Be a person, not a bot: don’t cheapen your social media network with garbage-like invites

“Feel like a number
Feel like a stranger
A stranger in this land

I feel like a number
I’m not a number
I’m not a number

Dammit I’m a man
I said I’m a man.”
-Bob Seger

Those lyrics come at the end of “Feel Like A Number,” from the 1978 album, Stranger in Town. It chronicles the alienation that comes from being just another “spoke in the wheel” of some monolithic entity.

Don’t add garbage to someone’s in-box — it’s already overflowing with unwanted stuff

However, with disturbing frequency, it is the feeling that arises at least once a week when I receive a LinkedIn invitation from someone. The pattern isn’t slowing down, either, even though a growing number of people have had more time to adjust to this social media space and come to their senses.

It’s time, then, to issue another plea for common interpersonal sense. If you are prone to inviting people to link-in with you, based solely on words on a screen and not any real-life flesh-and-blood interaction, then this is especially intended for you: stop cheapening your social network by inviting every Tom, Dick and Harry who has some remote tie-in to you (such as the fact that you both reside on planet Earth.)

Each time you issue an impersonal, shot-in-the-dark LinkedIn invitation, you are contributing to the overflow of garbage in the world. You are also revealing some damaging details about yourself. It’s lazy, it’s presumptuous and it positions you as a LinkedIn lemming–a follower (of all the others committing this sloppiness) and not a leader.

When you meet someone, preferably in person but possibly otherwise, that’s the time when you should consider connecting on LinkedIn. As you do so, give context and briefly state how you see such a connection serving both parties. Consider writing a recommendation shortly later, to cement the relationship and add value.

If you find yourself with hundreds of connections, but hardly anyone for whom you could write a recommendation, then that’s a red flag.

Conversely, being able–and willing–to craft recommendations results in value that flows not only to the people you recommend, but yourself. After all, your connections’ networks are more apt to read the relatively tiny number of recommendations your common connections have received than wading through the long list of connections they have amassed.

So, a parting public relations and marketing tip for you as you consider your own version of You, Inc.: when you remember to treat people like individuals, not another spoke in some expanding wheel of superficial contacts, you build up the quality of your relationships.

And in a world where it doesn’t take much to have quantity on the surface, it’s the depth of your quality relationships that will serve you much more in the long run.

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‘Stretch Your Comfort Zone’ is my key message to Concordia University Chicago students

Yesterday, as part of the Concordia University Chicago College of Business Guest  Speaker Series, I shared key principles that have been integral to my professional and personal journey.

Many of the students in attendance are studying marketing. (Photo courtesy of Concordia University Chicago.)

Among those principles:

*Stretch beyond your comfort zone on a regular basis;
*Ask for help and seek out mentors in your field of endeavor:
*Value all people–not only those you think can help you;
*Look for ways to add value to others, without seeking anything in return.

Photo courtesy of Concordia University Chicago.

Speaking of stretching comfort zones: I shared a poster from my time, a decade ago, as the alter ego “Super Shopper Spotter” in the Village of Oak Park’s effort to spur on local shopping within the various business districts in the community. You can see the poster in the hands of the student in the image immediately on the left.

Thank you to Cathy Schlie, Marketing, Communication, and Events Manager for the College of Business, as well as professors and students who turned out–it was a most engaged audience and I appreciated the interaction and interest.

In light of the prominent role that business and personal networking has had in my career, it is fitting to note that Cathy extended the invitation for me to speak a few months after we met at an Oak Park – River Forest (OPRF) Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours event at the River Forest campus.

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Anatomy of A LinkedIn Recommendation

In a recent Inside Edge PR post, I outlined my philosophy of why I write recommendations for as many of my LinkedIn contacts as possible.

In this post, I share some of the how.

My approach to writing recommendations:

1. I do it whenever I feel I have enough knowledge and interaction with someone to write an endorsement with conviction and authenticity.

2. Periodically, I review the list to see if there is anyone whom I’ve not yet recommended but whose horn I could toot without thinking twice.

3. I try to do it in batches, getting myself in a recommendation-writing mode.

4. I try to provide enough detail that will be useful to both the person I’m writing about as well as those who are seeking to learn more about them.

5. I try, sometimes less successfully than others, to avoid cliches, fawning praise, and long-winded opuses.

6. Where and when appropriate, I like to interject some humor.

7. Here’s a new step: I just began to offer to put my words in writing, on my company letterhead, if someone wants it. I also ask if there’s anything they’d like me to revise, or add, that may be of particular help (as long as I believe in the change).

8. I do it without asking for a recommendation in return. If someone decides to reciprocate, I appreciate it. But this isn’t about obligating others to gush about how wonderful I am.

For a look at the recommendations I’ve made on LinkedIn, go here.

My Recommended LinkedIn Route

At this writing, I have 94 connections on LinkedIn, the professional online networking site.

But the figure that I’m more focused on is 35.

That’s the number of my connections for whom I’ve written recommendations. In my observation, most folks have a recommendation rate of less than 10 percent, some recommend maybe 1 out of 100 contacts, and still others have monumental lists of people, into the hundreds, with nary a recommendation in sight.

What makes those lists any better than a glorified address book?

Over the past two years, I’ve decided to take a markedly different approach and emphasize quality over quantity in my LinkedIn world. My reasoning is simple: I want to share honest praise about people whom I respect and value. After all, that’s often why I want to Link-In with them in the first place.

There are some potential benefits in the process.

First, because recommendations are relatively scarce, they stand out and visitors are more apt to read them and click on the recommender’s name to learn more about his or her background.

Second, as a writer, recommendations are an opportunity to showcase my ability to communicate. And, it shouldn’t be overlooked, you need not be a writer for that skill to be deemed a relevant professional asset.

By the way, here’s the door to my LinkedIn profile.