LinkedIn... Is it Social Media or Professional Network Media?

As I approach the end of my MSc International Management at Royal Holloway, University of London School of Management, I have begun to spend more time on LinkedIn as I network and research prospective companies and contacts to find potential employment opportunities.  

Sites like LinkedIn allow you to reach out to like-minded people, university alumni, corporate role models and colleagues. Posting regularly will boost online presence and increase exposure. 

Yet as I scroll through the news feed, I cannot help but observe various levels of participation from individuals on LinkedIn. The range of topics discussed and posting behaviours have really interested me. I have seen both original posts and replies to posts that have made me cringe. 

My school of thought is that what you post on LinkedIn, reflects you as a professional, not as an individual. The casual way in which you might respond to a post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram has no place on LinkedIn. I believe that we should not respond to replies without great care, and consideration for the quality of our content. How we write will inadvertently reflect how we communicate to customers, colleagues and all other stakeholders within our professional field. 

That being said, we all have connections on LinkedIn that aren’t directly professional. Who isn’t linked to family and friends? As such we will most probably be supportive of their career endeavours and want to fortify their posts with a show of hands. This is what the ‘Like’ button is for. However, on LinkedIn our network is aware when we ‘Like’ as it appears in our LinkedIn activity feed, so consider going easy on the ‘Likes’ if they’re not professionally relevant reflections of you and your career, and maybe send a direct message instead.

Posting does not have to boring however. Some of my favourite posters on LinkedIn are incredibly humorous and creative writers. One of my connections on LinkedIn works in recruitment. She regularly writes job advertisements that need to spark interest. The clever and hilarious style in which she explains the positions for which she is recruiting is a treat. As a result, she has many followers who eagerly anticipate the next role advertised, not because they are necessarily job hunting, but because they enjoy the posts. When these people do need to reach out to a recruiter, who will be on their mind? The high quality and appeal of previous work seen on LinkedIn will attract positive attention. This is exactly what you want.

If you are going to post an article, statement, or even a reply to something. Proof read it, save it, and re-read it the next day to re-evaluate its relevance and quality. 

Ultimately, typos, personal shares, ill thought out statements and illogical opinions are a huge negative advertisement of your professional image. It is the equivalent of turning up to work in jogging bottoms and an egg stained T-Shirt.

So, before you post consider the following questions:

  1. Why am I posting / replying?
  2. Who is the person I am responding to and how do they link to me professionally?
  3. What does this post say about me?
  4. Does the topic relate to my field?
  5. If I don’t post, will it matter? What do I have to lose, by not posting?
  6. What value does this add to my online presence?
  7. Will this post potentially expose me to new positive professional connections? 
  8. If I’m currently employed, how does this post reflect on my organisation? Am I representing them appropriately?
  9. Is my reply well written, without spelling errors or significant grammatical mistakes?

After all is said and done, if you realise that there’s little value in replying, step away. 

In the words of Plato: ‘Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.’

* What are your thoughts? 
* How professional do you believe we should be on LinkedIn? 
* Do you believe employees reflect on your organisation?
* Would you tackle poor quality posts with direct reports

Michelle Sharples is a Public Health Nurse Executive who has worked in various health organisations, both private and NHS for over 18 years.

Soon to be graduate of Royal Holloway University of London School of Management, Michelle is now seeking a new and exciting challenge, which inspired the writing of this article.

Michelle’s personal motto is: ‘Whether in compliance or defiance, I will succeed’.