One of my recent construction industry connections emailed me yesterday about a dilemma he was having in Linkedin. This is what he said:
Trying to get my head around LinkedIn and connecting to people who work for direct competitor organisations. Whether that is a good thing or not? For example colleagues who used to work for XXXXX who now work for YYYYY. They may not want to connect with me and I wonder what I would think if they wanted to connect to me?
I suppose it comes down to what one actually wants to use LinkedIn for and the nature of ones business. I guess that no secrets are being given away and it works both ways with their contacts and yours. At the end of the day is it anything much more than an online contacts book?
I’m a bit of a newbie to LinkedIn and would be interested in your thoughts.
Here is my reply:
Imagine that everything on the internet is public. It is.
Linkedin is an online contacts book, but in effect, it’s open for everyone to see.
Your competitors (e.g. people who might use information about you to their own advantage) are always able to find you online, even if Linkedin is relatively closed.
It is impossible to fight the ability of the internet to get into the nooks and crannies of your online life.
The answer is to embrace this openness.
Imagine the people in the pub you go for a drink with who are in the same industry. Linkedin is like that but searchable, so your comments stick around longer.
Google caches loads of things – including whole websites – see the WayBack Machine at Archive.org for examples. Even the website versions you thought were replaced are still there.
Twitter tweets get lost from searches after about a week – try scrolling back… but if someone ‘favourites’ one it can be found much further on, so you always need assume things can be found.
With Linkedin, your connections are visible, as is much of what you do – posting status updates, commenting on groups, answering questions. Embrace these things as means to keep in touch with all your network and beyond.
As an employer, think about what happens inside your organisation and outside as being separated by an information barrier. This was always the case. People leave by the door and come back. You can’t control what they say. You have to trust them to be discreet, just like you trust them to deliver.
As an employee, just think of the above the other way round. Be trusted. Use your network to demonstrate your professionalism, value, trustworthyness. Be an advocate for the business.
Of course you will connect with contacts of yours in other organizations.Think about them as people. Treat them just as you would in real life. Take them out for a drink and tell them what you’re doing, but only tell them what you would tell them anyway.
The barrier protecting the confidentiality of your organisation is still there, but you take it with you when you leave, and you operate it with your own discretion.