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Don’t be a LinkedIn Voodoo Doll. Publish Smartly. Filter Selfishly.

Empathy and Filters. If you act with the former and understand the latter, you’ll be a very good LinkedIn Citizen.

“There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant”
Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I worry about my 16 month old daughter in the digital age. Am I alone? It’s disingenuous to say these problems are simply just ‘filter failure” as Clay Shirky has been banging on about for years. However he’s right to highlight filters in a world where we’re obsessed with multiplying the message. So much useless and harmful information swimming around and my little girl only wants online gadgets. Please don’t tell me that’s not a problem. We live in a real world, not a theoretical one. Information overload is an ancient issue. Shirky references the invention of the printing press when describing the beginning of perceived information overload. In fact it goes back a lot further.

“distringit librorum multitudo “
The abundance of books is a distraction.
Seneca the younger:
(4 BC to 65 AD)

Where Shirky is mistaken in my view is that the problems are not fundamentally the same. The need for many of us to connect widely with many people we superficially know and the necessity to access data feeds fundamentally changes the game. A lot of us do ignore the majority of our feeds because we don’t take the time to filter and hone them to our needs. My advice is look out for tips on how to make your day a lot easier when navigating the maelstrom of data feeds. Moreover iteratively develop your own style of addressing the problem. On the flipside try to avoid being a data spammer. People are genuinely unaware sometimes of their own spam. So here’s 5 tips to avoid becoming a LinkedIn Voodoo Doll.

1. Beware of Open Groups.
So you’ve found a great article on 3D printing. You immediately post it to your feed and 2 dedicated 3D printing groups and to 4 different manufacturing groups. If those groups are all open, you’ve just posted the same thing to your feed 7 times in 2 minutes. There are other ways to clutter people’s feeds (albeit with variety). You ‘like’ 7 articles in quick succession. Or you ask Hootsuite to auto-select the best time to publish your 7 selected articles. Many people will quite reasonably think you have not read these articles. Nobody cares about the ‘whys’. People will just see your face owning their already over-populated feed.

Your contacts imagine carving your voodoo doll.

2. Tripit? Skip it. Maybe.
At least ask yourself why you are using it. Do you want 2,000 contacts to read your travel updates? Think about the amount of time this might waste. Now this has some uses – particularly in business development. If you are visiting a city and you want the chance to set up some more meetings while you are there, this can be very useful. Equally it has uses where you have a tight network that need to know where you are for logistical reasons. However for a lot of users it’s most certainly not sophisticated behaviour. Some of the sophisticated LinkedIn users tracking Tripit may be professional burglars. The same goes for any service of that nature. Think before you opt-in. As for giving a Tripit alert a ‘like’ .…

Your contacts are puncturing your voodoo doll.

3. Switch off Alerts for cosmetic profile changes
e.g. alerts that show you have a new photo or added a new skill.  Most of your business contacts are not close friends i.e. they don’t care about the minutiae of your personal profile. LinkedIn has you alerting everyone about everything by default because it wants data flow. Don’t spam out of laziness. Switch a lot of those presets off. Just roll over your icon on the top right of the home page and select ‘Privacy and Settings’. Under Privacy Controls turn off your activity broadcasts. If you want people to know you’ve a new title/job or if there’s a company you really want them to know you are following, switch this option on temporarily. Be sophisticated and in control. Remember you don’t just alert all your 1st level contacts you’ve changed your photo. Some people regularly ‘like’ alerts for new photos – spamming further networks.

Your voodoo doll hits the wall and breaks.

so….
4. Filter iteratively.
If you notice someone constantly posting unwanted clutter of 10 posts in a row, roll your cursor over the top right hand corner of one of their posts and click ‘Hide’.  You’ll no longer receive updates from that connection but you’ll still be connected. They won’t know any better. It’s basically an iterative and subtle anti-spam button for LinkedIn. Do the same for people who invariably post content that is uninteresting to you.

and remember….
5. Empathy is the best policy.

Be a good LinkedIn citizen. If you have contacts that sometimes publish a stream of 10 posts, consider letting them know politely. If they’re smart, they’ll appreciate it. Also don’t be afraid of open groups (or closed groups with a lot of mutually inclusive members) – just space the posts so they appear at different times in the feed. Scheduling with Hootsuite or similar is a great way to do it.

If you want to delve much more deeply into the theoretical side of  filters, Salesforce.com’s Chief Scientist JP Rangswami has written the most insightful overview I’ve read: Filtering: Seven Principles.
If you want to dig more deeply into the practical side of optimal LinkedIn usage, I highly recommend talking to Barry Devon at DevonConsult.

In summary:
There are always exceptions to the above so ‘liking’ a very good friend’s new photo is not a crime. Liking photos constantly is a crime in my book. The point is that with 1 click several thousand eyeballs may see your post – so its about being aware of this. LinkedIn’s a better place for everyone to be if we post with moderation and empathy. And our personal LinkedIn is a neater, more informative space if we use filters smartly.
* Publish smartly. Empathise with your LinkedIn community.
* Filter selfishly. Remove the clutter.

Stephen Cummins
CEO
Amasat
1@amasat.com
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Photography+Text © Stephen Cummins

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About Amasat: Founded in 2013, Amasat identifies and promotes global best in class cloud apps. It focuses on apps within the ecosystem evolving around the world’s most powerful and innovative enterprise platform, Salesforce.com. Amasat calls them Alpha Apps. If you have a global best in class app or a unique app that creates a new market, please email me and describe in a single sentence what makes your app an Alpha App.