how-to” on maximizing the impact of your LinkedIn profile on your prospects, your customers and the people inside your industry. But I’m still bugged.
So, what’s the problem?
The problem is that if you’ve created a profile in a social community how about putting a little effort into presenting yourself as part of it? Really.
No Profile Picture
Unless you have been horribly disfigured, have religious convictions that preclude, or in a witness-protection program I can’t think of too many reasons why you shouldn’t have a profile picture with your profile. Not having one is like walking into the office with a bag on your head. And online, some people find it kind of rude, like me.
Select a current picture. No glory day shots from your prom, or your favorite hair cut, or when you weighed less. And no pictures of you standing next to your boat holding the fish you caught 3 summers ago in Ohio – I can’t see your face. If you don’t have a current picture go to the photo store at the mall, or to Kinko’s (passports) and get one. I want to put a face with the name, and I want to “look you in the eyes” when we communicate. I want to see who I’m talking to.
An Abbreviated Name
Do you have an abbreviated name on your business card? Tom S.? Susan W.? Why would you do this with your “online” business card. I want to know whom I’m dealing with when I talk to a supplier, or partner, or prospect. If you can’t use your full name on your social media profile then maybe you shouldn’t be using social media?
Play this scenario: we meet at a business networking function, and you tell me what you do and give me a business card reiterating the same. I check you out online after I get to the studio on LinkedIn (and Google, because that’s what a lot of savvy business people do these days when we meet somebody we don’t know) and what is published on your profile doesn’t jive with what you were pitching me last night.
What do you think I think of you right now?
Maybe not that bad, but you just threw pebbles in your own path by having inconsistencies in who you are and what you do. Keep your information updated and make your profile become a source of credibility for you in your marketplace.
A member of a social network with few connections tells me that they have not been here very long, or they are not very active. What would you assume of someone with 16 contacts in what is presented as their business network? Like me, you would assume that this person is new to the industry, that they don’t know very many people, and that they are of very little use to me and my business.
If you’re using a social network then use the damn thing. Invite your friends, your colleagues, your co-workers, your friends from school (who are also working in businesses now) to connect with you. Utilize the people that you DO know to help meet people you NEED to know. With this you’ll at least look like you are an active participant in your industry, and that you know some people in your space. This is a good thing.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you go running around trying to connect with everyone you see – start with the people that you do know, and then with the people you meet inside the groups you’ll frequent. Look for people who comment on the same article or discussion using your mutual membership as the basis for the request (i.e. Hey, Tom: Great post on the article in our group. I’d thought I’d reach out to connect. Please accept my invitation. – kp)
Please note that trying to connect with people you do not know can be problematic and impact the use of your account. Tread slowly, you’ll get the hang of it.
Now, recommendations are hard for some people to ask for – I know. But that does not make them any less important for me to see when I’m checking you out, especially if you want me to know you have impressed other people before me, what you can accomplish, and what it’s like to do business with you.
Most people have 3-5 recommendations, I have 63. I tell you this because I want you to think I’m a rock star, and that I know what I’m talking about 😉 I also want you to be curious enough to go and look at them to learn about the different types of recommendations I have received from the different people within my network. Clients, colleagues, suppliers, students, event directors. Different people have different perspectives and that can be invaluable perspective, references and content.
I’ve worked with a lot of people in different capacities, and depending on what business capacity I am in at the time, I’d like to have other people tell you of their experience with me in this capacity, that I am competent, if not spectacular at what I do thus contributing to your conclusion that you should believe I can do this job.
And what will I do with these recommendations? They will serve as badges of honor on my business profile, they will be added to others on the “Client Testimonials” page on my web site, they will be added selectively to support claims to new prospects, and of course, will be printed in large type during my next performance review for all to see.
Okay, smart guy – how do I get them?
Quite simply, you ask. LinkedIn has made it easy to do so, and I’ll make it even easier.
Without this becoming a lesson in how to use LinkedIn recommendations I will tell you to go to Profile > Recommendations > Request Recommendations to use the form to ask your contacts (they have to already be a connection) for a recommendation on a job title you have already added to your profile. Although LinkedIn gives you some boilerplate I’d like to suggest some of my own I have found well received and effective in getting a good recommendation:
Hey, Mark: I’m writing to request a recommendation on the work I’ve done on your account. We’ve been working together for some time and I hope that I’ve earned the right to ask for a written recommendation that speaks to the capacity I served, why you hired me in the first place, and how I’ve helped your company.
Use this as a model and tweak as you see fit, but I like a little less formal approach to keep it a non-HR issue, and something that demonstrates the relationship I developed with this person, and how I made a difference. I’ve noticed that if you outline or delineate what you wish people to speak to they usually do. In this case, I wanted Mark to speak to my role on his team, what he saw in me, and what he got from me. If I wanted something different I would outline it appropriately.
Lack of Information
I actually see business profiles with no titles. Seriously? Is it that hard to enter the information from your business card onto your business profile? Name, title, address, phone, email – maybe even your fax (okay, the last one was a joke 😉
And how about a summary of who you are, what you do, and how you fit into the organization.
You did go to school, right? What did you study, and what did you take away from it all (hey, I’m a re-born academic and I look at this stuff. I want to work with smart people – show me you’re smart).
Where did you work before and how did you make a difference? Sell me that you’ve been in this space and you know what’s going on because you have experience. I’m looking for something that helps me place you in the food chain; are you chef or are you chum?
Not Open to Contact
I understand issues of privacy, but the intent of a social network is to be social, and for LinkedIn it’s for business people to get in touch with other business people. So why lock your profile down from receiving contact from people you don’t know? Are you that important that you can’t get an email from a vendor trying to introduce themselves to your company? Really? Then you should have your secretary do this for you. Loosen up, meet some new people and keep yourself open to the usually positive result of introducing new information into your business scenario.
So these are the things that bug me about the LinkedIn profiles I see every day in my network. And I’m sure they are indicative of others you see (hopefully not your own).
Take a morning and a big coffee to take a good look at your profile and what it tells your network. Look at your connections to see what they’re doing well. Take some time (only an hour or two in total) and put some effort into adding a picture, updating your information, add your existing connections, and join the groups of colleagues, prospects and customers who are interested in the same things you are. I still believe that luck is “preparation meeting opportunity”, so get prepared, okay?
Obviously, this rant is thinly-veiled packaging for a small gift to my social network – some entertaining (and timely) advice for improving your online persona for your best shot at business this year.