When you think about LinkedIn, you probably think about finding a job. This is the site you'd use in order to research openings in your field, chit-chat with other people about the companies they work for or otherwise find ways to look a little better to those who either work with you now or who might hire you in the future. In the past, succeeding at LinkedIn meant writing a great profile summary and then asking people to write stories about the work you've done for them in the past. Both of these steps could be great for your reputation.
But now, LinkedIn has unveiled a new tool. That publishing tool (which I just got access to about 2 weeks ago) allows you to write very personal blogs and pop them up online. While this tool could be great for some people, it does come with some hazards.
As a result, I think it's an approach that should be used with caution.
Blogging is almost always a smart reputation-management technique. Each word you write can help you to attach a beneficial keyword to your name, and each entry can work like a hook for search engines to find. The main drawback is that there are so very many individual blogs out there. Back in 2013, WPVirtuoso suggested that there were more than 152,000,000 blogs on the Internet, and it's likely than many more have been created since then.
It can be hard to write a blog entry that gets noticed (much less indexed by Google) when there are so many blogs out there. That's what makes LinkedIn so very powerful. With a few moments of typing, you could create a piece of content that's immediately visible to all of your contacts (and Forbes suggests that close to half of all members have 500 or more connections). This makes LinkedIn an efficient way to reach a great number of people. In addition, LinkedIn posts are easy for connections to share. And, posts with high keyword densities might be visible to people you aren't even connected to at the moment. Since LinkedIn currently has more than 300 million registered users, according to Mashable, the audience for your posts is huge.
There are a number of different articles that could help you to craft an expert LinkedIn post (This piece from OkDork is my current favorite). Following at least some of those tips could help you to create a piece of work that people will love to read and feel tempted to share. But there are other pitfalls to consider.
Even though LinkedIn is a professional site, it's somewhat routine for people to use put-downs, insults and other distasteful terms in the comments section of articles. I often see people calling their peers dumb, silly or ignorant. Presumably, people bully like this online because it makes them seem a little more knowledgeable (and they might also just like to be nasty). If you've spent hours and hours on a post, seeing a negative comment can set your blood to boiling. "How dare they insult me? Who do they think they are?"
These are the sorts of thoughts that can prompt you to put fingers to keyboards to pound out a response. And that flare of temper could make you look like an unstable, angry, unsuitable person. In short, it could harm your reputation. Also, according to LinkedIn's help center, posts that have been copied by another user can't be deleted.
In other words, if you write a blog post that you later regret, you can delete it from your own page. But if someone has copied it, that blog is there forever. You can't delete the copies, and you may not even know where the copies are.
A Simple Solution
Thankfully, it's not too hard to work around these negatives. These three steps could keep you out of trouble:
- Wait 24 hours.
- Read the post again and delete anything slightly controversial.
- Wait 24 hours.
- Repeat until you make no amendments.
Yes, this method takes a lot more time. But when you have the potential to reach thousands upon thousands of people (and ruin your reputation in the process) a little caution seems prudent.
Protect your reputation online.