If you know me, you know that I love LinkedIn as a networking tool. From the desktop site to the iPhone app to the conversations it sparks, LinkedIn is amazing. But one thing I, like most people cannot stand is the barage of emails that come along with it. And you know that, if you’re getting emails about every single one of your connections updates, they’re probably getting them about your updates as well. This article by Cheryl Conner delves into the nuisance and how to get rid of it before you annoy your best chance at getting a step up in the corporate world.
Those who read my columns know that I’m a great fan of LinkedIn, especially for its creative “off-brand” and competitive intelligence uses. But when I saw Donna Sapolin’s recent post on How LinkedIn is Thwarting Your Job Search, I had to weigh in.
Yes, the auto emails that inform your entire LinkedIn universe of every tweak you make to your profile bother me too. But beyond the guffaws and the occasional embarrassment, as Donna shared so poignantly, they are also an accidental anathema to anybody who’s seeking a job. Or just lost a job. Imagine the chagrin of an executive whose trial run at a company didn’t work out, when he changed his job title back to freelancer and LinkedIn so helpfully sent an email to let everyone know. Or imagine the anguish of the worker who actually didn’t want to accidentally alert their current boss to the fact that they’re looking.
So I dug a little further. I also asked one of my favorite LinkedIn sources, Wayne Breitbarth, to offer his thoughts. His response, in a word: “Stinks.” The situation actually happened to Wayne himself when he was giving a speech this past week at the Milwaukee Business Journal. Earlier in the day he’d gotten one of LinkedIn’s automatic notifications that one of the editors had just taken a job at the Pittsburgh Biz Journal. “So when he came to my event I congratulated him in front of all the folks there,” said Wayne. “Immediately, everybody busted a gut. They’d been teasing him all morning long. I came to find out all he’d done was attempt to change his company name from the national Business Journal company’s page to the Milwaukee Journal page and accidentally grabbed the wrong page. Oops. When he saved the changes, out went the notification for the world to see.”
In all, it appears the newest auto messages and poor response time from LinkedIn’s support desk are features on nobody’s hit list. However, despite their intermittent threats, I don’t see people fleeing the LinkedIn platform in rage, nor should they. But the issues of auto congratulations and auto updates underscore an important networking point: You, as a savvy user, must stay on top of the continuing updates to the primary platforms as they evolve.
For LinkedIn, it turns out, there actually is a way to turn off the automatic alerts to the email universe of every relative “sneeze”: As Donna also advised, go to your LinkedIn privacy settings and turn the “notify connections when I make a profile update” option to “off”. It’s highly unfortunate the default is not the opposite, but it’s not. But, problem solved.
The issue of auto-congrat emails, in contrast, isn’t nearly so easy to fix. On the LinkedIn community boards I found this question emerge nearly a year ago from Canadian ecotourism and marketing expert Laura Ell:
How do you stop LinkedIn sending out automated messages on my behalf such as “anniversary in job, say congratulations”?The question evoked outrage from users. There are 43 responses, but no real answers until this, just two days ago, tongue in cheek, from LinkedIn user Stephen C. Armstrong, founder of management firm AMGI Partners:
“A way to stop this is to show in your profile that you have stopped working at a current employer (say end at January 2014). Then the LinkedIn logic won’t be able to send out these stupid statements. [editor’s note: presumably you have first changed the default that sends email to notify your connected world that you did this]. Yes someone might say ‘oh, you don’t work there anymore’, but this is better than these broadcast messages that go to everyone.”
Thank you, Stephen, for your creative thinking. But still… should users really have to go to these lengths?
On a related note, I also liked this remark from Debra Donston-Miller, from her recent InformationWeek article about the most reviled LinkedIn etiquette peeves: Exaggeration, which is a particular problem when fairly well everyone will see what you say:
Says Debra: “I can’t count the times I’ve heard someone look at former colleagues’ LinkedIn Profiles and guffaw (yes, guffaw) while saying things like, ‘What!? He did what at our company?’ ‘Nice of her to take all of the credit for a project that a whole team worked on!’ ‘Since when did he have that title?’ You get the picture. Depending on how you look at it, the good and bad thing about LinkedIn is that your experience is out there for all to see. But unlike the old days, when your resume was seen by only a few people, usually outside your own company, you could embellish without too much risk (not that you should have).” It’s amazing how many people continue to miss this nuance as well.
