By Glen Stevens, Senior Sales Executive, SSCS North America

Are your actions and choices enabling a playground, or are you demanding a multi-dimensional resource?

You’re likely reading this because the title indicated that this might be something more than the traditional “LinkedIn is Not Facebook” post. You’re right and I hope to provide content that lives up to your expectations. In fact, this article is a “call to action” to lead by example and refrain from enabling this venue to become reduced to a venue for unhelpful noise.

Think about why you visit LinkedIn: what is your purpose? Is it to relax, to feel good or be inspired? Is it to push a very personal agenda, perhaps across politics or religion? If any of these are valid for you, please read on to understand that the original purpose of LinkedIn was not any of these. And not appreciated by the majority of LI users today – especially not for the IT professional!

Many new users of LinkedIn grew up with Facebook, Instagram and others and are applying the very same principles and techniques to LinkedIn – and this is erroneous logic. I call this the Facebook-ification of LinkedIn. Additionally, for many new users, their employer hasn’t yet understood LinkedIn’s value/purpose and inadvertently enabled a daily tactic that bypasses an objective, a strategy and protocols for behavior, with regular activity audits.

The original purpose of LinkedIn was to establish an incredible resource – one that started with networking, but would grow to include very helpful content. Very simply put, it was intended as an incredible and multi-dimensional resource – one that would continue to evolve in a positive way. For any senior executives reading this blog, this message is for you: LinkedIn is NOT just a place to find a job!

Many users, especially the modern IT professional, visits LinkedIn almost daily for: (1.) a place to learn more about their job or their industry, (2.) industry news, (3.) industry trends and even (4.) role-related best practices. It is a place where one goes to better themselves with content significantly meatier than motivational poster content or a heart-warming picture of a cute kitten sleeping beneath a vase of roses. Some will visit LinkedIn for news beyond their industry, by following Groups or news organizations’ company profiles. Even a few of my peers no longer watch the news or read the newspaper, but prefer the “bite-sized” information share of LinkedIn. It’s fast. It’s easy to find information or discover something new. If used properly, LinkedIn can become the most important professional development tool available to the IT professional, his/her team and the executive team.

It is absolutely up to users to drive the continued value of LinkedIn, as well as its evolution as an amazing resource. My good friend, Shane Perry, recently said to me, “Libraries and schools are no longer the keepers of all knowledge.” Think about that for a moment and about how powerful a statement that is in 2018. Here’s an addition from my friend, Brent, “The traditional resources for knowledge will continue to set a base for the principles of learning; however, the potential of LinkedIn is that it can help build a much-needed agility in learning for the modern business person. But, much more than evolving our abilities to learn quickly, LinkedIn must continue to be a multi-dimensional resource/conduit for the employee to glean much more than has previously been possible!”

From my own perspective, Facebook will continue to be a hotbed for, and an enabler of narcissism. Alternatively, LinkedIn users must be accountable for LinkedIn’s value by enabling business-appropriate utilitarianism, creating/distributing only content of educational value and ensuring that any comment/share/like is appropriate to/for their current employer and the user’s professional network.

Build a Better LinkedIn Resource for Yourself, the IT Pro:

  • Begin to “unfollow” (softer than a disconnect) those connections that fill your homepage feed with junk. Take immediate action on those users that are frequent abusers of information and content distribution. Here’s something to consider: Does your LinkedIn feed need to provide you the daily specials promoted by your auto-mechanic or do you need to see multiple human-interest stories shared/liked by your favorite niece? Or, do you want to see information that helps you do your job?
  • Think about your title/role. Look for LinkedIn “Groups” that are full of your peers and join these Groups. Then, watch to make sure the content shared is consistent to your role and simply leave the group if the content does not help you do your job.
  • Unfollow companies (or alma maters or sports teams) that do not enrich your feed or help your agility in your role. Seek out companies or groups or associations that challenge you and logic that is comfortable to you!
  • Turn off those auto-playing videos within your LinkedIn preferences. If you don’t, you’re simply enabling a distraction. Some videos are quite helpful, but so MANY of them are just poorly labelled/titled and are unclear about the content, value or intended audience. The auto-play feature is senseless.
  • Turn off and tune out the noise in LinkedIn that doesn’t help you!

Build a Better LinkedIn for all IT Professionals:

  • When you discover content that is appropriate to others in your company, there is no need to share it across your entire network. Instead, you can forward a link via InMail, or send an article to read via traditional email. You can also share role-appropriate content with peers inside a role-centric group or via InMail. Avoid being a “noise maker” to others in your network.
  • When you see human interest content, political rants or overtly religious content that could segregate, don’t engage. Don’t read, don’t comment, don’t engage. When their readership is eliminated, many who make this mistake will turn to other social media venues. Think about it, do any of these posts help you do your job or provide you or your employer any competitive edge?
  • Give kind, helpful and respectful feedback (even constructive criticism) to vendors/partners/individuals you follow when their content is unhelpful. This includes me, and my employer!

A Code of Conduct to Build for Yourself:

  • Build for yourself a purpose for using LinkedIn during office hours. Yet, be sure to consider yourself as a representative of your employer during off-hours and weekends.
  • Connect with those that might help you. Connect with those you may be able to help.
  • Help others, help others, help others. As long as you’re not being taken advantage of, be unconditional in your actions.
  • Build only content that is helpful to others. Write about what you know and let others write about what you do not.
  • Distribute content appropriate for all to your entire network, which is likely to include many kinds of people in many kinds of roles. For specific content, build as much “labelling content (titles)” as possible to help the reader triage themselves away from your content when it does not apply to their role.
  • Have a self-developed promise you create for your network, which would even help you choose who to retain in your network (see my promise below).

My Promise to My LinkedIn Network:

I promise to help friends and family build networks appropriate to them, but will avoid inconveniencing my professional business network of IT professionals to do so. I will refrain from distributing narcissistic content or content with an underlying political or religious agenda out of respect for my professional network. I will seek to help in all I do, yet I will insist that my LinkedIn homepage feed makes me a more knowledgeable IT professional, and an agile salesperson for my clients and new prospects. I will insist that my employer continue to produce relevant and helpful information for my professional network, just as I insist that very same standard for myself.

As you might imagine, I do welcome professional connections. Let’s help one another!

Glen Stevens, Senior Sales Executive, SSCS North America

Based out of Austin, Texas, this will be Glen’s sixth year with SSCS, and 19th year in leadership/sales roles after departing a respectable 12-year career in the U.S. Army. After leaving the army, Glen began his business career as a regional sales manager for Lipman USA and later founded and ran Smart Card Systems, out of Arlington, Texas. Several years later, he founded and ran another start-up called, Scope Dope. Aside from his naturally entrepreneurial nature, he also held sales leadership positions at Canadian Payments and iWave Information Systems, a unique subscription-based data-mining service for non-profits. Glen enjoys music, playing guitar, traditional outdoorsman activities and seeing his 21-year-old son playing music gigs throughout the Austin area. His 18-year-old daughter will be attending Texas Tech in the fall of 2018 and will be pursuing a concentration in Media & Communications.

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