LinkedIn operates like a benign nation providing an online community for professionals. And while LinkedIn citizens may experience hiccups occasionally in its’ pursuit of revenue, it’s still the best place to be online for business professionals.
LinkedIn: I’m all in.
So, I’m a citizen here, and I hope a good and effective one because all citizens are not good, nor effective. In any online community there are bad, lazy, and ignorant ones as well.
Bad citizens (trolls, scammers, sleazy marketers) are that way intentionally. There’s no hope for them because they don’t care about the community, or the value that comes from intelligent, meaningful conversation. They’re only here to spew, steal, and irritate.
For lazy citizens, there may be some hope. While they frustrate good citizens with banal, half-baked participation, they may eventually snap out of their lethargy. But it’s unlikely. They’re lazy for a reason; it’s easier.
However, it’s the ignorant citizens we hold out hope for because they care and can be saved; they’re just in the dark.
So, for those wanting to be a better, more effective LinkedIn citizen, here are six ways that’ll help move you beyond the basics of typical netiquette, and onwards to becoming a more valued and respected community member.
#1 Don’t be an Old Tool in a New School
LinkedIn provides new opportunities for buyers and suppliers to learn, educate, and share valuable knowledge through updates, posts, and discussions.
However, LinkedIn’s large population has attracted marketing’s late adopters, those who bombard audiences with old-style, interruption-advertising. Lately that kind of activity has noticeably ratcheted up in LinkedIn.
Ever see a LinkedIn update from a company you’re following about a new account they just signed?
Late adopter marketers are taking what they’re familiar with, and comfortable with, and replicating it in LinkedIn – where it doesn’t fit. If it looks like an ad – it’s an ad – not an update, or a post.
Stay Focused – Stay Clean
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying news about a company’s latest customer can’t be worthy – but just not by itself.
It has to be paired with, or placed in an educational or informational context to make it worthy of a LinkedIn update or post. For example:
- Why is this particular new customer important to the industry at large?
- What trends drove this customer to make the decision they did?
- What quantitative data shows the industry’s changing dynamics & why is it important?
A good citizen ensures their updates and posts include something that contributes to the larger conversation and interests of their customers, employees, and followers. They stay focused on the reason they’re publishing and they stay clean about what they publish – avoiding accidents of advertising.
#2 Avoid Preaching to the Converted
Sharing ideas, questions, articles and links is a powerful LinkedIn function for education and awareness.
Unfortunately, some citizens preach to the converted with their updates and posts. They share an educational piece with the same industry group they belong to – instead of sharing it with an appropriate (audience) group that would benefit more from that knowledge.
For example, a janitorial firm shares a post about “how-to” select the best janitorial firm – with fellow janitorial firms.
If the primary motive was to highlight that firm’s qualifications for customers to choose them, what’s the point of sharing it with other janitorial firms?
An Easy Fix: Face the Right Direction
Preach (publish) your sermons (shares) to the audiences who would most benefit from them. Find the groups where your intended audience (customers) hang out and share your informative pieces there.
Avoid improperly placed shares that clutter up groups and discussions with irrelevant distractions.
#3 Remove the Evil “I”
Ever read a post or update and the first letter, word, or thought is only about the author – that “I” thing?
Unless you’re Jack Welch or Richard Branson (or similar others), you’re not earth-shattering enough to hold readers’ attention.
And then there’s the whiff of hubris: “Tell me again, you’re who and why should I care?”
The Evil “I”, though a minor failure, is a telltale sign of a lack of respect, laziness, and/or ignorance on the author’s part. It shows they haven’t recognized we’re in the age of the “attention economy;” where audiences are overloaded with information and only have so much attention to spend.
When posts, updates, or online discussions start with “I” you’ve lost them at hello. – Chris Arlen
In addition to losing audiences, these citizen authors are potentially harming their personal brand. Publishing “I” content routinely brands them as egocentric and out of touch with current reality – obviously, not their desired outcome.