But in the interest of keeping all of us current, here are a few of the LinkedIn setting features most people still miss, courtesy of Wayne Breitbarth who also wrote about these points in his PowerFormula blog. (Once again, thank you, Wayne!) He covers these points and others in the chapter Your Acccount, Your Settings, Your Way in his newest book, The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success. As it pertains to privacy and alerts, these are the five issues he continues to hear about most often:
1. ”I don’t want to be bothered with all those group emails”
Yes, you have full control over which groups you receive email notifications from and the frequency with which you receive them, says Wayne. Ask yourself “If I miss something from this group, would I be mad?” Wayne suggests you keep track of a handful of groups, and let the updates from the other ones go.
2. ”This guy is driving me nuts with his silly status updates”
We all have some people in our networks who are using their LinkedIn status updates like a Twitter account, or they don’t understand LinkedIn users don’t want to be sold to on a regular basis. This setting allows you to say “bye-bye” to their status updates, Wayne says. Here’s how to stop them: When you view one of the offending status updates on your home page, move the cursor to the top right of the update and click “Hide.”
3. ”I don’t want to tell my network every time I change my profile this weekend”
Yes, the big case in point. This is especially helpful if you are working on your profile in a condensed period of time and don’t LinkedIn to report every change immediately. Be sure to turn the feature back on when you have completed your final changes, says Wayne. Having your network see your profile changes is a good thing on the whole, he suggests. But it’s smart to turn off the activity broadcasts while you’re working on multiple changes, or are updating an item you’d rather not go out in email. In Settings > Profile > Turn on/off your activity broadcasts.
4. ”I don’t want people to see my connections”
The default is that your first-degree connections can see who your other first-degree connections are. Allowing your friends to know who your other friends are has always been a valuable step in the networking process, Wayne says, and he finds its especially cool that LinkedIn takes the concept to another level. “I do understand certain people may not want this list to be viewable by others,” says Wayne. “But I know plenty of people who would not play the LinkedIn game at all if this control did not exist, so I’m thankful it’s available. “
Many people would like this setting to be person-by-person and not all-or-nothing. Unfortunately, that option is not yet available on LinkedIn. But here’s how to change your current settings: Go to Settings > Profile > to select who can see your connections.
5. ”How do other people get their picture, name, and company name on Who’s Viewed Your Profile”
The default is that you won’t see this detail, but most individuals who are interested in growing their brands would actually want this information to show. But if you’d like to change it – or would like to temporarily change it go to Settings > Profile > Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile.
In short, Wayne’s advice is to take a few minutes now, at the start of the year, to make sure your LinkedIn settings are in line with your business and personal strategy. It will save you time and will make you more effective on LinkedIn as well as protect you at least somewhat from the accidental guffaws.
Overall, however, it’s also important to note that updates are not always bad. As a case in point, when I asked Laura Ell if I could quote her tongue-in-cheek question about auto anniversary emails, her position had softened:
“Sure you can quote me on that, I don’t mind. I was quite upset about the feature when I wrote the comment. Notwithstanding, I should mention a related conversation I had with one of my clients yesterday. I didn’t realize, but this feature does actually have positive effects on some. Sam Raphael, owner of Jungle Bay Dominica actually got a little choked up when he realized how long we had worked together. He said it was bringing water to his eyes to think about the struggles we all had as a company when we first opened the business together, and now, 8 years later, we were honored with two major awards that demonstrate how the hard work paid off and brought joy to so many visitors and residents of a struggling island community. So I must admit I’m a little torn about how I now feel about the anniversary announcements. LinkedIn should have an option to turn the updates off if individuals desire, but I do see some value.”
Thank you, Laura. Well said.