The internet is no stranger to strong opinions and heated debates. Is Kris Jenner a marketing genius? Really, what color was that dress? And, what’s considered appropriate to post on LinkedIn?
OK, perhaps that last question hasn’t received quite as much attention. But, it’s a point of contention among users nonetheless. Is LinkedIn strictly for business networking, or can you treat it as you would any other social network?
This is a somewhat polarizing topic. So, let’s just clear the air with a few pieces of information straight from the horse’s mouth. The platform defines itself as the “world’s largest professional network,” with a mission of “connecting the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.”
Well, that seems pretty self-explanatory, doesn’t it? By definition, it exists for business networking and conversation—not photos of your latest vacation. Your profile essentially functions as your online resume, so it’s important that you treat is as such.
Don’t feel confident in your ability to distinguish between LinkedIn “dos” and “don’ts” when it comes to updates? Here are three key questions to ask yourself before hitting “post.”
1. What Does This Contribute to My Professional Image?
You don’t need another lecture on the fact that both current and prospective employers are scoping out your LinkedIn profile and digging through your background. And it should go without saying that your profile needs to present and uphold a personal brand that’s smart and polished.
Before publishing a post or status update, take some time to think about how it will impact your professional image and reputation. Does it portray you as a motivated and educated individual looking to share industry insights or your latest career accomplishment? If you feel even the slightest urge to shrug your shoulders in response to that question, it’s time to re-evaluate.
Yes, sharing an update about a recent publication you were quoted in or an industry accolade you received is definitely welcomed and encouraged. But, those parasailing photos from your trip to Fiji or your seething political rant following the latest GOP debate? Quite simply, LinkedIn just isn’t the right place.
2. Would I Feel Comfortable Bringing This Up in a Job Interview or Formal Meeting?
Think about the last job interview you attended and the types of conversations that occurred. They likely all involved your experiences and accomplishments, didn’t they? Sure, maybe there was the random personal tidbit thrown in for good measure. But, for the most part, you tried to steer all of the attention toward what a qualified candidate you are. After all, that’s why you were there.
You should treat LinkedIn this exact same way—conversations and posts should be strictly professional. Like it or not, many business contacts will utilize that information in order to form their first impression of your character, before they ever engage with you directly. You can complain about it, or you can just go ahead and ensure that you have nothing to worry about.
When crafting an update, imagine yourself stating that exact thing in a meeting at work. You wouldn’t stand up and proclaim, “Look at my cat in his birthday outfit!” smack dab in the middle of your annual performance review—so don’t do it on your LinkedIn profile.
Sorry, Fluffy. Regardless of how adorable you look, this just isn’t your audience.
3. Am I Posting This Same Thing on Facebook?
You’ve probably seen the snarky graphics and statements littering your feed that assert something along the lines of “LinkedIn is not Facebook!”
Yes, these posts are somewhat hypocritical themselves. After all, what does that contribute to a person’s professional brand other than demonstrating that he or she’s ready and willing to fire off complaints on the internet? But, hypocrisy aside, the point still rings true.
Many argue that LinkedIn is a social network, giving them liberty to post whatever they please. But, if you want to use your account the way it was intended, the emphasis should be placed on the word network—not social.
Of course, there are rare exceptions. For example, you might share an announcement of your new position or recent promotion on both outlets, so that all of your friends and family are in the loop about how much you’re kicking butt at your job. But, for the most part, your posts shouldn’t be identical.
Walking the fine line of LinkedIn etiquette can be a challenge, and you’ll likely find yourself stuck in the “to post or not to post?” conundrum on occasion. When you do, ask yourself these three questions to effectively determine if your post is appropriate—or if it’s better left to Facebook. After all, you want your profile to inspire viewers to connect and converse with you about your experience and accomplishments—not invite you to their upcoming beer pong tournament.
Photo of man texting courtesy of Shutterstock.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author