I consider myself a fairly prolific creator of online content. I churn out columns for Inc., pen my own blog, and contribute all sorts of articles to industry trade publications.
On many occasions, I've opined about LinkedIn. In fact, Inc. was nice enough to publish one such piece: "What I Learned From My First Time Writing on LinkedIn.”
But when it comes to mastering my LinkedIn connections, I'm about as competent as your average U.S. congressman. As a result, I've fallen prey to the dark side of LinkedIn. (Note: While countless articles rightly tout LinkedIn as the channel on which to network and build business, it's also morphed into a watering hole for thinly disguised salespeople seeking to ensnare you in their trap).
To wit, I recently accepted an invitation from Bryce DeGroot, who identified himself as president and CEO of Stewart Realty Investment Group. Since my firm boasts fairly robust credentials in representing such organizations, I was hoping he'd reached out to me based upon our expertise. Wrong. He spammed me.
Needless to say, Bryce has now gone the way of all flesh. And DeGroot is just one example of many poor choices I've made on LinkedIn.
So, how do you avoid making the same mistakes? Here's my advice:
Look for name brands.
Entrepreneurs should be aware that LinkedIn has introduced new tools such as Sales Navigator that will further enable spammers to seek you out. As a result, you should make it a practice to accept invites only from individuals who represent name brands or organizations with whom you’d like to partner or represent. Be highly selective before hitting the "accept" button.
If you see something, say something.
Beginning with the next batch of LinkedIn invites, I’m going to ask my senior management team if theycan vouch for the individual. If they can’t, I’ll immediately hit delete. You should consider doing the same. It’s better to miss one real opportunity than be deluged by tsunami-like waves of worthless spam.
Beware the great imposter.
Remember Frank Abagnale, the author of Catch Me If You Can and perhaps one of the world's greatest imposters? LinkedIn has become a breeding ground for Abagnale wannabes posing as influencers. Their goal: Hijack your connections to spread their tale of lies. Check out George Anders's encounter with a LinkedIn imposter by the name of Alice Powell. If a new invitation arrives from someone who seems too good to be true, odds are she is. Hit delete.
Edit your connections.
Do a purge every now and again. If you have any connections who were former vendors who now just use the site to try to hit you up, don't be afraid to cut them loose.
LinkedIn is a godsend for those of us who play by the rules, leverage it to glean insights, and reach out to build connections with the right people. And while the organization has installed countless detection systems to out and oust spammers and fraudulent characters alike, the onus remains on you to avoid LinkedIn's dark side.