Why Linkedin best practices are a myth

By Neil Patrick

There’s no universal social media best practice, so stop looking for one

Last weekend over coffee, Gary Sharpe of Blue Dog Scientific and I were discussing LinkedIn Pulse. I think it is fair to say Gary has established himself as something of a renegade authority on LinkedIn.

He is an agent provocateur, evangelist, firestarter. He’s also a champion of fairness, a scientist and a driven man. He has an uncanny knack of spotting elephants in rooms that only when he points them out, do the rest of us recognise them.

Dr. Gary Sharpe of Blue Dog Scientific

Gary and I have shared values and core beliefs about things like authenticity, trust, collaboration, transparency.

We have also independently evolved entirely different ideas about how we use social media platforms in our day to day businesses.

It’s not that we disagree about much, but rather that we have totally different manifestations of our online presences.

Gary’s online presence mirrors who he is, what he cares about and what he wants to achieve. And so does mine. Neither of us copied any best practice or more prominent thought leader. We each figured out our own strategy that was right for us.

So who is right and who is wrong?

The answer is that we are both right. Because there is no such thing as a one size fits all solution.

But as friends and collaborators, we thought it would be interesting writing some content for each other. Gary has posted about our shared ideas and beliefs here. If you want to get some really authoritative insights into Linkedin, then you'll find much of interest on Gary's blog.

Why it is good that we are different

Gary has a great deal more courage than I in how he has taken on his mission to improve everyone’s user experience of LinkedIn. He ribs me that I am risk averse. I rib him that he plays with fire too much.

The fact is that we are each being true to our own personalities and backgrounds. If I tried to be Gary, I would inevitably be at best a weak impersonation and at worst, come over as a complete fraud. And vice versa.

Why I don’t post on LinkedIn Pulse

I write a lot of blog posts – there are around 400 on this blog alone, not to mention a ton of others scattered all over the web. But you won’t find me posting on LinkedIn Pulse. Gary on the other hand posts on Pulse almost daily. Often with biting critiques of the very platform he is publishing on.

My rationale for not posting on Pulse is this; I believe that LinkedIn like any corporation serves its shareholders first. Second it serves its customers. At best, its members (that’s us) come a very lowly third.

And as Gary has consistently reported, we users are getting an increasingly poor deal as LinkedIn continues in its quest to drive up revenues and profits. Worse, when we publish on Pulse we are providing our labours to LinkedIn for peanuts.

They acquire our content by the bucket load every day. We get an increasingly paltry compensation for our hours of toil. Our work may bring us a few comments and plaudits from our friends. We may trigger the odd new contact who likes what we have said. But this is a very poor ROI in my view.

My mantra is this:

Don’t build your house on rented land. Especially when the landowner has absolutely no vested interest in retaining your goodwill.

How I connect with people without using LinkedIn

We all want to find and build worthwhile professional relationships. This makes LinkedIn the natural platform choice for most of us. And just as Gary has built his following and network through his blog, LinkedIn and Google plus, I have built mine through my blog and Twitter.

I consider LinkedIn “high stakes” social media. The most senior people are rarely on the platform. They are too busy being successful. And most other people don’t want to be pestered by strangers. Either to connect or to read our latest musings, however profound or insightful they may be. People want choice and they want control. I get that. And I respect it.

Send out too many invitations to connect with people you don’t already know and you’ll potentially be classed by LI as a spammer, especially if you trigger a few IDKs (that’s when an invitee responds with the “I don’t know this person” button).

So I never invite connections from someone on LinkedIn I don’t already know from somewhere else. And the result is that I may have a smaller LI network than some, but it’s with people I like and who hopefully like me. This is the foundation for relationships which are meaningful and valuable.

Twitter on the other hand is low stakes. Every day I gain about 30 or 40 new Twitter followers. Most are what I call ‘randoms’ – people whom have absolutely no reason to follow me, because we have nothing in common. Yet within those 30 or 40 will always be 3 or 4 people I do want to get to know better. Many of these people subsequently request to connect with me on LinkedIn because I am nice to them on Twitter – I comment and interact with them. I share and favourite their posts that I like. Everyone is happy.

Why LinkedIn is still immensely valuable to me

A few weeks ago, the CEO of a business in my locality posted on LinkedIn he was looking for a board level marketing consultant. He wasn’t a first degree connection of mine, so despite this being exactly the sort of work I specialize in, I never saw his post. The first I knew about it was when people I was connected to started recommending me.

Within a few hours, four people who knew me well had all put my name forward. And sure enough this led to a meeting and the start of a valuable business relationship.

None of this happened because I had posted on Pulse. It happened because people in my network thought enough of me to put me forward. For all sorts of reasons, they had goodwill towards me.

We win goodwill not by brilliance, but by caring about others

The thing that each of the four people who recommended me for this gig had in common was that in different ways, I had helped every one of them previously with their work. In some cases, it had been advice, or I had previously worked with them. In others, it had been simple friendship and encouragement.

This was no clever strategy on my part. It was no brilliant post which established my authority. It was just people being nice to me, because in the past I had been nice to them.

My approach to social media works for me because it reflects who I am and what I want to accomplish. Not because I have copied anyone else’s strategy. And Gary does the same thing. So we are entirely different but also entirely the same.

Vive la difference!


  1. Neil what an instructive and Inspiring article. It's simplicity is clarifying. I do admire Gary Sharpe on LinkedIn - he appears to be everything you describe! A mirror image of risk and disruption, quite fantastic ! Your style is more subtle, but equally as effective! With LinkedIn you would be severely disappointed if you're looking for returns to just happen. Your rewards are what you make and what you take away! Great relationships!

    1. Yes Donna-Luisa, we need people with Gary's courage to confront and challenge the those who abuse their power. And I remain convinced that people power will always win in the end! I appreciate your inputs to our little band of independent thinkers enormously. Thank you. :-)

  2. Very insightful Neil, excellent post :-)