LinkedIn – Still The World’s Largest Professional Networking Site?

LinkedIn was launched in 2003 as a social networking site for professionals, allowing users to create an online network of people and brands that are relevant to their business. With 500 million users as of April 2017, there is no question that it is one of the largest networking sites. But is it still professional? LinkedIn should be a powerhouse of business connections and opportunities, but unfortunately this doesn’t always seem to be the case. Although it was created as a ‘professional’ social networking site, there have been several instances over the past few years that suggest LinkedIn may be morphing into just another social networking platform.

Tinder or LinkedIn? Blurring the lines

With the recent rise in the use of dating apps, is it really a surprise that another social platform is being used in this way too? Several users have reported instances of being contacted via InMail (LinkedIn’s private messaging platform) with flirtatious messages and inappropriate images received from the sender. Part of the issue is the virtual stranger element of LinkedIn – you are much more likely to accept a connection request from someone you don’t actually know on there in a bid to expand your professional network, than a friend request from a stranger on Facebook. Many are on the hunt to reach that 30,000 connection limit in order to prove they have the largest network. This opens users up to receiving messages and connection requests from people who may not have professional intentions, although they can initially hide behind this as a smokescreen. It has even been reported that LinkedIn is being used as a platform for infidelity – after all, if you were going to check your partner’s phone for messages, would you think to look there?

Connections – quality or quantity?

As previously mentioned, LinkedIn will cap your connections at 30,000, so it’s important to be selective about who you decide to connect with. Connecting with someone you went to school with may be great from a nostalgia perspective, but it’s important to ask yourself whether they are even remotely relevant to you in terms of your career and business, and therefore whether they will be a valuable connection. Connecting to every single Tom, Dick and Harry that come up on your screen may help to increase the number of your connections, but it won’t necessarily increase their value. This is especially key if you are using LinkedIn as a way to promote your business or associated products. Make sure that the people you are connecting with are valuable and, at the very least, remotely relevant to your industry or career. Whilst more connections should mean that you are reaching more people, if those people aren’t going to glance twice at your posts, is it really worth it? When it comes to connections, it’s important to weigh up quality versus quantity.

Is your profile really that professional?

LinkedIn should be used for creating and strengthening business relationships and as such keeping your profile professional is important to create a good impression. There are several social media faux pas that seem to be creeping across to LinkedIn and if you are guilty, it could be having a real impact on the impression that you are projecting of both yourself and the company you work for. For example, your profile picture probably shouldn’t be one taken in a nightclub or on the beach, but something more like an appropriate head and shoulders photograph or, even better, a company headshot. This is not to say that you need to spend a lot of money in getting professional photographs done – all that is needed is a blank wall (or even one with your company’s logo in the background) and a smartphone to take the photograph and you’re good to go. Make sure you keep your posts professional and business friendly – don’t use it as a platform to complain about your job, your employer or your personal life. It’s also really important to keep all of your information – current employer, role, qualifications, key skills – relevant and as up to date as possible. Although LinkedIn is often regarded as the ‘Facebook for Business,’ it’s important to bear in mind that it is a business networking platform, not a social one. Make sure your profile isn’t selling you short. LinkedIn is a great platform for endorsements and real-world recommendations from former colleagues or business partners, so use these to your advantage.

It’s not all doom and gloom

Although LinkedIn has its faults, it is still a really good platform for forming and strengthening key business relationships. It’s also a fantastic tool for recruiters and employers alike as, if you are managing your profile correctly, it should read like a virtual CV and hopefully make you an attractive candidate. Like Facebook, LinkedIn has made it easy to connect with people all around the world, meaning that business opportunities that may not have even been considered before are being made into reality on a day to day basis. Provided the site is being used in an appropriate way and with business-minded intentions, LinkedIn is still a really useful tool, which can help to build a really strong professional network.