Chairman of the Tax Advice Network and BookMarkLee
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LinkedIn: Six common misconceptions

16th Jan 2012
Chairman of the Tax Advice Network and BookMarkLee
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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 –UKgroup 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.

The misunderstandings

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: You can also connect with him on LinkedIn.

Further reading
The year the profession embraced LinkedIn
Leveraging LinkedIn: 12 tips for success

Why you must have LinkedIn testimonials
LinkedIn for accountants

Do you have a LinkedIn profile? If so, how do you use it and what benefits has it brought you? 

Replies (17)

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By TaxTeddy
16th Jan 2012 14:07

Missing a trick

Some good points Mark, but..........

You are really missing some gems on children's TV. Catch Spongebob Squarepants - all of human life is there (as the News of the World would have said).


Thanks (1)
Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
16th Jan 2012 14:59

Thanks Tax Teddy


I don't have time for it now my kids are grown up. I need every spare minute to finalise my upcoming half day seminars. These are focused on helping accountants better understand lInkedin, twitter and social networking generally:

In the morning we're addressing the 'WHY bother' side of social networking for the online novice who wants to clarify whether or not it's something that they want to explore further.

In the afternoon we'll be focused on HOW to get value from the time and effort you spend on these platforms. More interactive and focused on moving on from the basics addressed in the morning.


Thanks (1)
By ryedaleman
17th Jan 2012 12:24

Yet another sales plug under the disguise of so called advice


Should 2012 be the year when accountancy web stop this practice





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Replying to Brunel:
Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
17th Jan 2012 23:26

@ryedaleman / Stuart

The primary objective here, as always, is to offer my insights, tips and what you disparagingly dismiss as "So called advice".

You're entitled to your view and I'm sorry if you feel that an added comment referencing a related seminar diminishes the value of the article down to a 'sales plug'. I hope that (indeed, feedback on my articles generally would suggest that) most readers appreciate my insights, tips and advice. Those who are not interested simply ignore any added references. 


ps: It's AccountingWeb, not 'accountancy web' 

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By agknight
17th Jan 2012 12:31

Linkedin is but one Marketing Channel

I don't really disagree with much if anything written here. But Linkedin has never got me any business that I am aware of. Just thought I would take 10 to relate my experiences.

I adopted Linkedin early and approached people to link with, who wondered what it was all about. Now I see we all have 100+ links and professionals at it like Mark have thousands. So I've spent some time and tried to play the game to see what would happen. But I've not spent hours on it.

But Mark's market I guess is accountants. Mine is hoteliers, restaurateurs and publicans, and whilst some of the former are joining, there are about none of the latter. Are hoteliers looking for accountants on Linkedin? I guess not. They come from referrals, or local knowledge. And I do direct telesales marketing.

So okay my links are in the main fellow professionals of other disciplines. The last people I seek to link with are accountants, unless I genuinely work with them. These people could refer work to me, and Linkedin could be part of that reminder that I exist process. But if I bother to look at other accountants profiles, in the main I look to see if they have any interesting clients to poach!

When I quote to a prospect I always refer them to my Linkedin page - and here I see a real value. They can read my background and see that I am connected in the hospitality industry. It also links to my website and vice versa.

I have never found anything fruitful in the discussions, which in the main seem to be consultants pretending to discuss their subject and show us how clever they are at the end. And yes there are lots of job adverts for working in Dubai!

I posted something in my relevant groups once asking if anyone knew an expert in business rates appeals. Really surprised that it fell on deaf ears, as it was a genuine business opportunity.

But for me Linkedin is very passive. I would always have a profile and I do look daily to see what my links are saying, and to post my own hospitality/finance comments. But an hotelier phoning me up following reading my profile on Linkedin - well I'll let you know if it happens!

If anyone wants to point out what I could do to improve those chances I would be very grateful.




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Replying to runningmate:
24th Feb 2012 11:34


Try to get some of those you have worked with to give recommendations on Linked In.  Others looking at your profile can then see what you have done.  If the reference is from a contact of theirs - or a 3rd degree contact - they can check down the line.  This is like getting a personal recommendation via a friend of a friend.

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Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
19th Jan 2012 16:43

@agknight and hoteliers

Thanks for your comments and for sharing your experiences.

On my blog I have written ad nauseam about the need to clarify where your target audience is to be found and to engage with them where ever that is. If your target audience isn't registered on Linkedin then you are not going to get any work from them through that medium. Full stop.

Pointing people who are not registered on Linkedin at your profile on Linkedin means they will only see those elements of your profile that are visible to the search engines (your 'public profile').  You may want to check how valuable this is and whether it would help to tweak your settings in this regard.

I agree with you re discussions and groups - hence my point that you can be a passive user of Linkedin - in much the way that you have chosen to be.


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By ryedaleman
18th Jan 2012 13:06

ps: It's AccountingWeb, not 'accountancy web'


Sorry it is indeed although I think my title actually sounds better


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By andrew.hyde
19th Jan 2012 11:30


Should be 'ad nauseam'.  No offence intended but if you use Latin, get it right otherwise boring pedants like me will spot it.

