Is your social media activity a safety net?

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I’ve been on LinkedIn for almost five years (you can find this information on your Account & Settings tab).  Over the years, I noticed that once in a while when I clicked over to the person behind a connection request, they’d have recently connected to dozens of people.  Shortly thereafter, that person would announce that they’d taken on a new role at a new company.

As social media has proliferated, I see more people getting involved to support their company brands – or just building their own.  (THE resource on how to do this effectively is Dan Schwabel‘s Me 2.0.)  These days it’s not just LinkedIn connections, but new blogs, Twitter accounts, and ramped up public speaking appearances.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing negative at all about this.  In today’s world of work, we all need a strong safety net and social media channels provide raw material, with a different thread gauges.  But you should know that weaving a solid net takes time – and you need to start before you really need it.  (For lessons on how to do this, here’s some thoughts I shared last December on Warren Sukernek’s successful job search.)

Also be aware that people are watching.  And it’s not just your potential future employers and colleagues, it’s your current and past employers and colleagues as well.  This is public, after all.  So you may not need the old routine about a lot of sudden doctor’s appointments anymore, but your boss might know what’s going on anyway just by the digital breadcrumb trail of posts and tweets that you’re leaving behind.

Better start weaving before you need to go fishing.

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  1. But to weave it with primary motivation of saving yourself on a rainy day is a bit…after the fact and defensive. And if that were the primary motivation, it would result in a poorly woven Web. That’s why optimizing yourself for growth and opportunity — the offensive — should be the biggest motivation. I don’t disagree with you, but believe the latter is a necessary clause, if not the dominant requirement. It’s sort of like managing your health: you don’t just keep your body healthy so you can ward off germ attacks in bad times; you keep your body healthy so you can maximize everything you do each day, better, stronger and faster.

  2. I appreciate reading the word of caution that at minimum raises our awareness. My sense is that it is much more acceptable (tolerable) to be building threads that a manager may notice. The smart manager is likely doing the same.

  3. What I’ve found in watching very successful people and the path they’ve taken is that they’ve all had a very strategic LONG-TERM approach in virtually everything they do.

    I enjoy connecting, and I will do it regardless, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I didn’t target certain people that I know could potentially learn a lot from that will invariably help me succeed in the long run.

    To piggy back off of Stuart’s comment, I’ve found that the leveraging part of relationships more or less comes organically if the relationship matures into a genuine connection/friendship/mutual respect.

  4. Wow. I just checked. I have also been a member of LinkedIn for 5 years (since Jan 2004). Has it really been that long?

    I also have noticed when people add dozens of new connections. Sometimes I know the back story and know why they are doing it. Other times it’s just that they clicked on the “add people you know” option and did not realize that their contact list was being mined for future “contacts”

    You are spot on in your description of a digital bread crumb trail. We all should be wise enough to know where we are going and to know that where we go we leave bread crumbs in many forms. It would be nice to have an easy way to go back and check to see what our bread crumbs are doing – for or against us. After all — it is our data. Or is it?

    Jeff Shuey

  5. Peter,

    First, thanks again for referring to my experience. As you know, I am a strong proponent in building it before you need it, following Keith Ferrazzi’s advice in Never Eat Alone. Although today, our activities may be career focused, there are certainly many reasons to build a strong network and personal brand. As Max said, optimizing yourself for growth and opportunity should be the biggest motivation. And giving before taking is always a smart approach.

  6. Please don’t follow me on Twitter
    Because you are not a follower. Are you?

    I was a huge fan of Twitter for the past 12 months or so. There were about 5000 other users following me.

    But I gave it up. To never Tweet again.

    Why you ask?

    It was an article that I read in the Wall Street Journal about Gary Vaynerchuk who within the social media circles is well known.

    This is what the article said.

    “the first time he visited the Harper offices, sources say, he wowed the troops by sitting down at the computer and tweeting about the HarperStudio blog, The 26th Story; the group then watched in real time as thousands of people descended upon that blog. “It was a perfect demonstration of the credibility he has established,” says Bob Miller”

    And I thought to myself, ‘is this what I have been reduced to? A shill in some guys game. A pawn? A follower who can be used so that another may profit?’

    Well I am not that. And neither are you.

    We are leaders, not followers.

    Instead I will choose to follow this sage advice, not mine…but from one much wiser than I

    Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

  7. Hey Peter,

    In days past, starting a blog would have been one way to establish your professional brand online. Given how time intensive that is, I always recommend a LinkedIn profile that allows you to monitor the evolution of your professional graph (Disclosure: I work @linkedin).

    These days, finding birds of a feather in your space can be done, either with LinkedIn search or as you said by monitoring LinkedIn connection. Alternatively, Twitter sites like and facilitate that as well. Following like minded peers leads to constructive conversations that can further strengthen your professional brand and relationships.

  8. good advice! reminds me that LinkedIn is the most neglected of my social networks….time for an update!

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