|Linked In to What?
By: David Soyka
The job-networking site LinkedIn is a case study in brand building — the name literally says it all. Who doesn’t want to be linked in? Particularly in this job market, in which every career counselor robotically emphasizes the importance of building networks, as if that’s hard to figure out. So the beauty of LinkedIn, particularly if while highly competent at your job you’re not so hot with schmoozing at job fairs, is that networking is only a few clicks, along with maybe a few extra bucks on an already stressed credit card, away. Putting aside the clever branding, the ultimate question is: Does the brand deliver, or might this be a case where you think you're buying a Cadillac but getting a Chevy beneath the hood?
So, like everyone else, I have a LinkedIn account. And I have a whole bunch of connections. Some of these connections are people I’ve worked for, worked with, or would like to work for or with, or are people who’ve worked with people I’ve worked for or with, or would like to work for or with.
To date, none of this has landed me any actual work, which is supposed to be the whole point of this networking site that made a lot of money for stakeholders when it went public last May.
Good for them. Not so good for me, as I haven’t made any money from getting new work even as I’ve accumulated new connections.
Perhaps one reason for this is I don’t pay for any additional services that promise to link me to folks who are out of my network that I otherwise can’t contact. At least not through LinkedIn; it isn’t that hard to figure out how to contact them by going to their website and look up their email address. It’s not that I’m cheap, it’s just that I’m not persuaded this actually has any value. Maybe people are more prone to respond to something that comes in from LinkedIn as opposed to potential junk mail from someone they don’t know. Maybe. Then again, I’ve sent some LinkedIn-branded mail to my own contacts and never gotten a response.
Really, LinkedIn is just a website with newsfeed, job board, and email functionality, all things you can get elsewhere. I’ve had a webpage (take a look if you’re interested) from back when you actually had to know some HTML (or know someone who knew HTML) to put one up. Today, a website is sort of like having a business card used to be (I haven’t had any use for an actual paper business card in years); it’s almost inconceivable that you could run any kind of business without it. I can see where LinkedIn is a kind of website for people who have actual jobs to place their resumes online so they can find new opportunities and without having to pay to host a website. But, for a freelancer like myself, I don’t get the value add to LinkedIn other than the fact that these days, while people don’t expect you to have a paper business card anymore, they expect you to have a LinkedIn site (which is why I have a LinkedIn icon on my webpage). But most of the connections I’ve made, I made without LinkedIn, just as most of the connections I made when I used to hand out business cards was through my own personal networking, not because I had a business card to hand out.
There was a time when I was cutting edge; I had an email address before the World Wide Web was invented. Maybe I’m missing something that being past 30 (well, okay, well past 30) makes me socially and intellectually oblivious to how things like LinkedIn could work for me.
(Perhaps you won’t be surprised to learn that I don’t get the fascination with Twitter, either.)
David Soyka is freelance copywriter who has conceptualized and developed a range of strategic advertising, marketing, training, and technical communications for advertising agencies and Fortune 1000 companies in print, web, and broadcast formats. A former newspaper reporter and English teacher, he is a published author of ficiton and non-fiction, and a DJ at WTJU-FM. Find him online here.
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