The Etiquette of a Black Book called LinkedIn

23rd March 2016

I keep reading comments that LinkedIn is losing its potency. This morning a marketer complained (on LinkedIn) about an increase in spam, irrelevant content and unwanted advances. This, she said, was leading to her considering closing her account.

I try to treat LinkedIn as a black book in the traditional sense. Pre-LinkedIn, my own ‘black book’ (a folder of business cards) held the details of cherished contacts with whom I’d either done business, or met with and found inspiring.

As a logical progression, nearly everyone in my LinkedIn contacts fits that bill. I admit I can’t remember how I connected with 15% of my contacts, but the same could have been said for my black book.

I believe that LinkedIn’s millennial users are moving away from this kind of approach, and therefore won’t get the full value from it as a business networking tool.

If I accepted the invitation of anyone who tried to connect, I’d feel it was opening a gate to hassle my valued connections. To me, that would be akin to being careless with my black book, which I would never have been.

Also, I see little value in an enormous collection of people with whom I’ve never dealt. The more you dilute a network, the weaker, more transparent and, dare I say, tasteless it becomes.

It can be uncomfortable dismissing invites on LinkedIn, but it’s often the right thing to do; remember, that person has reached you by claiming you are a colleague, classmate, that you’ve done business together, or that you’re a friend. It’s hardly crime of the century, but it’s bypassing a system that’s there for a reason.

For me, common-sense allows exceptions to the rule. As an example, I commented on a post last month. The author then connected with the personalised comment, “We haven’t done business together but you made a witty remark on my post and I can’t like it without “knowing” you.” In that instance, the combination of enjoying his post enough to comment on it, our similar backgrounds, and our shared connections, was reason enough for me to accept.

I can’t help thinking that if everyone approached LinkedIn more like the old black book, it would be a better-connected community.

David Harrison: Creative Partner | Spicerack