LinkedIn, the workplace networking social media platform, was started in 2003, about a year before Facebook. Like Facebook, on LinkedIn you can make a profile, publicly show your associations, directly message folks (at least on Premium), make updates, and comment and “like” other people’s posts. LinkedIn has about 770 million users, while Facebook has about 3 billion, so far fewer people are using LinkedIn, although its usership numbers are still very much substantial.
Why are fewer people using LinkedIn than Facebook? Facebook, although people do often have a professional attitude about its use, might be basically considered by many to be somewhat of a playground. It can feel recreational. Sure, people promote their brands from time to time, like a book they wrote or homemade hats people can buy, but these posts are more rare compared to pictures of apple picking, Thanksgiving tables filled with food, and babies galore. The professional attitude for Facebook lies in not oversharing, not having a social media meltdown, and in not posting anything that would conflict with that running-for-office attitude.
Fewer people might be using LinkedIn because, well, not everybody works. But for people who do work, perhaps LinkedIn is more stressful than Facebook, because LinkedIn is not a playground. LinkedIn is considered by many to be an extension of the workplace. A bad post on LinkedIn is more likely to get you fired than a bad post on Facebook, perhaps.
For many, it feels safer to not use LinkedIn. If you’re used to an in-person professional workplace, you might feel more secure in your job, maybe, to just keep things professional in real life, rather than making an online social media professional presence. If you’re bad at technology, LinkedIn could feel like Russian roulette. If you’re inexperienced at social media, you might not want to have a learning curve in such dangerous waters about what to share, and what not to share.
Beyond the consideration of whether you’re better in person professionally, if you’re bad at technology, and if you’re inexperienced with social media, when deciding how active you should (or shouldn’t be) on LinkedIn, another factor might be your profession itself. Do you want to be searchable? The profile section on LinkedIn is a little like a resume. If you are a teacher, do you want students to see all the jobs that you have had? If you were a student before social media, teachers would practically never discuss prior work experiences. Most often you wouldn’t know what schools they had gone to or how long they had been a waitress.
Beyond whether or not for your specific profession, having a LinkedIn profile seems like oversharing enough, some professions are seemingly absent from LinkedIn altogether. Professional horticulturists are rarely very active on LinkedIn, perhaps because their work is largely outdoors and away from computers. Some professions, like being an indie band drummer, shy away from LinkedIn, because they are in an underground scene, and LinkedIn feels like “The Man.”
For those of us who are pretty adept at technology and the art of sharing, it is okay to have a LinkedIn account but not be very active. Check it once a week for spam. You don’t have to like any posts or comment on any posts. Scroll through and just do a little reading. One advantage to having a low key presence on LinkedIn is that if you get fired, you don’t have to update it right away, and perhaps can update your profile after you get a new job, maybe a few months into that as well.
Sometimes people use LinkedIn a lot but make sure it is appropriately timed. Are you allowed to use LinkedIn at work? For some people, this answer is an obvious yes, but maybe it shouldn’t be. It is in fact very close to other social media platforms at times, and perhaps should be best used off the clock. Stick to your job description on the clock. For many bosses, they might see LinkedIn as just as big a waste of work time as using Facebook or another social media platform.
Another factor in considering how active you should be on LinkedIn is that just because everybody is doing something on LinkedI doesn’t mean that it is professional. Just because everybody is posting through tears their exuberant joy in landing their new job doesn’t mean that it is professional, that it should be done, or that you should do it. There is an old saying that you shouldn’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched. Just as when you have an egg, you shouldn’t bet on the fact that it will turn into a chicken, just because you’ve had a successful interview, it doesn’t mean that everything is going to work out. You’d be surprised how many people will get fired fairly quickly from a job. You haven’t worked there yet, so you don’t know what tone and content will be on brand for them. Maybe it’s better to just send your new boss a short and sweet thank you email with no speech and say that you’re looking forward to starting and that you will not let them down.
Once you get to know your new workplace, you will become accustomed to the mores of your new situation, and posting on LinkedIn should reflect this. If your boss has told you that he favors a four day work week, and you see a post about a four day work week, feel free to like. If your boss has never mentioned this, liking a post like this could seem lazy.
Probably a number one rule to LinkedIn is to always be on the safe side. Wishing somebody a happy birthday is nice and appreciated. Congratulating somebody on a work anniversary is also nice and appreciated. And by the time you are retiring or leaving a position, a thank you to your workplace on LinkedIn might be nice and appreciated, as well. By this time, you probably fully understand the workplace and can thank the boss, your coworkers, and your clients for the amazing chicken experiences you’ve had.