How Should You Use LinkedIn?


Social media may be the ultimate frontier proving the old maxim “you get out of it what you put into it.” My students at DePaul think LinkedIn is a joke; my Second City students rarely have profiles on it; everyone else I know runs the gamut from having an account and aggressively syncing up with everyone they meet to hardly touching theirs.

Every user has a different philosophy on how the site should be used and, indeed, how they go about executing that philosophy. I’ve covered my approach before and some of my apparently strange ethics about it — I’ll only greenlight a connection with you if I know you and we’ve worked together — but your mileage might vary. But it works for me.

All that aside, if you’re still developing your approach, you might want to read this Harvard Business Review meditation on the site’s purpose.

Here’s a snippet:

The problem of who to connect with on LinkedIn puzzles people precisely because the network itself is neither fish nor fowl. Is it a social network like Facebook, where your connections are (at least notionally) "friends"? A public platform like Twitter, where people can see and judge you on the number of your followers? Or just a really awesome address book? It’s actually all of these things.

The author of this piece used to go after anyone and everyone, but then had a change of heart. She realized she couldn’t connect with anybody because she “discovered that my promiscuity in making connections meant that most of my search results consisted of people I couldn't actually get introduced to.”

Therefore, she developed something called the “favor test,” where she eyes a connect request or someone she’d like to connect with and asks herself, “Would I do a favor for this person, or would I do one for them?” The answer, obviously, is whether you should sync up with them.

I’d say this is pretty good advice — hence my posting about it — and a really simple way to articulate to yourself whether you want to spread your name and reputation to someone you don’t know incredibly well. Not all instances of doing that will backfire, of course, but at least there will be a method to your madness with an approach like this.

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as IFC’s comedy, film, and TV blogger, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City and an adjunct professor in DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media. (He also co-runs a blog behind the DePaul class, DIY Game Dev.) He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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