Should companies control employee use of LinkedIn?
After I gave a talk about LinkedIn to a group of business owners in Madison, Eric Fritz, president of KEVA Sports, approached me. He wanted to help his employees create “KILLER” LinkedIn profiles, knowing that doing so would reflect favorably on the company, yet he did not want to become “Big Brother” by dictating what they wrote.
In a recent article in Forbes, “Why Every Employee At Your Company Should Use LinkedIn,” William Aruda asserts that there are several advantages to having every company employee on LinkedIn: It ensures brand consistency and increases company visibility. It boosts the number of company page followers. It humanizes your brand. It improves company morale due to a culture of trust and allows employees to connect and share information with each other, thus building community.
Aruda argues that the 10% of companies that do not allow their employees to be on LinkedIn are making a huge mistake and are operating from a place of fear rather than trusting that there is enough business for all of us to thrive. I agree. And yet even the companies that do encourage LinkedIn activity often operate out of a sense of fear and scarcity.
Many bigger corporations have no moral dilemma in taking on a “Big Brother” role, prescribing what employees can put in their LinkedIn profiles. Of course, companies want and need brand consistency; no one is served if a staff member misspells the name of the company in the employer field, or if valuable keywords are not included in the headline, job titles, and other LinkedIn sections.
Yet I believe company control over LinkedIn profiles can be taken too far. One LinkedIn trainer here in Wisconsin advises companies to have every staff member’s LinkedIn summary consist of 1) two pre-worded paragraphs about the company, 2) a pre-worded paragraph about his or her job position, and then, and only then, 3) perhaps a short mention of his or her background.
This formula is great for businesses that want to keep careful watch over every employee’s profile. A small change indicating a job search will be spotted easily. How the company responds to that change is up to the company; it could ignore it, offer the employee incentives to stay, or — worst case — take negative action against the wayward job seeker.
If the company’s managers have an attitude like Eric Fritz’s, then they will create optimized profiles for their leaders, help their current employees create profiles with a consistent brand across the company, work with new employees to match that brand, and train employees regularly on personal branding and LinkedIn. What they won’t do is chastise employees for changing their profiles or doing a job search on LinkedIn. They will also give employees some flexibility in how they present their past job histories and achievements. These latter practices will create the trust and community Aruda describes in his paradigm.
As a LinkedIn expert, I face a moral dilemma every time I start a new project. Can I work with larger companies to ensure all employees are promoting a consistent brand across LinkedIn? I’ve realized that for me to feel comfortable and morally aligned with such a project, the company culture must be one of trust and abundance, not of fear and scarcity. I believe that only then can LinkedIn be the positive force in the business and professional community that it was designed to be.
Brenda Bernstein, owner and senior editor at The Essay Expert, LLC and best-selling author of How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile, How to Write a WINNING Resume, and How to Write a STELLAR Executive Resume, is an award-winning businesswoman and résumé writer.
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