LinkedIn Diaries: Answering the Really Tough Questions

Andrew Z. Brown
Andrew Brown Senior Business Communications Professional, Write On The Money

Posted on October 13th 2011

While LinkedIn is without a doubt the social media tool of choice for business leaders across North America, many have confided in me that there a number of questions about the tool that they struggle with. In this entry of the LinkedIn Diaries, I answer the five most thorny questions that executives face when optimizing their LinkedIn strategies.

1. Who should I accept LinkedIn invitations from?

The decision to accept invitations to your list of connections should be driven by your goals for using LinkedIn. But, if you haven’t defined specific goals, an invitation is worth accepting when one or more of the following is true:

  • You would recommend the person requesting an invitation to another of your LinkedIn connections
  • You would call the person requesting an invitation and ask them for advice or for an introduction to someone in their network
  • By including them in your LinkedIn connections, they provide you with a window into a specific company or industry that is of interest to you

2. Should I always strive to increase the number of my connections?

The reality is that online or offline, we consistently draw on a relatively narrow list of individuals to enrich our personal and professional lives. In fact, Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist at Oxford University, recently found that the human brain — our ultimate limiting factor — can comfortably maintain a stable social network of about 150 people.  While that may seem like a small number, consider that if each of your 150 LinkedIn first order connections also have 150 connections, you are actually closely connected to 22,500 people.  The conclusion: focus on strengthening your bond with your closest connections.

3. Do I make my list of connections public?

At its core, LinkedIn is the ultimate connecting tool — built to enable you to establish or share relevant connections. You can accomplish this without openly sharing your list of connections. But, if you aren’t actively doing so, making your connections public can enable your connections to spark you into action — e.g. by requesting introductions from you. Before opening your list of connections, ask yourself one key question: Are you linked to any people who you would not want to connect with one another?

4. What  should I post and how frequently should I do it?

While some LinkedIn members update several times a day, others do so far less frequently. Before posting any update, you must be confident that:

  • You have something that you believe is truly relevant or of interest to your connections;
  • Your update helps to reinforce your professional brand; and
  • LinkedIn is an appropriate venue for posting the information.

5. What are the most important parts of my LinkedIn profile?

While those business professionals who use LinkedIn most successfully continuously experiment with the tool’s newly developed functions and features, research consistently finds that there are a few elements that are absolutely essential to get right:

  • Your picture. If you are going to participate on a professional social networking site, you must present yourself professionally and offer some degree of transparency — i.e. a willingness to share some information about you.  In a social networking setting, not having a picture is very often interpreted as having something to hide.

  • Your descriptor. This is the phrase that succinctly describes who you are. For example, my descriptor is Senior Marketing and Communications Professional. Often leaders default their descriptor to their formal title. But, as professionals, we are all more than our current title. The descriptor should sum up your core strengths and/or passion.

In the next issue of the LinkedIn Diaries, I will share insights from senior executives who limit their use of the tool to 15 minutes a day.

 Andrew Brown is president of Write on the Money. He helps senior executives harness the power of digital and traditional business communication tools (such as LinkedIn) and strategies.

Andrew Z. Brown

Andrew Brown

Senior Business Communications Professional, Write On The Money

For over 15 years, Andrew Brown has successfully driven change in companies leading to increased revenues and strengthened reputations. With a strong track record in B2B marketing, Andrew has launched and promoted over 150 products/services, spanning 15 industries across North America. By working directly with clients, channel partners and alliances, Andrew has developed integrated marketing/engagement strategies that effectively harness all traditional and digital marketing tools. In addition to developing innovative marketing solutions, Andrew: * Co-produces and co-hosts Canada’s most successful business podcast, the "BusinessCast" which has a loyal following of 100,000+ business leaders and owners * Contributes regularly to the Financial Post's "Executive" section on marketing tools, trends and techniques. * Serves on the volunteer Board of Advisors for the Product Management think tank, The Product Accelerators. Andrew has written two business books and over 250 thought-provoking articles that have appeared in The Financial Post, Marketing Magazine, Canadian Retailer, DotCommerce, HR Reporter, Direct Marketing News, National Relocation and Real Estate, TechVibes, Vue, the CMA blog and several other industry association journals.
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In reading this areticle I found a number of things that I would question.

They are based on the fact that getting actual business on LinkedIn is dependent on visibility and accessiblity if you aren't going to use a prospecting mode of engaging one person at a time.

If you are going to attreact good connections, then others must be able to find you.

And even in a prospecting mode your searches are limited if you don't have a large network.

In my opinion you must accept every inviation, not becuase that person will be your next customer, but because they are probably connected to a number of people who could be that you'll never get access to unless you connect.

Addtionally, re making your connections visible.

Your value as a networker is in helping others get connected. I would consider it bad form to hide your connections so that those in your network don't have the opportunity to seek and find valued connections they could use you to reach.

And finally the professional headline which you call the "discriptor."

This headline shows up in your mini profile when you post to the Q&A and in groups when one hovers over your picture. Putting your title is probably the weakest thing you could enter in this space as it doesn't engage or compel anyone to read about you -- unless maybe they are a recruiter and need your specific expertise.

I hope these comments are useful to other readers. For more tips on using LinkedIn see my LinkedIn Secrets blog at: