At the end of June, my contract at the current organisation ends. After working there on two different contracts for the last couple of years, I have built up a great network of people with different skills across technology, banking, retail and support.
However, I didn’t realise this until late but it dawned on me that all these people in my network were in Yammer, our enterprise social network – and I will lose this network when I leave the organisation! (Yammer ties in with your organisational email address, leave the organisation, your email disappears, asta la vista Yammer)
So in the last week, I have been furiously reconnecting with them on LinkedIn (and meeting up with them in person) and cursed myself why I didn’t have the foresight to see this sooner.
Lesson Number 1 for any contractors (or for anyone really):
If you’re on the enterprise social network of the company you’re working with, also connect with your networks via an external social platform (such as LinkedIn) to ensure that they aren’t lost when you leave the organisation. (This will be more important in the future workplace which may see us flow in and out of projects).
Lesson Number 2: There may be a social media explosion in the world but the email rats are still alive
If you’re working for a company that has locked down its social media, you’re more than likely to find that your internal network may not have a social media presence. (Or, if they do – it’s not one that is used for work but may instead be a personal Facebook account which they may not want to share with you). After my surprising experience with the Future of Work Conference this week where I met people who did not have LinkedIn accounts nor carried business cards (or indeed didn’t understand social media), this made me think of how I was networking with people who hadn’t made that ‘social’ journey.
Instead, I was kindly invited to send them an email of introduction … but they’re going to be waiting a long time for that from me.
Lesson Number 3: Don’t Lose the Business Cards Just Yet
Be polite. Exchange the card but scan the card or tag it to your hearts content in your own time – not in front of the other person IF they don’t understand what you’re doing.
If they have never heard of words like, “Tag”, “Evernote” or “QR Code” or “Gone Paperless”, you come across as a geek if you take a snapshot of their business card and hand it back to them. I know, I’ve been there. Learned that lesson early enough.
Many people aren’t ready for this new networking etiquette.
Lesson Number 4: The words, “social” and “media” put together induce a sleep state. Networks pique curiosity but also blank looks.
To my best intentions, I tried not to mention these words together. In 99% of people I’ve come across – they think it’s about Facebook and I’ve already lost them. However, ‘networks and community’ are more acceptable…until you mention the “social media” or “technology” and it’s back to square one.
Sometimes I catch myself thinking, “If I had time travelled back into the Mad Men era and was sitting in the cigarette smoke filled boardroom with Don Draper, how would I explain what I do to him in a meaningful and logical way?”
Well last night I had the opportunity to test that theory out to a large audience when I was selected from the audience to come up onstage for a chat with English comedian Tim Vine who was here for the Melbourne Comedy Festival. I love his puns and general silliness so if there was anyone who was going to give me good feedback about how I sound when someone asks me “So what do you do Helen?” it would be him.
Needless to say, look at his reaction…Wha?
Enough of the silliness. Let’s be serious now.
Recently I attended a presentation by LinkedIn to our organisation. They had analysed the profiles that were from our organisation and exclaimed that only 1% of the entire organisation was connected to each other on LinkedIn. I found this fascinating simply because I know many people in our organisation, but also many family and friends and previous colleagues all in professional work who do not have an account. Or if they do have an account, their organisation does not allow social media access so they have chosen to be an “Anonymous” user which is pointless. Why even bother having an account?
Luckily, our organisation encourages everyone to have a LinkedIn profile. One part of the business (not ours) mandated the use of the LinkedIn widget into their email signature blocks so that their external customers could connect with them and actively encouraged their people to share their work, reports and any information that would be relevant to their customer target markets to create their own networks and build trust with the people handling their accounts.
(I liked this idea so much that I started to use it in my own internal email signature block as I’m trying to promote my profile across my internal networks). This particular business also rolled out structured learning through virtual classrooms on basic and advanced use of LinkedIn for their people so that there was a consistent use in the tool.
Within my own HR and Learning and Development teams, I have coached people in how to set up their LinkedIn accounts and provided some basic training around the functionality of the tool. However the questions I am asked are less on the functionality (because people are happy to experiment and play around with the tool to create their profile in the way that they want) but more on the approach of how I use the tool to connect.
Here are some questions I have been asked that you may also find of interest:
Q. Should I upgrade to Premium?
Your call. I haven’t. I find it expensive and question its value for the way I’m using it. I use the tool simply as my online business card directory and online profile – and sometimes participate in a group or two. I started on LinkedIn in 2005 and have used much of its functionality extensively around creating communities. It was instrumental when I used it to connect with other Rotary Clubs around the world to create community of increasing membership of businesses into Rotary in Australia, US and UK.
However, if you are just starting out then the basic profile will adequately meet your needs.
If you happen to be a business professional who wants to create customer networks and use the full functionality of the tool such as extensive searches and the ability to email someone beyond your network then you may find an upgrade will allow you to extend your network wider.
Q. This person has asked me to connect but I don’t know him. Should I?
Your call. It’s a good question. Personally, I don’t like generic requests to connect but I don’t automatically decline them either because they may know me through some other social media account like Twitter. I always read their profile and make a decision based on what they have written and their experience in my field – or an associated field.
