LinkedIn: Six common misconceptions
Mark Lee takes a new look at the professional online networking site and clarifies six things accountants commonly misunderstand about LinkedIn.
You have probably heard about LinkedIn and you may even have a profile registered there. Thousands of UK accountants have done this but many fail to register properly, complain about it or simply state that it has not generated any business for them. All such attitudes are based on misunderstandings as to what LinkedIn is and how accountants in practice can benefit from it.
By way of background:
- Over the last three years I have accumulated over 1,750 direct connections on LinkedIn and well over half a million 2nd level connections.
- The majority of my direct connections are accountants or tax advisers.
- I do not accept random requests to connect with strangers.
- Over 300 accountants are members of my exclusive ‘Accountants –UK’ group on LinkedIn
- It takes me no time to manage the emails I get from LinkedIn.
- I gain significant business benefit from my LinkedIn activities.
- I continue to advocate LinkedIn in my talks, articles and blogs as it is the only online business networking site where accountants can secure some benefit without needing to be active on the site.
These typically start with: “I’ve tried LinkedIn…” or “I’m registered on LinkedIn and…”
1. I don’t do social networking
“.…it just seems to be a slightly more business focused variation on Facebook”
Forget any preconceptions you have about ‘social networking’ and the frivolity associated with Facebook. LinkedIn is a professional online networking site. It’s very different to Facebook which is more for online socialising and somewhere where bigger brands try to engage with their customers.
If you have no interest in what people in your network are doing, don’t visit the pages on LinkedIn that show such information. Just as you may choose not to watch certain channels on your TV. My lack of interest in sports, shopping channels and children’s TV hasn’t stopped me having a satellite TV subscription.
2. Time wasting connection requests
“….I keep getting emails from strangers asking me to connect with them.”
I don’t get these. Well maybe a couple a week. And yet I’m more widely connected than most UK accountants. Is my profile that much less attractive to spammers?
I believe that you only get loads of time wasting connection requests if you invite them (often unwittingly). If you set up your profile professionally and choose the ‘settings’ you want you will not be troubled by loads of time wasting connection requests.
3. Absence of valuable contacts
“….it seems to be full of recruiters and people looking for jobs.”
This is only the case for a small proportion of the 1,750+ people I am connected with on LinkedIn (maybe 1 or 2%).
LinkedIn has over 135 million registered profiles. Of these over five million are in the UK. Clearly it’s impossible for any significant proportion of this number to be recruiters or job hunters.
4. Too many emails from LinkedIn
“….I get too many emails daily from the site and I can’t sort the wheat from the chaff.”
Again, this isn’t a problem with which I can relate. That could be because I changed my settings on the site to cut out most of the automated daily emails. It’s very easy to tailor your settings so that you only get the updates and emails that you want, when you want them. Just go to the top right of the LinkedIn screen, click on your name and then follow the ‘my settings’ tab.
The other thing I have done is to have all LinkedIn emails go direct to a folder and to bypass my inbox. I check this daily. It works for me.
5. It’s all too public
“….I don’t want to share all of my CV and online activities.”
There is no need to share anything more than you are comfortable with. You get to choose how much you publish on LinkedIn and you can ignore the bits you don’t want to share. You also get to choose how much of your profile is available to the non-LinkedIn public (and the search engines). None, some or all? It’s upto you.
Imagine someone has been recommended to you and looks you up on the web. Unless you have a unique name and a decent profile page on your own website, they may struggle to find you. However if you have a LinkedIn (public) profile this will appear high in the search results. If you want to be found then the choice is yours.
6. It’s a waste of time
“…no one of any interest has ever made contact with me.”
That could be because your profile lacks certain key elements. After all, if you attend a party with a bag over your head, you can hardly blame the party hosts if no one of interest approaches you. Does your profile include your name, a recognisable head shot/photo, your title, your practice name, an interesting summary of your role and approach? You can go further if you like but those are the minimum elements I think you need to have on your profile.
I should clarify one of my opening statements. Yes, you may gain some benefit simply from having your profile accessible through LinkedIn. However you also have the opportunity to gain far more benefit from actively exploiting the facilities and opportunities available through LinkedIn. It isn’t necessary to do this, but it is an option and it needn’t take a lot of time.
Much of the misunderstanding about LinkedIn stems from a lack of understanding.
Imagine you’ve never been in a car until the first day you get behind the wheel. You know where the accelerator and brake are but you know nothing about acceleration or the gears or the handbrake. You might complain that the car is too fast and that the engine makes too much noise. Nothing will change in this regard until you spend a little time learning more than the pure basics. When you do you will probably stop complaining and would probably agree that driving a car can be both fun and a good way to get from A to B.
LinkedIn can be useful and beneficial for accountants in practice. It costs nothing to register or to set up your profile. You may see some benefit in time. But you will achieve far more if you decide where you want to get to and plan your route. Just like when you drive a car.
Register your profile on LinkedIn
A simple professional profile on LinkedIn can help you be found by:
- Prospective clients who are looking for someone with your expertise in your area
- Prospective collaborators who would like to merge their practice with someone just like you
- Business and professional people you meet while out networking or who are recommended to you and look you up on the web
- Ex-colleagues who used to work with you and want to get back in touch. Perhaps they want to refer some work to you?
- Ex-clients from when you were with another firm who may no longer be happy with their current accountant
- Recruiters for positions in commerce or practice who are looking for someone just like you
Mark Lee is Consultant Practice Editor of AccountingWeb and Chairman of the Tax Advice Network of independent tax specialists. His personal website and blog are at: BookMarkLee.co.uk You can also connect with him on LinkedIn.
Do you have a LinkedIn profile? If so, how do you use it and what benefits has it brought you?
You might also be interested in
I am Chairman of the Tax Advice Network - a nighly ranked online resource tfonr anyone seeking indepdent tax advisers. As such it is also a long established lead generation facility for tax advisers and tax accountants.
Before the lockdown I was also speaking at conferences and awaydays for accountants and tax advisers. I had started...