How to Remove the Curse
It can be tough to switch from “I” to a more audience-engaging voice. Here’s one path out of that swamp.
First, write your post or update as you normally would, and you’ll end up with an Evil “I” piece. Then go back and ask yourself the question “So what?” for every sentence and paragraph. Your answers will either be “it’s important to mebecause…” or “it’s important to others because…”
Rewrite your piece using answers from “it’s important to others because…” and you’ll have exorcised the Evil “I”.
#4 Skip the National Enquirer Headlines
Effective headline writing is a best-practice for online content. It generates enough initial interest in nanoseconds for audiences to click through and see if they want to read further.
This is obviously the desired result – except when a headline crosses a boundary and lowers the overall quality of LinkedIn discussions.
And it’s easy to spot a National Enquirer–type headline because it:
- Misleads – doesn’t reflect what the post/article is about
- Lies – disregards the lowest threshold of truth
- Panders – targets our baser instincts
I fear the day this post shows up in Pulse:
Alien Pregnant by Elvis, or How to Improve Interplanetary Work Relationships
And although I may read the above for entertainment value, that’s not why I’m a citizen of LinkedIn. If I wanted entertainment, I’d buy a National Enquirer. LinkedIn is for professionals and conversations about business.
Strive for the High Road
The boundary between effective headlines and National Enquirer-types can be easily and unintentionally transgressed.
Full disclosure: I’m guilty of provocative headlines, such as including the word “Naked” in my last post, or years ago briefly considering a gruesome description of cancer as business metaphor (luckily my wife stopped me in time).
But fight the urge, strive for the high road. Follow best-practices for creating engaging headlines. It only takes creativity and practice to remain a good citizen and help LinkedIn keep both feet out of the gutter.
#5 Add Insight to Curated Content
Most content curators are good LinkedIn citizens. They post links to content they feel their audience would be interested in.
And if the share is interesting, we click, and we’re hyperlinked away, possibly to begin a conversation on the landing destination. No point in commenting on the curated (beginning) share because there’s nothing there but the link.
When only links are shared, eventually you’re seen as a serial curator – busy, but not a highly valued contributor.”
– Chris Arlen
That’s a missed opportunity for curators because we respect them (or we wouldn’t be connected or following them). So, where is their opinion that gives us context, or their unique insight gained from experience? We’d read it, but it’s not there.
Curators can be more effective citizens if they take one more step beyond posting links only – add their viewpoint. That’s all.
A brief statement or question about the relevancy or context explaining the reason it’s worthy of sharing in the first place.
#6 Passionate -> Yes: Attacking -> Never
The World Wide Web is over 25 years old and yet many online communities still don’t have a netiquette standard. (LinkedIn has guidelines for the general community and guidelines for their Help Forum.)
Open, honest dialog and conversation can be confrontational and heated at times. Disagreement can be constructive if it’s respectful. But never should online exchanges be personally abusive or bullying.
Anyone crying “freedom of speech” foul to defend their online abuse or bullying is hiding behind a lie. Community guidelines should be clear, and behavior must conform to the standards, or the offender is banished. The greater good of a sustainable community transcends the infantile belief that one can say or do anything in a public forum in the name of free speech.
2-Steps to LinkedIn Netiquette
- You: Engage online as the good, effective LinkedIn citizen you want others to be
- LinkedIn: Please promote your netiquette guidelines more frequently and with higher visibility to users while they’re in your country – or revoke their passports
In addition to basic netiquette, follow these six ways and you’ll help LinkedIn remain a worthwhile community by practicing good, effective citizenship.
Improving LinkedIn Citizenship
- Don’t be an Old Tool in a New School
- Avoid Preaching to the Choir
- Remove the Evil “I”
- Skip the National Enquirer Headlines
- Add Insight to Curated Content
- Passionate -> Yes: Attacking -> Never
This article, “6 Ways to Improve LinkedIn Citizenship” was originally published in LinkedIn.