Multi Level Marketing and LinkedIn – Or Why I Turned Down Your Connection Request, and How to Use it the Right Way

 

A long time ago the wife of an old friend requested to connect on LinkedIn. Now I use LinkedIn frequently to keep in touch with old and new coworkers. As soon as I get to know someone relatively well, I request to connect with them so we can keep in touch when they leave the company, we move on to different projects, or our job roles take us in different directions. I also like to use it to keep up on industry news, although lately it seems overrun with memes and trying to be Facebook (LinkedIn – a PSA – don’t try to be Facebook. Just be the best LinkedIn you can be!) Over the years I’ve amassed over 500 connections, and they are all either people I currently work with, used to work with, went to graduate school with, recruiters, and friends. If I don’t know someone I will decline their invitation, especially when they send me the generic connection request.

One day, not long after connecting with a friend, I received a request from his wife. Now, I know his wife relatively well and was friends with her on Facebook, so this wasn’t entirely a surprise. But as soon as I saw her name pop up, I shuddered. You see, I had changed my Facebook settings to not see her posts months before, because she had gotten caught up in “nail art fever”.  She had been posting five or more times each day about nail art, how awesome it is, how great the products are, about her parties, etc. I had received multiple Facebook invitations to “nail art parties” – all of which I declined. I’m not interested in nail art that wouldn’t be appropriate for work anyway, and I don’t really like it, thank you very much.

mlm

MLM companies, why have you turned my friends into annoying pushy people obsessed with getting people under them?

She’s not a business owner, she’s a pushy MLM salesperson. I could only imagine what she wanted to do with my connection list – bombard every woman with nail art advertising? Try to persuade them to join this “great business opportunity”? And if I connected with her I would expect to see post after post about nail art and how great it is, how much money you can make (working from home! In your spare time! Of course only if you pester your friends constantly). So I ignored the request and refused to connect with her.

Eventually I unfriended her on Facebook as well, after the nail art got to be way too much (apparently I’m not the only one that’s experienced this – check out this article from the Washington Post and this one from Scary Mommy. So accurate!). I remember that it was a week I had received three invitations from her for events and parties. She had never been as interested in being my friend as when she could see a way into my wallet. Now if she had been a close friend who was interested in – you know – actually being my friend, or if she had been more subtle/less annoying, I would have kept her as a friend. I do have friends online that sell MLM but they only post about it occasionally and never invite me to things. They treat it like a real business, going to local fairs and events to sell their products. Here’s a tip to all the MLMers out there – if you have to rely on your friends and family to keep your business afloat, you don’t have a real business. And you’re annoying people. So knock it off.

How to connect on LinkedIn the Right Way

linkedin

Ah, LinkedIn, despite y our flaws I do still like you.

I mentioned above that I have over 500 connections on LinkedIn. Now I’m not a LION (LinkedIn Open Networker), but I’ve worked in multiple jobs and projects over several companies, and I love the fact that LinkedIn lets me keep in touch with everyone. I have a much more limited set of Facebook friends, because I keep those to family and the people I would consider my friends. I post things my family is doing, pictures of the kids, and I keep away from any political discussions (I only wish all my friends would do the same-can’t wait for election season to be over!) or anything else that would be embarrassing if coworkers saw it (hooray for privacy settings!). Here’s my personal LinkedIn connection philosophy-

  • Coworkers/managers – I will send a connection request once I’ve gotten to know the person relatively well at work. My barometer is, will they know who I am once I send this request? If so I send it so we can keep in touch. Of course you can send connection requests to people that you don’t know very well, but if you do be sure to personalize the message so they know who you are and why you want to connect
  • Vendors – Once I get to know folks on a vendor team I request to connect with them. You never know when you might need to get in touch with a vendor again
  • Friends and Family – I will connect with them on LinkedIn but I don’t post anything specifically for them. LinkedIn is for my work persona, not my personal life, and it’s not Facebook. No pictures of parties, memes, birthday wishes, or family events here. And I only connect with people that I know will not take advantage of my connection list to try and sell a terrible product (nail art!!!!)
  • Recruiters – I don’t seek these out, but if I get a request I will accept it. Of course usually I get a message shortly thereafter telling me about some terrible job opportunity (would you like to give up your job as a full time employee at a Fortune 100 company for a lower level contractor temp job some place you’re never heard of?) but I figure it can’t hurt to stay connected. You never know when your job might be toast and you’ll want to be connected with recruiters.

You may also want to use LinkedIn to connect with people at a company you want to move to, or people that you want to meet. That’s also a great use of the site, just be sure to tell them a bit about who you are and why you want to connect. Otherwise they’ll likely just ignore your request. Usually I see generic advice to always personalize your invites, but if I’ve worked with you for a year you know who I am. I personalize only when I’m connecting to someone that would be a stretch (say, upper management), someone who doesn’t know me but I want to connect with, or that I’ve met briefly and likely wouldn’t remember my name.

How Often to Update

I like to update my LinkedIn profile once in a while with key projects, new things I’m doing at work, and tweaking the wording on old jobs. Over time my older job descriptions have gotten more brief, and I know people that don’t put them at all. A year or so ago I finally took off the job I had in college – I had worked full time and gone to school full time and I was damn proud of that job, but I realized no one cares anymore about it. Instead they care about my last 14 years of job history, all of which is in IT at large companies. So I would suggest checking in on your profile at least every few months to add awards, key events, speeches, new projects, and cull your older work.

What to Post

I don’t post much on LinkedIn, to be honest. I did write an article that was extremely well received, which was great. Otherwise I’ll occasionally share a work-related article, but I’m very careful about what I post. I don’t want to put up anything that could be offensive (even if I liked it personally) because all 500+ connections and their connections can see it. If there’s a press release for a project I worked on, I will share it. I also sometimes share company news if it’s something I find interesting and think my connections will as well. One warning, be careful what you “like” – it will show up in your connections feeds. That’s how the memes, quote images, and stories are cluttering up LinkedIn and making it a much less useful tool for work and networking. Please LinkedIn, go back to being a great professional resource and stop trying to be “fun”. You’re like a 65 year old man dancing awkwardly to the latest rap music – that’s not what you’re supposed to be doing! Stop it!

How do you use LinkedIn? Are you also annoyed at the proliferation of memes, quote images, stories, and birthdays (stop trying to be Facebook!). Let me know in the comments or send me an e-mail.

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