Despite the constant use of the words “social media” in every second conversation these days, a very large proportion of people have not yet taken the plunge. I don’t blame them, frankly, because even just the term “social media” is starting to grate on me too and I’m a big fan!
But if you think you might like to get your feet wet, LinkedIn is a good place to start. It takes very little time and the “unwritten rules” of engagement are pretty straightforward. Now, I’m not just talking about setting a basic account and then calling it a day … I’m talking about logging in to LinkedIn regularly and actively engaging via status updates, group discussions and Q&As. So from my little coffee spot, here’s the things I think you need to know before you get wet:
#1: Provide value
While it’s completely acceptable on twitter to note what you’re having for lunch, the folks on LinkedIn are generally “all business, all the time.” This means that if you’re going to post a status update or start a discussion, it should add value. If your update can help others improve knowledge or skills, build their businesses, do their jobs, solve problems, or understand networked video connectivity better — then it’s adding value.
#2: Write what you know
A follow-on to rule #1, your best bet for status updates and joining in on group discussions is to stick to your own particular area of professional expertise.
#3: Don’t push products
It’s perfectly fine to share a link to your company’s news release in your status update, but the minute you go into a group discussion and start promoting a specific product to the other members, they will “turn off” immediately. The unwritten code in group discussions is to share expert advice and knowledge, but not to sell anything.
#4: Be careful with your opinions
There is a fine line between a healthy debate and an incendiary reaction. A flame war can spark up online easier than anywhere else and once it gets going, it’s really hard to stop it. So it’s best to be careful and respectful. Before pressing “publish,” a good litmus test is to ask yourself: “Would I say these exact same words out loud, and to someone’s face, in a business meeting?”
#5: Don’t overdo it:
Remember, LinkedIn is not Facebook or Twitter. As I noted in #1, its users are generally strictly for business. For this reason, I don’t personally recommend updating your status in LinkedIn more than once a day. As for the automation feature that allows your Twitter steam to be automatically posted into your LinkedIn status, I wouldn’t do it unless you tweet very infrequently and almost exclusively about business-related subjects.
It’s a new world, but the old rules still apply
Unlike the world I grew up in, there is no longer a clean line between your personal life and your professional life. That’s because Google and all of its social media cousins make it so simple for anyone to find out where you work. What that means, for example, is that if I join in on a group discussion on LinkedIn, the other group members are only one click away from seeing only my name to seeing who my employer is.
This ultra-connected world we live in is new for everyone, so mistakes are bound to happen. But just because it’s a new world out there online, I still think the age-old mother’s advice applies really well: “If you make a mistake, say you’re sorry” and “If you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all!”