Friday, 20 February 2015

Image result for 7 Trends To Avoid On LinkedIn Right Now

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The other day, I had coffee with a young early-stage startup founder interested in learning more about our accelerator program and getting feedback on his business. I took the meeting for a couple of reasons. One, he was wildly proactive about getting in front of me, agreeing to any time I had available (which ended up being me squishing him tightly between two meetings that were scheduled weeks before him). And two, how well educated he came across about my business and me personally. 
When I met him, he was no less impressive. A recent grad too, which kind of blew my mind and restored my faith in the young people who one day will make decisions for us. (I can’t tell if I’m just getting older or if the graduates coming through are shocked that the real world involves actually working) 
Throughout our conversation, he kept highlighting elements of my career and things I’ve written. “And in 2006, you left blah blah to go do blah blah, right? How was that?” and “In the 6 Things You Should Quit Doing To Be More Successful you suggest that people do…” 
I mean, seriously studied up on me. It was glorious. Not in the giving-Molly-an-ego sense, but more in the, wow-this-kid-has-his-sh*t-together sense. 
As it turns out, he got it all on LinkedIn. At least that was the foundation of his research. And he subsequently totally won that day. I’ve agreed to connect him to some of my more valuable contacts and I’m definitely going to think of him when I hear from someone (which is often) who needs a vendor that does what he does.
When I realized how much I was willing to give and how much he got out of being that prepared for such a short meeting, I wondered, why don’t more people consider LinkedIn a more mighty piece of ammo in their business arsenal?  In fact, I’m seeing some trends that continue to disappoint those of us who have discovered the power of this tool. Like these.
Trend #1: You still don’t have a picture. 
Why this matters. I talked about this in my first article on LinkedIn (which has other helpful tips you should definitely take a look at). And come on, really? You let every red light camera in the city capture a shot of your mug, post every vacation pic you’ve ever taken on Facebook (way too many, actually), maintain that awesome profile on Tinder and yet…you continue to hold out on LinkedIn? Give it up. Post a profile picture and call it a day.
When someone sends me a request to connect on LinkedIn sans profile picture, I instantly think you’re that Nigerian attorney seeking a gullible trustee to manage the lottery winnings of someone else’s dead relatives. 
Thanks but no thanks. I don’t accept requests from anyone without a picture unless I’ve met them in person. Then I ask them why they haven’t posted a picture yet. 
I take a lot of meetings from individuals I haven’t met before. Whether that’s a prospective investor, a corporate partner or someone who’d like to work for me or with me in some way. In all of these scenarios, I will usually scope them out on LinkedIn beforehand. I can’t tell you how many times LinkedIn has come in handy for these meetings. I pull up your picture and when you walk in the door, I know exactly who you are! If they’ve done the same, they know what I look like. And really…who doesn’t want to avoid wandering randomly around a restaurant trying to locate their next meeting? 
Trend #2: You don’t have an actual email address anywhere in your profile. 
Why this matters. I understand not everyone is on LinkedIn to do actual business (this baffles me why you’re even there, but whatever). With that said, if you just exist on LinkedIn so you can have an online professional presence and nothing more, then move on to the next bit of advice. 
But if you are there for real business purposes, I highly recommend you put an actual email address somewhere in your profile. The mail service through LinkedIn is great for general communication (as I mention below), but at some point you need to move the party outside and this makes it far easier to do so. Really motivated potential employees and business contacts will scan your LinkedIn profile for this info. Make it available to them if you want to be reachable. 
I’ve personally connected with some fantastic business partners, potential investors and employers this way. It means you’re easy to get in touch with. If you’ve read this, you’ll understand why being easily find’able comes in handy. Above all else, avoid that sock machine!
Trend #3: You call yourself out. 