On the plus side, your English is impeccable, witch is more than can be said for sum.

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Replying to SE_Confused:
By Farkhem Hall
19th Jan 2012 15:58

ad nauseam

How Many Pedants Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb?

None. A pedant can find an error in the dark.

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Replying to SE_Confused:
Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
19th Jan 2012 16:43


Sorted. Thanks.

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By Caseron
19th Jan 2012 17:44

I think Linkedin is great! You get out what you put in!


@BookMarkLee  Good sound advice/tips/handy hints well presented! Definitely not a sales pitch in my opinion.


I don't spend a huge amount of time cultivating Linkedin, but I do find huge benefit from it.


My online CV has been generously populated by some fabulous people I've worked with over the years. The words are theirs not mine, and I'm delighted to have this publicly available so potential clients/contacts can see if I'm credible or not without me having to 'sell' myself. Linkedin does this for me.


I follow people, I follow groups, I follow companies and I get involved in occasional discussions. I have learned loads and I continue to learn every day. New ideas, new technologies, new thinking. All for free. How fabulous is that?


I pay particular attention to area's that I feel are not my strengths, and all this new information and learning comes straight to me and into my inbox. If I like it, I keep it and read further, if I don't, I delete... super efficient. If I really like it, I clip it to Evernote but that's a different topic! I also filter weekly digests into a separate mailbox so I can attend to the unread mails at my leisure. No clutter. 


I follow the local business community, through local Linkedin Groups. It's helped me identify the key players; the mover's and shakers, and then I've actively sought them out and made contact at local events. So I am quickly establishing a presence in my local community. 


I've had quite a few people connect through Linkedin that I might otherwise not have met, through other people who thought we might have something in common - I'm growing a great community of contacts and when I have a query, I have found they are always willing to give me free advice or simply a different perspective, or another contact! Super!


Whilst I don't think Linkedin is solely responsible for the opportunities that come my way, it's certainly part of the package.


I love it, but then I'm a glass always full super geek!


Thanks (2)
Nichola Ross Martin
By Nichola Ross Martin
20th Jan 2012 10:44

LinkedIn and connecting with strangers - a non-sequitur

I know that you are not meant to because it is a stated condition of LinkedIn, but surely the whole darn point of networking is to meet new people and build up contacts?

I have absolutely no issues with networking with strangers. I welcome the opportunity and I am delighted when people I don't know make contact, because then I have a chance to read their profile, decide whether to agree to contacting them and then I can engage with them.

This is after all the whole point of networking. So, if you find me on LinkedIn do connect with me!

Virtual Tax Support for accountants:



Thanks (1)
Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
22nd Jan 2012 16:06

It's the spam messaging that's the problem

Not sure I would agree with Nichola's implied definition of networking. For me it's about building profitable relationships. 

One of the big concerns of many professionals and a key reason why Linkedin sets conditions etc is to reduce the amount of spam sales and promo messages that can be blanket bombed to all and sundry.

I too have no problem with strangers making contact as long as they are genuine and not simply accumulating notches on their bedpost/computerscreen. It's why I invariably agree to connect with almost all accountants and tax people. And I also agree to connect with others who claim to have seen me speak or read my blogs/articles etc.


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By Hosted Accountants Ltd
24th Jan 2012 14:34

Outlook plugin...

Hi Mark

Good article, and yes LinkedIn is growing massively within the accounting community anyway.

I too have got to the 500+ size which, I believe is where the real benefit kicks in. Until you get to "a few hundred" connections you will see gaps in your network. After this point you can find and/or engage with virtually anyone and it becomes much more interesting. For reference I think I am up to about 200,000 friends of friends, which is all UK as well.

The tip that I wanted to share is the Outlook plug-in. This is free and when people email an enquiry to you (or you start an email to them), their picture and a link to their profile appears in the Outlook preview pane. This is very handy to quickly read about people and their background.

You can invite them to connect (in one click from Outlook), plus it works for multiple recipients giving you a small gallery of all the people in the email thread.

A great example of networking technology


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Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
06th Jan 2013 18:50

An update 11 months on.....

As I have written another piece for AccountingWeb about Linkedin and it refers back to this piece I thought I'd update the background notes at the start of this article:

Over the last four years I have accumulated over 2,600 direct connections on LinkedIn and well over half a million 2nd level connections.The majority of my direct connections continue to be accountants or tax advisers. I still do not accept random requests to connect with strangers. Over 500 accountants are members of my exclusive Accountants –UK’ group on LinkedInOver 250 accountants are members of my Tax Advice Network group on LinkedinOver 100 tax focused accountants are members of the Linkedin group: The UK's best tax advisers, tax experts and tax consultantsIt still takes me no time to manage the emails I get from LinkedIn.I continue to 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.

Thanks (0)
Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
06th Jan 2013 18:34

Linkedin for start-up practices

A new series of articles on AccountingWeb at the start of 2013:

Part 1 – Profile tips

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