THE BLOG
12/10/2013 12:12 pm ET | Updated Feb 09, 2014

Debunking the Four Great LinkedIn Myths

LinkedIn has been around long enough to evolve an overarching mythology. The site remains an enigma for many businesspeople, who through the years have concocted and propagated stories that contradict the conventional wisdom. Plausible as they may seem, these stories arise from people's inhibitions on the site, unmet expectations in connecting with others or an underestimation of LinkedIn's value. Over time, the details are embellished, occasionally to the point of absurdity. Rather than assume the burden of social proof that falls on them, the majority take the exaggerations as LinkedIn gospel and perpetuate them.

Those who would mythologize LinkedIn negate its immense potential in creating positive change. I have surveyed thousands of people on their LinkedIn habits and attitudes toward social networking. Many have let the misconceptions of others temper their own assumptions about the effectiveness of the site, and have fallen into a black hole of skepticism and self-doubt. Enabling a mindset of quiet resignation displaces the optimism that is required to excel on LinkedIn.

Unquestionably, the greatest myth perpetrated on users is that just by creating a LinkedIn account, customers or recruiters will find you, and opportunities will rain down from the sky. Well, maybe in a perfect world. But you cannot set LinkedIn to autopilot. Nowadays, it takes a daily commitment, stellar LinkedIn profile content and a supportive network to achieve a desired result.

The following myths pervade the LinkedIn ecosystem and require immediate debunking:

Myth #1: "I don't need to be on LinkedIn. I'm not looking for a job."

The Debunking: Since its inception, LinkedIn has supported the goals of both active and passive job seekers. Changes to the user interface and the LinkedIn profile format have also made life easier for the recruiters and hiring managers who source candidates from an ever-expanding talent pool. Given LinkedIn's history, and the current emphasis on career development, it is understandably pigeonholed as a job seeker site. But this is a claim perpetuated by desk jockeys with little or no client facing, who are solely focused on protecting their turf, and do not see the inherent value of social networks or building a strong personal brand. Scores of professionals who are faced with the daily challenges of developing new business or advancing their commercial platform view LinkedIn as vital to their cause. The climate of popular opinion states that if you are not represented (well) on LinkedIn, then you are not for real in business.

Myth #2: "If I post an update, or make changes to my LinkedIn profile, then everyone in my network will see it."

The Debunking: Over time, people's LinkedIn networks have grown to the point where the sheer volume of information that pounds the home page is too much to process. Contrary to your belief, your entire LinkedIn directory is not waiting with bated breath for your updates. People attend to their own agendas. Most users are still trying to find their way on LinkedIn with strict time budgets. Moreover, the shelf-life of a given update is short. Your broadcasts, LinkedIn profile tweaks, likes, comments and shares have fleeting relevance, and become buried by torrents of new content. In order to make a wide-scale impression, everybody in your network would literally have to be riveted to their computer screens -- with their eyeballs in just the right place -- at the time your activity hits the stream. In a distracted society, you have to fight for every second of attention you can get. Remember: Getting noticed on LinkedIn is a good thing.

Myth #3: "If my LinkedIn connections are visible, then my competitors will steal business from me."

The Debunking: The Digital Era has re-engineered the strategies that people and companies traditionally deployed to keep tabs on rivals. And while we are all subject to scrutiny on LinkedIn, not every aspect of our presence on the site is investigated all that thoroughly. Be secure in the knowledge that your prized clients are not vulnerable to an attack from the competition (such an occurrence would bring to bear that maybe the business was not closed all that well in the first place). Moreover, your LinkedIn network is an essential element of your brand. Revealing it to others lays a foundation of trust, promotes relationship building and invites business opportunities. You are, as it is often said, judged by the company you keep.

Myth #4: "You have to be a techie to be successful in using LinkedIn."

The Debunking: Success in using LinkedIn is chiseled out of your ability to acquire wisdom from your online observations and apply it to the real world. With respect to technology, there is a learning curve that must be shortened in order to fluidly navigate the terrain. It is unavoidable. But you do not need to be a computer wizard to perform basic tasks. We humans are excellent cognitive mappers, and LinkedIn is a highly intuitive platform. In time and with practice, you can get to know all of LinkedIn's nooks and crannies. Once you have the fundamentals down pat, shift your focus to the activities and interactions that matter. With practice comes agility. With agility comes success.

Parting Thoughts:

Professionals flock to LinkedIn with an assortment of preconceived notions. They allocate what they feel will be the most appropriate effort in an attempt to derive meaning. How you maneuver and perform on the site should be based on your own observations, reflections, and interpretations. Once you have gone through the paces of LinkedIn, and have tested your insights, you can judge for yourself. The best way to shatter any myth is through your actual experience.