One of Twitter’s many advantages is its ability to deliver snarky one-liners in 140 characters or fewer. Case in point: following the widely publicized hack of LinkedIn’s database last week, this gem appeared on Twitter: “LinkedIn announces major database breach, reminding millions of people that they have a LinkedIn account.” Another Twitter zinger, “What are the hackers going to do? Send me more unwanted connection requests?”
Do these pokes ring true for you? You almost certainly heard about the hack and, like me, you may have changed your LinkedIn password to be on the safe side. But it was the first time I’d checked into my LinkedIn account in months, and it might well be the last time for months to come. This is mostly because LinkedIn isn’t really a dynamic environment: unlike Twitter or Facebook, I rarely check in to see what’s new or to publish original content.
It’s not as if LinkedIn doesn’t have issues. I’m not the only user who has experienced a rising tide of connection requests from “Friends” who turn out to be complete strangers who don’t even bother to introduce themselves. Most LinkedIn Groups punch below their weight, ending up light on useful content and networking and heavy on spammers and solicitations unless constantly monitored by their founders. Given all these concerns and more, does it even make sense to maintain a LinkedIn account?
As with many rhetorical questions, the answer to this one is yes. Here are ten pretty good things that LinkedIn does for me:
- It’s my 24/7 globally available CV, showing off who I am and what I can do to potential clients or employers.
- It’s my free online Rolodex, keeping track of and cross-referencing all my contacts (and their networks) worldwide.
- It’s a content distribution system, circulating my Twitter feed, slideshare videos or blog posts to a large professional audience.
- It’s a low-pressure way to “follow up” an initial personal meeting and advance a relationship — an “applied business card.”
- It allows me to show off my network of contacts to those who want to know how and to whom I’m connected.
- It allows me to examine other people’s network of contacts, especially those who want to connect with me.
- It allows me to expand my network by adding new contacts — so long as I do so cautiously and respectfully.
- It suggests people to whom I might like to be connected — and can be surprisingly good at making suggestions.
- It allows my contacts to recommend me and my work — testimonials that link the reader directly to the testifier.
- It allows me to join and participate in Groups which, while spam-prone, can still be great content and networking resources.
Oh, and lest I forget: all these benefits cost precisely $0 (unless you pony up for the LinkedIn Premium version, which is still only $25 per month).
Are you making use of all these LinkedIn options? I’m by no means a frequent LinkedIn user, yet I still derive all these benefits just through casual use. There are many ways to “supercharge” your LinkedIn experience, of course, and if you employ some of them, I’d welcome your recommendations in the comments below. But LinkedIn’s value persists even if you don’t employ it very often, because you don’t have to put a lot in to get a lot out. That’s a major selling point especially for lawyers, who simply don’t have much available social media bandwidth.
LinkedIn succeeds with its professional audience, I think, precisely because compared to other social networks, it isn’t flashy, frivolous, or in-your-face (not to mention cavalier with its privacy settings). It’s steady, it’s unspectacular, and maybe most importantly, it’s low-maintenance: you don’t have to invest a lot of time and effort (to say nothing of money) to reap most of its ongoing benefits. That’s why I still have a LinkedIn account. How about you?