I usually decline all profiles that :
- Do not have a photo
- Written poorly (and this does not mean if the person is from a non-English speaking background)
- “Big note” themselves
I accept invitations where:
- We work in the same organisation
- We have connected in person or online through social media
- Have a personal introductory email such as “I follow you on Twitter and found the post on XYZ helpful for my work…”
- Have written recommendations from their colleagues and clients
Just make sure you don’t go viral like this recent email response from Kelly Blazek’s as she responds to someone who tried to connect with her.
Q. Should I connect with someone on LinkedIn?
Your call. Usually when I attend events and conferences, I like to exchange business cards (or add people to my Twitter Lists) and then connect with them through LinkedIn by providing a short introductory email recalling our chat and politely asking for an invitation to link up. I have seen others also provide links to other helpful information or posts on the internet as a follow up to the conversation in the spirit of sharing and exchanging knowledge. I like that. It goes to show that the other person has been mindful and recalled what was discussed.
It’s a bit of give and take.
What I don’t like is that sometimes I click too quickly and send out those generic requests myself usually exclaimed with a “DOH!” afterwards. Why? There is a function on LinkedIn is under People You May Know. Underneath the profiles there are two buttons: a “Connect” and a “Personal Message”. Tip: Click on Personal Message to structure your email and personalise your message.
Q. Do I have to provide LinkedIn updates on what I’m doing?
Your call. Personally, I send them out on rare occasions and only if I have a message to promote that would be of interest to my professional network (as many of them are not on other social media like Twitter). I have also linked up my WordPress site to LinkedIn but once again, I choose what blog posts are seen on LinkedIn versus others that get wide dissemination such as Google+, Twitter and Facebook. The reason for this is that I find that some of my professional network on LinkedIn may not be as open to what I’m sharing online.
I also strongly recommend to people they don’t treat their LinkedIn profile like their Facebook posts.
Q. I want to view someone’s profile but I don’t want them to know that I’m doing that. Can I view their profile anonymously?
Your call. But I’d be asking the question why. What are you hiding? Why do you want to hide? Still, I have had instances where I wanted to do the same such as looking up people who I had a disastrous job interview to find out their employment background. But I don’t even bother looking at profiles anonymously. What’s the point? The fact that they’re online and it’s open means they’re able to accept that people will look into their profiles. If they have a problem with this then they shouldn’t be on social media.
But the answer to the question is yes. Check out the Privacy Controls under Select What Others See and click on Anonymous. I wouldn’t advise it though as you wipe out your user profile statistics. (I haven’t tried this but have read other posts that this occurs. If someone has any experience of this, please feel free to leave a comment).
Q. I don’t have many connections. Should I be worried?
No. Not at all. Your connection will grow with time. I wouldn’t worry about this at all. However, just be mindful of how others may perceive your profile with this information. For example, if I am looking at a profile and it doesn’t have much information or there’s too few contacts, it tells me that the person is guarded – or just starting out.
Q. I don’t need a LinkedIn Profile. I refuse to have one. I don’t want to be on social media. I am not comfortable with social media. I value my privacy online.
Your call. I respect your right to privacy on the web. Think about what this means to your reputation in the market so consider how you will explain this to others who are. The world is slowly becoming divided to those who are online and those who aren’t and assumptions and stereotypes will be made between both parties about their use or refusal of social media.
There may be genuine reasons for you not having an online presence or ensuring your anonymity on the web (all power to you if you can maintain this) however explain why to the people who may need to connect with you in other ways or risk them assuming that you’re a luddite, not open to sharing or hiding something. This may not be the case at all so give them ways to connect with you as you may be missing on wonderful opportunities to connect with great people.
Q. Our organisation has a strict Social Media Policy and I’m not allowed to have a LinkedIn profile.
Is this a convenient excuse not to have one, are you fearful of social media or genuine about maintaining your privacy?
If it’s the former and you want to learn more and even curious about getting one, I’d strongly recommend approaching your employer and seeking permission to create a profile. After all, you may be pleasantly surprised by their response.
Not having a profile severely limits your own networking opportunities for professional and personal development and advocating your employers brand.
Personally, I now question whether I can ever work for a company who prevents me from using and accessing social media for my work and development.
And no, creating a ‘dummy’ profile is useless. Create a proper one or don’t create one at all.
Q. Should I put a photo on my profile?
Yes but it should be a professional one of course.
This is a great tip that you may choose to do for your own organisation: Our organisation hired a professional photographer to come in and take headshot profile photos so that we could all put them on our online directory, Yammer or Linked In profiles – all for a donation to a charity. The call was put out via our intranet and Yammer and many people flocked to the rooms to get their photos taken. Something as simple as this was a great way for the organisation to show that they are supporting how the media is used and also help create a great profile – as well as support a charity.
You may have noticed that I had a lot of Your Call in my responses.
People ask me many questions about social media expecting that I will give them immediate answers to how they should be using it but my answer is always the same. Your Call. It may be a frustrating response but really, there is no right or wrong but there is only one way – your way – but YOU need to manage your online brand and reputation not anyone else.
Think of how you want your online profile and reputation to be created and then follow that because how I use social media may not be the way you want to use it.
If anything the best thing you can do is before you even touch the tools, think about how you want to be portrayed and think about the tools that will enable you to achieve what you want. For some, a simple LinkedIn account is enough. To others, a whole social media strategy for networks is in order.
What is evident is that your networks are important and even more so finding work in the future.