There is no question that LinkedIn can be a huge time waster if you don’t have a game plan when you’re there. In this way, it’s the same as social media platforms where some people confess they spend ‘hours’ scrolling through the trials and tribulations of their friends and followers.
At a recent LinkedIn essentials workshop I ran for female led businesses I asked how much time they spent networking on LinkedIn each week. The general consensus was ‘not much’, When I asked how many hours they spent networking on Instagram and Facebook each week, they said ‘way too much’, ‘gazilions’ and were not sure they’d call it ‘networking’. I suggested they shave off a small percentage of the time they spend on social media and give some attention to LinkedIn. Perhaps 5 minutes a day.
There’s a view that networking on LinkedIn by accepting invitations to connect from people you don’t know on LinkedIn may be a time waster too. Without a well thought out plan, I’d agree with this statement. If you do not have a connection criteria, and you do not regularly curate your newsfeed, then accepting random invitations with no sense of why you are doing so, is not going to serve your goals for LinkedIn well.
What’s the right number of connections on LinkedIn?
A question I’m often asked is “What is the right number of LinkedIn connections?” I tread carefully when answering, as the ‘right’ number of connections will depend on your goals for LinkedIn.
At last count I have 7763 followers on LinkedIn. I’m an open networker, which means I will accept invitations to connect from people in my LinkedIn network I do not know. Why do I do this? Assuming they transact in a country I work with, and we have a number of mutual connections, I like to accept the invitation and then send a follow up message (via LinkedIn) to establish their reason for connecting. As someone who shares insights about LinkedIn regularly via guest articles, podcast interviews and my own blog and podcast, it’s quite normal for the new connection to say they’ve read or heard me and want to get my updates. Others are wishing to directly enquire about engaging my services and, in other cases, the individual is trying to sell to me. I have a well thought out response to each of these scenarios.
I’ll also occasionally reach out and invite people to connect on LinkedIn who I don’t know. A recent example is when LinkedIn added a new company page feature, allowing admins to see who was following their organisation’s company page. I went through the recent followers and invited any 2nd and 3rd degree connections to connect, with a personalised message, thanking them for following the page, and explaining who I was. Here’s an example of the response I received.
This contact went on to ask the best way to go about engaging my services for a particular client she works with who wanted to increase their presence on LinkedIn.
What do you want to be known for?
My approach may not be relevant for you. It comes back to two key questions. What do you want to be known for when you are on LinkedIn? Who do you want to influence when you are on LinkedIn? Your answers to these two questions will influence how you write your profile, who you accept invitations to connect from, which organisations and hashtags you follow in your newsfeed and the content you share from your profile.
A graduate will take a different approach to someone who’s semi-retired. Someone in active job search will take a different approach to someone who’s starting to think about making a career change, or building up their side hustle while still gainfully employed. If you’re someone who has trouble remembering the name and face of people, you may prefer to have a much smaller number of connections, or curate your newsfeed so you only see updates from a select few.
Are you in control of your newsfeed? Start now
Taking the time to curate your LinkedIn newsfeed allows you to control the updates you see from your connections. It also means you can follow relevant organisations and hashtags in your areas of interest. Unfollowing a connection simply means you remain connected, but no longer see their updates.
Curating your LinkedIn newsfeed helps you sidestep the algorithm (apart from promoted ads), by being more selective about the people, companies and hashtags you follow.
To curate your LinkedIn newsfeed, simply click on the RH side of your connection’s updates. Choose ‘Unfollow’ to remove the person’s updates fro your newsfeed. I also recommend putting aside some time to click on ‘Improve my feed’ which will show you who you’re following and who’s following you, and provide the option for you to update these preferences.
What are your goals for LinkedIn?
Is it an ego thing and you’ve created a profile because a colleague said you should? You need a plan, or you’ll quickly become cynical and resent the algorithm that influences what you see in your LinkedIn newsfeed.
Are you looking for work? This is a great reason to have a LinkedIn Profile.
Do you want to learn from industry leaders who post regular content on LinkedIn? That’s another great reason to be there.
What about the role LinkedIn can play to help you stay connected with your broader professional community at a time when many Australians are experiencing restrictions on attending professional events (especially here in Melbourne)? Another good reason to be on LinkedIn.
As an Independent LinkedIn specialist trainer I work with people who’ve made the decision to spend more time on LinkedIn for their business or career based on their own free will. I assume, as informed and educated adults, that they understand how platforms like LinkedIn work. If you don’t understand how these online platforms work (and please don’t take this as meaning I think you’re uneducated or ill informed) let’s pause for a moment and consider what any online platform that asks you for your information is really doing.
As a supposedly ‘free’ platform for those who’ve chosen not to invest in the LinkedIn premium options, LinkedIn is the same as the social media platforms and wants to monetise your data. The more information you supply, the more targeted the metrics these platforms have to entice brands to advertise to you. On LinkedIn, advertising can come in a number of forms. The one you may be most familiar with is the sponsored post in your newsfeed.
Is data being collected about you?
Yes. Every platform you use where you login and provide any information about yourself, or websites where you ‘agree’ when prompted are doing this. For this reason, a small (and probably increasing) number of people are choosing not to spend time on social media and not to update their LinkedIn Profile. And this is their right.
For those who choose to accept that nothing is for ‘free’, we willingly give LinkedIn the information about ourselves that we’re comfortable sharing publicly. And if you’re unsure how public this information is, please consider the warning I give to my teenage sons. Do not share any information online that you wouldn’t be comfortable seeing on a major freeway’s advertising billboard.
For this reason I do not make my email available to any of my LinkedIn connections, I will only allow LinkedIn to show my mutual connections to new connections and I check the privacy settings on my profile every 6 months. If you would like to do a privacy health check for LinkedIn please read 10 Ways to Increase Your LinkedIn Account’s Security & Privacy and How to Avoid Spam, Protect Your Data and Improve Your LinkedIn User Experience.
If you approach your time on LinkedIn with some forethought (also known as a plan) and side step the annoying algorithm that serves up all the ‘Top’ updates in your newsfeed by curating your newsfeed, LinkedIn will be a more enjoyable experience for you.