LinkedIn and Professionalism: Some Unsolicited Advice

February 24, 2017

In my rookie social media days many years ago, several of my accounts were connected. Yeah, I'll admit that. Such a faux pas, I know. I had my accounts connected so I could publish one update, and it would be shared to all my channels.




Luckily, in the past 10 years, I've learned better.


But there was one instance that stood out to me in that time of cross-promotion madness. During a heated football game, I tweeted support for one of my favorite teams.


And it came through to LinkedIn.


Almost immediately I got a notification that someone commented on my post. It read, "This is LinkedIn. Not Facebook. Try to be a little bit more professional."


I knew the person who wrote it. It was a man who recently sold me some insurance. So I decided two things that day:

  1. I was going to find a new insurance agent.

  2. I was going to separate my social media accounts and manage each one a little bit differently, with content that was better suited for each one. Because, more than anything, I wanted to avoid the LinkedIn Appropriateness Police.


The LinkedIn Appropriateness Police

You know them. We all know them. And some of us have been them.

According to the user agreement for LinkedIn, each user is expected to use the site in a professional manner, yes. But what constitutes as professional these days? Many workers, entrepreneurs and individuals make little-to-no distinction between who they are and what they do for a living, so simply accusing someone of not being professional is no longer valid because professionalism takes many forms.


Just Stop

So if you're part of the LinkedIn Appropriateness Police, here are three things to stop doing or saying in 2017. Trust me, it's going to make social media more pleasant for everyone.

  1. Commenting or interacting with posts that are "iffy". Did you know that when you like or comment on someone's post your network is likely to see it? Yes, that means when you comment "such a beautiful girl" in a creepy way on a woman's picture or "that's not appropriate!" on a political post, it speaks VOLUMES about who you are to your network (presumably, the people you'd like to do business with someday). Plus, you elevate that post and expose it to a new network of possible fans. The bottom line is that you are the reason why ideas and posts spread, even the ones you disagree with. Be mindful with what you choose to interact.

  2. Thinking your work should speak for itself. Nope. Organic reach is going to be more and more difficult to achieve over the next several months, and many people are turning to the fine art of shameless self promotion. Good. Let them. Don't hate on anyone who is proud of their hard work and accomplishments. You'll see many of these posts going around from time to time. Selfies in a new office or at a new desk, perhaps. Hey, it's okay for people to share this kind of stuff. They're not breaking any rules by tooting their own horn.

  3. Expecting a businessperson to look/act a certain way. Many of us (especially in the creative field) have gigs and side gigs that encourage us to be diverse in our thoughts, actions, convictions and beliefs. And these diverse professionals are going to find more ways of being disruptive on sites like LinkedIn because we're encouraged to be disruptive in our jobs. It's just what we do. We challenge. Many don't work a traditional 9-to-5, and most of us don't dress formally for our jobs, and that informality is certainly going to be reflected in our profiles and posts on this site.


Some Unsolicited Advice

The LinkedIn User Agreement is pretty open to interpretation and not very specific when it comes to what people should/shouldn't do. Posts that are "objectionable" are frowned upon, and certainly you can't harass anyone. But words like objectionable and professional are really ill-defined when it comes to this platform.


That being said, if you are representing a company or corporation on LinkedIn and are connected to that company in any way, you are still held liable for how you represent that organization. Be sure to read up on whether or not they have a social media policy and what they expect from their employees.


But other than that, it's time that we loosened up about what's considered professional enough or good enough for this channel and audience. Keep an open mind and make sure that your posts have SOMETHING to do with how you make a living. Or not, in some cases. The lines between who we are and how we're employed are blurrier than ever, so it's absolutely appropriate (and very okay) for people to let their personalities shine through on this otherwise corporate network.


Speaking of LinkedIn, connect with me here for much more unsolicited advice. 

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