How Not To Friend And Influence People

Ann Friedman casts a critical eye on LinkedIn:

[I]t’s always been a little tough to figure out what LinkedIn is for. The site’s initial appeal was as a sort of self-updating Rolodex—a way to keep track of ex-coworkers and friends-of-friends you met at networking happy hours. There’s the appearance of openness—you can “connect” with anyone!—but when users try to add a professional contact from whom they’re more than one degree removed, a warning pops up. “Connecting to someone on LinkedIn implies that you know them well,” the site chides, as though you’re a stalker in the making. …

You can try to lie your way through this firewall by indicating you’ve worked with someone when you haven’t—the equivalent of name-dropping someone you’ve only read about in management magazines. But odds are, you’ll be found out.

I’d been confused, for instance, about numerous LinkedIn requests from publicists saying we’d “worked together” at a particular magazine. But when I clicked through to their profiles, I realized why they’d confidently asserted this professional alliance into being: the way to get to the next rung is to pretend you’re already there. If you don’t already know the person you’re trying to meet, you’re pretty much out of luck.

This frenetic networking-by-vague-association has bred a mordant skepticism among some users of the site. Scott Monty, head of social media for the Ford Motor Company, includes a disclaimer in the first line of his LinkedIn bio that, in any other context, would be a hilarious redundancy: “Note: I make connections only with people whom I have met.” It’s an Escher staircase masquerading as a career ladder.

Meanwhile, a Dish reader flags a new development from the networking site:

I’ve really enjoyed your ongoing coverage of the spread of sponsored content throughout online media. Well here’s a screen shot from new updates to the LinkedIn Privacy Policy / User Agreement:

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The third bullet point reads:

We’re introducing sponsored content in the LinkedIn feed. This new feature gives LinkedIn’s advertising partners the opportunity to serve designated content that our members can like, comment, and share.

And just when I thought the LinkedIn feed articles couldn’t get any worse …