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LinkedIn Is Not Facebook – So Cut It Out

fb-vs-ln-newIn May 2003, the internet changed forever. A website was launched that enabled people from across the world or across the street to connect and interact with anyone, without ever leaving their home or office. They could give professional updates, share articles and opinions, even start their own groups for people with similar interests. You know that site as LinkedIn – not Facebook.

In previous years there were other sites launched with similar concepts, but LinkedIn is dedicated to being a professional networking platform where one goes to find a job or build a network. LinkedIn is not Facebook.

LinkedIn and Facebook, arguably the parents of today’s plethora of social media sites, both continue to grow and prosper simply because they are fundamentally different: one can yield a professional interview, sales call or networking event, while the other offers quality cyber-time with family and friends. Sadly, it seems that some people don’t know which is which.

On Facebook, anything goes  – provided you’re not a B2C business that uses Facebook for marketing (that’s another article altogether). In contrast, however one behaves at work, with a prospect or at an event is how one should behave on LinkedIn. As more people join LinkedIn, here are some suggestions as to what you should not be doing:

1) Your profile photo. A personal trainer posing in a sports bra. A salesperson wearing funhouse glasses to make him look like the Mad Hatter. A sales “guru” who calls himself a rainmaker standing in the…wait for it…rain. These are all real, and they are all wrong. Your profile photo should be one you would envision placing on your resume, if resume pics were required.

2) Your profile summary. This should highlight your skills, attributes, or selling points for someone to engage your services – like your About Us page on your website. This is not a poetic foray into your hopes and dreams. One profile described the member as a “muse”, but anyone viewing it will not be amused. Employers and prospects are unlikely to hire or engage you if they think you’re going to be pulling a Walter Mitty all day on their dime.

3) Irrelevant content. Posting jokes or memes only serves to portray you as a comedian, which was fine back in school, but you’re a grown-up now. Posting games or brain teasers? If you think your profession is a game, go ahead. But if you want that job or sale, avoid unprofessional content.

4) Polarizing stories or commentary. Although posting religious content is rare, political posts show up more than they should. It’s widely known that in “real life” social interactions, these are deeply held beliefs you do not discuss. If you want to offend an employer or prospect, post away – might as well make fun of their spouse while you’re at it. But of course you wouldn’t. And shouldn’t.

The point of the above is to remind you that what is acceptable behavior on Facebook is not acceptable on LinkedIn, and in some cases neither platform (again, an article for another day). This doesn’t mean that you must be robotic or banal, you can still show your human side, albeit as you would in a professional environment.

The above suggestions are merely general guidelines for success on LinkedIn, since some employers or prospects may not indict you for such behavior.  But in the business world, maintaining a professional demeanor (your brand) is the best way to have consistent results. An arbitrary approach to your behavior is not a recipe for success, and odds are more people than not will find it hard to swallow.