LinkedIn is a fantastic platform for all kinds of professional networking. With over 259 million users in more than 200 countries, it is often the very best way to network with leaders in your field. Over half of LinkedIn’s revenue comes from the talent market, so if you are currently employed or would like to be in the future, there is no better place to have your résumé.
I use LinkedIn in a more low-key, professional way than Facebook or Twitter. When I meet people at events and want to stay in touch with them, I connect with them on LinkedIn afterward. LinkedIn groups (there are over 2.1 million of them) are also great places to approach people for interviews, ask and answer questions on important topics, and let people know about relevant articles and events.
In using LinkedIn, I have just one cardinal rule: never accept a connection request from anyone who does not add a personal note to that request. Even if I do not know someone, if they have taken the time to study what I do and write a quick, well-stated reason for wanting to connect, I will generally do it. People who don’t go to this trouble are typically just interested in marketing to me, so I have gotten pretty good at ignoring their requests.
But this week I made an exception to my rule. Here is what happened.
I got a generic connection request from an established author. Before violating my rule I went to some trouble to find out more about her: I checked out her books on Amazon, looked at her website, viewed her LinkedIn profile. With several books published by respected houses on topics I was somewhat interested in, she seemed like a regular person and not an obvious marketer. So after waiting a day to mull it over, I accepted her request.
Hours later, I got a message from her with my name misspelled, inviting me to join her LinkedIn group to discuss her work! Because I’d given her the benefit of the doubt and broken my cardinal rule for her, I felt I needed to respond in some way. But I was mad at myself as well as her, so here is what I ended up writing:
In accepting your request to connect on LinkedIn yesterday, I acted against my primary rule to never connect with anyone who doesn’t take the time to personalize that request. Why do I have this rule? Because more often than not, people who do not do that are more interested in marketing to me than having a conversation with me.
So it is with great dismay that I got your note today (to Annette?) asking me to join your LinkedIn Group. If you want my opinions on anything, that is exactly the wrong way to get them. Thanks for the reminder to never make exceptions to my rule again.
A little harsh? Maybe, but I also felt it was honest and fair. I was still willing to be connected with her, but now the burden of proof was on her.
I didn’t have long to wait for a reply. Twenty minutes later she sent an apology, but it was crafted in the oddest way imaginable. She kept referring to how she always makes it a point to personalize her responses to people, as though I were already a follower of hers and not someone she had contacted out of the blue. She made excuses, saying she was tired from being on the road with her successful career, and didn’t have anyone doing social media for her even though she was so busy. She blamed spellcheck, then pitched me again on joining her group, saying she often writes about members in her books and refers them to others.
After reading the whole thing several times, I felt like I needed to take a shower. Again, I pondered what to do. In the end, I decided that continuing the conversation was not a good use of my time. So I went to LinkedIn’s excellent Help Center and learned how to remove a connection. Then I promised myself I would write this article sharing my rule, and vowed never to break it again!
With so much great information available on how to publish and build a platform, the challenge for authors is finding the right advice at the right time. Most authors I speak to struggle not with finding reliable information but knowing which advice is right for their particular situation. Adding to the confusion, even sound advice can become quickly outdated with the rapid changes in publishing, social media, and web technology.
One solution is to find a few namesyoutrustintheindustry, follow them, and filter out much of the rest. But curation requires that these trusted voices to be clear about who their audience is for each piece. This is key, because right now there is a wide range of both needs and expertise among authors.
Just how wide this range extends was brought home to me recently when I interviewed Kristen McLean, CEO of Bookigee, about author education and book marketing. Always articulate and insightful about publishing, Kristen identified five different groups of authors with very different needs:
Aspiring authors trying to figure out the marketplace for the first time
Self-published authors putting out their first book through non-traditional channels
Authors who have been published before and are interested in trying something new
Authors who are in pre-publication mode and need to launch their book
Established authors marketing their backlist
Kristen and others in the publishing startup space are actively looking at ways to target information based on authors’ specific needs. Those of us who write about author education can aid this process by making it more clear what type of author will benefit most from our articles. And authors are best served by keeping a few guiding principles in mind while searching for useful advice on publishing and platforms.
If you haven’t done so already, identify your first goal. Do you need advice on pitching a manuscript? A social media strategy for finding your readers? Guidance on self-publishing? Focus on one thing first, and don’t get distracted by the rest until you have your answer and are on the road to implementing it.
Sometimes you need tactical information, and sometimes it helps to look at the big picture. Periodically allow yourself time to keep upwithtrends. If you fall down a rabbit hole into some fascinating new media space, that’s fine. Just come back up again and focus on your next task at hand.
Information overload can quickly become emotional overwhelm. Remember to pace yourself, and leave enough time to actually write. Platform-building is a long-term project, and is of no real use without great, well-written ideas to share.
To learn more about Kristen’s ideas on author education and book marketing, here is the full video of our conversation.
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