Disclaimer: I have been an active "free" user of LinkedIn for 5.463 years with more than 3000 (1st degree) connections from all over the world. I have no vested interest in LinkedIn other than as a user of the services it provides. Despite the fact that LinkedIn was originally designed as a network for business professionals, not academicians, I have learned a few techniques on how it can best serve my peers. LinkedIn has also added several features and apps over the years to address the specific needs of administrators and faculty. This article is an extension and update of a blog series I wrote 2.683 years ago to acquaint faculty with the features of LinkedIn.
Social media networks are not just the rage among Net Geners; they have revolutionized the way over a bazillion people communicate. Hollywood even made a movie about how one of them sprouted from the mind of a Harvard drop-out, Mark Zuckerberg. These networks are free and open to every age, from diapers to diapers. Yet academicians tend to resist most of them, even those that were designed for professional, not social, use. My informal surveys of faculty at universities and conferences in the U.S. and countries in Europe, Eastern Europe, and Asia indicate only about 20 % are members of Linkedln or have any interest in joining.
So what's the problem? There seem to be two salient issues that bubble to the surface: (1) TIME! and (2) networking. First, a network profile requires time to set up and maintain. If you don't contribute to the network, it doesn't serve its purposes and yours. And time is a major issue with all of us. For example, Linkedln requires a specially formatted profile, which is longer than your university website profile and much shorter than your vitae. But how many profiles do you need? Additional maintenance time on Linkedln is necessary weekly to stay active with your network and in groups.
Second, administrators and faculty are overwhelmed with a gazillion tasks that usually do not require a vast network of colleagues or the need to build a network. Networking is not part of an academician's DNA. Except for professors in the business field, most do not have the "business mentality" of constantly thinking about how to generate clients, boost sales, and recruit employees. Usually, they don't even carry business cards to distribute at conferences. Researchers, especially, thrive in a very narrow world of colleagues contributing specifically to their research. Professors function primarily within the tunnels of their respective disciplines, despite the increase in interdisciplinary journals, conferences, and email lists.
So who needs another Internet source that will just send you more emails you don't want? This article is intended to answer that question so you can make an informed decision about whether to join Linkedln. Just what can Linkedln do to make your life better? The next three sections will provide the following: (1) an inventory of the top 10 traditional resources for communication, excluding social media, (2) the top 10 reasons NOT to join Linkedln, and, finally, (3) what happens next in terms of a summary of Linkedln's five purposes, deciding whether to join Linkedln, and Linkedln's 2013 profile updates.
Top 10 Traditional Resources for Communication
Let's begin with basic academic communication. Assuming you are not a total recluse and you do communicate with colleagues at institutions outside your own, how do you contact them? What resources do you use? Here's an inventory of 10 traditional low-tech networking resources you may be using:
1. stone tablets
2. faded business cards with a paper clip or rubber band around them
3. scrunched napkins with a smeared ink name and phone number (WAIT! That's for dates.)
4. print address book
5. Rolodex® cards in or out of the tray or base
6. print directories from institutions, associations, and conferences