Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bad times to have LinkedIn profile (part 2)

In the previous post we saw that LinkedIn makes the problem of the cat chasing its tail even worse. As a remedy I suggested to use as actively as possible the social networking capabilities which LinkedIn and similar sites bring. However, there is an issue here as well.

Let me first state that I like professional social networks like LinkedIn. I am now 33 and I do not really remember if I have ever applied for a job off-line. Many times, the initial contact for a successful job application or freelancer contract was through my LinkedIn or Monster profiles. I remember when I joined LinkedIn for first time they had to add my country of origin, Bulgaria, to their country list.

Having said that, there were some really bad times when I wished my Internet footprint was smaller.

2. Zombie profiles, contacts and groups

When you create a professional profile somewhere, you do it because you want this profile to be seen by relevant people, like recruiters, headhunters, potential allies, partners or clients. The list of relevant people typically does not include the mother of the founder of the 'disruptively different' new social network which has somehow managed to grab your attention. Nowadays, quite a lot of people try to launch something in the area, lured by the success of social networks like LinkedIn. Multiple web-sites offering professional networking around a specific group like university alumni, risk managers,  readers of a specific journal and so on pop up like mushrooms after rain. Any interaction you have with these sites creates zombie profiles of you.

To check that my claim is true, simply go to one of the many web-site featuring start-up co-founder match-making. There create a profile stating that you have all the great hype tech skills and that you are looking for an idea to start a business. Within days you will be flooded by mails and messages from 'business guys', mostly MBAs, many having 'disruptive idea in the social networking space' desperately looking for technical co-founder. About 10-15% of these will be about a LinkedIn cat-copies in some specialized space. About 100% will never get any traction.

Within LinkedIn itself, there are numerous groups on any possible topic you can think of (if you discover a new topic you can create a group about it :)). Many of these are not too much different from the silly start-ups above. The only difference is that they use an already established platform to launch. Finally, many of the people with 500+ connections are again roughly in the same category.

Any interaction you have with such a web site, group or person creates a zombie profile of you in the web. Zombies can go out of control. I have already lost an e-mail account to zombies. 7-8 years ago, I was very careless about the zombie topic. I used to add information for my professional achievements whenever I found  free space. Within 1 year, my e-mail account was flooded and within 2 years it became unusable. There was just too much pouring every day into it. A small part of that was useful. Another big part was just some irritating newsletters. Another part was pure rubbish, most likely resulting from my e-mail address being disclosed to spammers. It was not possible to filter anymore, so I decided to radically change my e-mail account. Informing all useful connections about my new e-mail address was a huge task, though. I bet I have lost somebody in the process.

My career advice: if you want to benefit from professional social networks, that's fine. However, you need to invest enough time to select the relevant web sites, groups and contacts for you. This is especially true for LinkedIn where you really need to think how to configure all the different options around your profile, groups and connections.

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