Why this matters. Remember years and years ago when some wacky college career counselor thought it was a great idea to suggest we all put “Looking for a job” in a long, wordy description section on our resumes? 
Yeah, that was really stupid advice. 
When someone has a description section in their resume, I (1) don’t read it because it’s completely full of buzz words that mean nothing and (2) instantly assume they’re a novice hunting for their first job. 
The headline in LinkedIn operates the very same way. When you put “Seeking a Job” or anything remotely similar as your actual headline in LinkedIn, I avoid you like the Ebola (I’m from Dallas, I feel close to that topic).
I connect with strangers on LinkedIn all the time (more on that later) but I absolutely, 100% don’t connect with anonymous job seekers who blatantly write it as such. Why? Because I already know you want to use me for my connections. Or…shocker…you’ll just ask me for a job. I get that you’re using LinkedIn for that purpose, for which I applaud your tenacity, but be a bit more discreet will ya?
If you don’t have a gig right now, then put your skills, “Marketing Expert with blah blah.” I promise you’re missing opportunities and precious connections by telling everyone you’re looking for a job. Don’t call yourself out.  
Trend #4: You’re using people too much.  
Why this matters. There’s a lot of “using” happening in the business world — and when it happens on LinkedIn, it’s even more annoying. It’s awkward too, since it opens the door for complete strangers to ask for a favor, connections, endorsements, referrals, etc. On the one hand, I love how it breaks barriers and gives us this opportunity to connect without formal relationships. But on the other, it’s a bit Wild West in there in terms of gimmes and there aren’t a lot of people willing to give back to the community in return. 
  • Those who master the business world are those that have found a delicate balance between asking and giving with their network. Everyone knows you can’t get everything done by yourself (why else would we all be encouraged to build a personal network?), so of course you have to ask for things. But here’s a story. 
    In a conversation with a friend the other day, I lamented the fact I’ve helped a particular someone over and over and over lately and have reached my limit on usage. I’ve literally helped this person dozens of times over the years and not once have they been proactive or contributed to the relationship. That means no introductions to people who might be a great partner for my business, no invites to events, no sharing of ideas. I know, without a shadow of a doubt that each time this person gets in touch, they want something from me. 
    That’s when my friend told me about his “User List.” He told me he had a similar problem years ago and started putting these people in an email list. Now anytime he needs something (a contact, an introduction, anything) he sends it to his “User List.” This gives them (without them knowing) an opportunity to actually contribute for once. He’s found that many of these people just never know how to offer help or where they could be most helpful, and this gives them a way. Granted, he doesn’t get a lot of responses from them…but it makes him feel better that he’s encouraging them to be more useful. 
    Here’s a moral to that story. Don’t ever find yourself on the “User List.” 
    (But feel free to steal that idea, because I did) 
    Don’t use LinkedIn to solely get ahead. Be an active participant. Reach out with information to people you know need a new role, post interesting articles, event invites, “like” stuff. Heck, just write someone a note to congratulate them on a promotion or share their updates. I promise people don’t care what you do, just do something other than take!
    Trend #5: You’re not connecting the right way. 
    Why this matters. I can thank LinkedIn for connecting me to some really kicka*s people over the years. In the early days, I used LinkedIn to research my potential employers and colleagues. Sometimes I’d write them to send my cover that way vs. sending it into the dark abyss that is an HR department (no offense, guys). These days, I use it to learn about potential investors, corporate partners, amazing startup founders (seeing as how the Tech Wildcatters application deadline is January 18) and of course, my future hires. 
  • It’s all too tempting to click that juicy little “Connect” button on LinkedIn without a care in the world or any explanation. But if you truly want to connect the right way and potentially form a great relationship, it’s all in the introduction. If you don’t know someone, but want to connect because you’ve got an interest in knowing them online (or eventually in person), then you have to do it right. 
    I get a lot of wonderful messages and connection requests from people telling me exactly which Forbes article they read and how it impacted them. I connect with them immediately because it means they care about the things I also care about. I’ve also gotten messages from people telling me they saw me speak, heard about Tech Wildcatters or ViewMarket, or happened to run across me at another time in my career. I connect with them too. Showing an interest in my space means that even if I don’t know you now, there’s a chance we’ll have something to talk about in the future.
    Blind requesting is a little weird (albeit somewhat standard in the LinkedIn world), but it’s not ideal. If you’re trying to connect with someone in a genuine way, you’ll score major points by starting an actual conversation. Explain yourself. Tell them why you’re connecting or why you’d like to form the relationship. It literally takes two minutes and I’m telling you, it goes a long way. The site is designed for you to do this! It gives you a blank message window with which to write whatever the heck you want to write. So delete the template wording and write something real. 
    I’ve actually become friends and business colleagues with total strangers I’ve connected with on LinkedIn. That’s more than can be said of any other social media outlet (ok, to be fair, Twitter has been great here for me too). 
    Trend #6: You’re not sharing enough. 
    Why this matters. Some of the smartest people I know post free information on the daily here. Are you consuming it? If you love it, then share it. If you enjoy blogging, then publish your own piece of advice now and then.
    LinkedIn has this great posting feature that doesn’t require you to have a blog or any clout whatsoever to share information. Just write stuff. Share things. Like things. Get engaged in the community and it will be returned to you in some surprising way.
    At the very least, people will begin to understand that head on your shoulders actually has something inside it.  One of the best and most interesting ways to learn is through each other. Book recommendations from people you admire, news from outlets you’ve never heard of, things happening in the world you wouldn’t know otherwise…this all comes from information sharing. Contribute. 

    Trend #7: You’re not using it. 
    Why it matters. Contrary to using others, you should use LinkedIn as much as possible. Again, if you simply need your face on LinkedIn, just so you don’t look like you’re super technologically unadvanced…then you’re doing great. But if you want to get something out of the site, you’ll have to use it. 
    Use it like the startup founder I met the other day and wow someone in a meeting. Log into LinkedIn on your lunch break instead of wasting your time on some other form of social media. Try out some of the tactics I mention above and see where it gets you. It’s worth a shot. 
    Molly is the Executive Director of Tech Wildcatters an internationally-known seed accelerator program for B2B startups, the co-founder of ViewMarket, founder of and a regular contributor to Forbes. When she’s not in the office, she’s teaching yoga, hanging with her two greyhounds and thoroughly enjoying her gift of ADD.


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