Coping with LinkedIn’s Culture of Change without Angst
Even by LinkedIn’s standards, the social network is going through a great deal of change lately. It is most visible today in major changes to LinkedIn’s messaging, the upcoming re-invention of Groups, and a new look to the site. The rate of change probably won’t slow much in the near future.
LinkedIn is also focusing on massive growth, partly to convince investors that LinkedIn can continue to generate profits. The need for profits leads to increased monetization of the site. Mergers with Lynda.com and Slideshare also lead to more monetization, but also to learning opportunities. There are external forces at work, too. Recent news about lawsuits, stock prices, and even an amazing report of Iranian spies creating fake profiles for espionage purposes can all raise personal psychological strife.
There’s a trendy business acronym that complements all this angst, VUCA, which stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiquity. LinkedIn is not immune. As with all complex situations, it’s important to treat these different problems as distinct and not combine all of them into one unsurmountable force.
So What’s a LinkedIn Member to Do?
First, take a big breath and relax. You don’t have to take ownership of all of LinkedIn’s problems. In life change is constant. In LinkedIn, unannounced change that surprises even their Help staff is definitely constant. You don’t need to respond to it all at once.
Join Some Groups Today
LinkedIn has announced changes in Groups that will completely change how we find and join groups. Many will be hidden from search. If you read this before the changes occur, do a search for Groups that match your interests, your learning projects, your industry, even your hobbies. Join them today because next week many won’t show up in search and you may only be able to join if the group administrator sends you an invitation. Follow up when you have time. You can always drop a group if it doesn’t make sense to stay. [LinkedIn appears to have made the Groups changes earlier than anticipated, just before this article was posted, so it’s too late to take advantage of the interim. The good news is that it appears fewer groups decided to be hidden, although some good ones have. We’ll look for new techniques for finding hidden groups soon.]
Start at the Beginning
In times of change, it’s often good to review the basics.
Start with your Profile. Ask yourself:
- Is it up-to-date?
- Do you have a good photo?
- Does your title match your goals?
- Is your history fairly complete?
- Do you have links to your other Twitter, social media accounts and blog (if appropriate)?
- Is your profile merely a look back at your history or a good marketing piece for your future career?
Review your LinkedIn goals. Why did you join LinkedIn? What are your networking and professional goals? Can you do more (on LinkedIn and elsewhere)?
Sit back and see what happens to Groups
LinkedIn wants to change groups to make them less confusing, to promote conversation, and to reduce spam. They may succeed or they may not. (See the LinkedIn Curmudgeon’s take, on this blog, in LinkedIn Groups Seeing Big Changes.)
Relax and watch how change happens to groups. Sure, the Group administrators are worried, but you don’t need to absorb all the angst. Some groups will thrive, others will probably die. Some will move elsewhere. The LinkedIn Experts group moved to Google+ a few years ago and it’s thriving. Other group leaders are looking at other social media. Some may move to Facebook, or Google+, or expand elsewhere. (This, actually, is not new.)
Prepare to Learn
If you are in business, you know change is constant and that you need to keep learning. LinkedIn is no different, just don’t try to do it all at once. Spend just ten minutes 2-4 days a week to try something new (explore the new messaging tools, look at one of your new groups, reconnect with an old LinkedIn contact).
Connect with somebody who writes about LinkedIn (ahem), but send a personalized invitation. (See how to write Incredible, Irresistible LinkedIn Invitations.) LinkedIn also let’s you Follow people without an invitation. Just use the drop-down menu on their profile and click, “Follow.” (See The Complete Guide to Following on LinkedIn for more info.)
We’re all in the same boat. We’re all learning and dealing with change. Try new things and expect others to try new things. Some will work, some won’t. Be patient with those who do the unexpected.
Offer to Help and Share Ideas
In times of change, a sincere offer to help might be the best thing one has to offer. If you can’t help, offer to try to find a solution.
Follow blogs and LinkedIn Posts
Not all bloggers have embraced LinkedIn Publishing (and LinkedIn is certainly NOT embracing all bloggers). Follow other blogs with Feedly or check their Twitter feed. Check LinkedIn Publisher for posts about LinkedIn, too. Use LinkedIn’s Posts search to find new articles in your field. Some of them will be excellent; others less so. Invest a few minutes regularly to find new ideas. Share them.
Massive Growth is LinkedIn’s Strategy, Not Yours
Just because LinkedIn’s executives plan massive growth to attract investors doesn’t mean you have to do the same. In a time of change, be open to new connections, but you don’t have to accept every unpersonalized invitation you get. In fact, it’s perfectly acceptable to send a private message back before accepting an invitation and asking why they wanted to connect. If they don’t respond to a personal message, they probably wouldn’t be such a great connection, anyway.
But remember those goals we talked about above. If you are in sales, recruiting, or job hunting, expanding your network strategically might be a very good thing to do.
Recognize there are fake accounts on LinkedIn. With a little practice, you can learn to spot many of them. Be mildly skeptical, but don’t lose sleep over them.
Hold on to your Wallet
LinkedIn is telling everybody they need to upgrade to a paid account and they should do it now. As George and Ira Gershwin wrote many years ago, It Ain’t Necessarily So. Again, set your goals and your priorities. See our article on the different LinkedIn upgrade plans in LinkedIn Updates and You (from last November).
If you are job hunting, there’s no sense in upgrading your account if you haven’t even completed your own profile. An upgrade will not automatically attract people to your profile, nor can anybody guarantee recruiters will flock to it.
LinkedIn upgrades are much more expensive than a year ago. It may make more sense to spend a smaller amount on Lynda.com for online training (including classes about LinkedIn) or to buy some books about using LinkedIn, than to spend a larger amount on LinkedIn upgrades. Have a plan before upgrading.
Go Off LinkedIn
Remember, LinkedIn’s problems are not your own. In times of online change, sometimes you need to take a break.
Be sure to get out of the house and do some live networking, especially if you are job hunting. Never forget that online and offline networking are both about people, not racking up numbers of connections or spamming others.
Don’t Hold on to Bad Habits
If something isn’t working on LinkedIn, try to learn why. You may find that it’s now time to try something different. There’s a big world out there. Try new things and visit new places.
Finally, enjoy! Social Media, even Business Social Media, should not be all work and no play. If there is no joy and no sense of wonder at the amazing things out there, take a break and recharge.
LinkedIn exists to serve you, not to have you serve it. Let LinkedIn deal with the problems and make their own mistakes. You don’t need to take on the stress yourself.