Prior to the invention of social media, your business card holder, Rolodex, or contact list was private property. Only you used the file and nobody else had access to it. Certainly, nobody could see who you were ‘connected’ to in your business life. It was your personal property and quite a valuable asset.
But then along came social media – and in the business world, LinkedIn.
Now, everyone you are connected to on LinkedIn is public property. You’re encouraged to make your contacts public knowledge, even praise them with ‘endorsements’ and promotion of their ‘skills’. The LinkedIn computers use algorithms to prompt you to connect with people, based on the profiles of your current connections.
Even worse, these machines suggest you wish your ‘connections’ happy birthday or happy anniversary – something most executives would never do if they didn’t have the online connection.
Almost everything you do on LinkedIn is public. Nothing is private any more. And that’s why you can lose business.
In my early days of creating a LinkedIn network, I decided to try a few of the ‘tools’. A client of mine (let’s call her Josie) with whom I’d worked a number of times in different roles in her career, asked me to recommend her on LinkedIn, as she was looking for a new role. I was a reference on her resume and had spoken with recruiters when she applied for previous roles. I thought “why not” – though I was a tad concerned about the public nature of my endorsement. But that’s just me.
So I wrote a glowing endorsement of her skills and expertise, and thought nothing more about it.
Once Josie started in a new role, she decided to review her agencies and invited my agency, along with others with whom she’d worked over the years, to present our credentials based on a real brief.
Obviously the incumbent agency wasn’t happy at the possibility of losing this piece of business. The principal of the agency, who I know well, checked Josie’s LinkedIn profile and noticed my recommendation.
He immediately contacted Josie’s boss and argued that the ‘pitch process’ was not a level playing field given the obvious relationship between Josie and myself. The boss agreed and Josie called me to say my agency was not allowed to pitch – despite the fact she has the upmost integrity and was reviewing more than one agency she had worked with previously. There was no guarantee my agency would get any business from her.
If I had simply remained a reference on her resume, this would never have happened. But because of the public nature of content on LinkedIn profiles, my endorsement had cost me a valuable business opportunity.
I’ve discussed this with others and they have had similar problems, where naive executives make decisions based on a few words in a LinkedIn profile. It’s why many of my C-Level contacts aren’t even on LinkedIn – they don’t need to be. And they don’t want others to know who is in their business network.
It’s why I no longer give public recommendations or endorsements to anyone on LinkedIn, though I do offer to be a reference as needed. For me, it’s not worth the loss of business or potential damage to my reputation.
This is certainly something none of the Linkfluencers and other fake LinkedIn ‘thought leaders‘ will share with you – as it’s not in their interest to do so. You may have a different experience dear reader, I suspect it’s horses for courses.
I have to go now and contact a bloke about a pitch – where’s my business card holder???
Oh, I nearly forgot – if you want to connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/malcolmauld/