Sunday, October 9, 2011

LinkedIn for Church Social Media: Why Bother?

Ah, LinkedIn...the social media platform for which I have special affection.

Yes, I participated enthusiastically within CompuServe's online communities back in 1993, but LinkedIn was where I fully succumbed to the nimble charms of social media nearly four years ago. Twitter came next and well . . . here I am Lord, re-tweet me.

That's right, I skipped Facebook and went directly to LinkedIn because of LinkedIn's focus on business professionals and career development.

LinkedIn made my always-updated resume and references readily available. It also provided ways for me to develop clout before there was Klout, which I developed by offering counsel about marketing communications, writing and editing, and ethics.

I built networks based on existing connections in a variety of industries and started accumulating recommendations (references). I joined groups that made sense, given my client base at the time. Over the years, I've left some groups and joined others.

Back then and to this day I've focused on posting information about career-related activities. This strategy would become even more important after coming under the thrall of Twitter, especially when cross-posting from Twitter to LinkedIn became possible. No one on LinkedIn needs to know when I need to nap. For realzzz.

All this information about what I did and do frames my counsel about if and when churches, clergy, religious, and lay ministers should develop a presence on LinkedIn.

Should you or your church/diocese/faith-based organization bother with LinkedIn? Maybe.

First, as is the case with every other social networking platform, know why you're there.
What do you hope to gain? What do you plan to contribute? Will you use LinkedIn as an an individual or will you represent your church/organization? If you're planning to represent your church/organization, do you have the authority to do so?
If after engaging in this discernment process you still want to join LinkedIn, then manage your identity accordingly:
  • be a professional among professionals;
  • maintain stronger boundaries between work and personal life than you do on Twitter or Facebook; and
  • contribute from a place of collegiality and collaboration rather than competition.

    Do get involved with LinkedIn if you will:
    • craft a profile providing more than basic information;
    • visit the site at least once a month;
    • commit to reviewing and updating your profile at least once a quarter;
    • participate in the "Answers" feature at least a few times;
    • participate in any groups you join by contributing to conversation and community; and
    • benefit from secular business connections.

    Do not bother with LinkedIn if you plan to simply:
    • duplicate existing your social networks on Facebook or Twitter;
    • post status updates that have nothing to do with your professional activities; or
    • put up profile will nothing more than your name, where you work, and where you went to school.

    These do's and don'ts apply to personal accounts. LinkedIn offers a "Company" page feature, an option that has been used by dioceses, national churches, and faith-based organizations. Establishing a Company page involves thinking through additional issues, something I'll map out in a future post about LinkedIn.


    Fran said...

    Thanks for this Meredith. I was on LinkedIn early on. People would ask me why I had "so many connections" and I would reply that I did "not know," but added that "I am certain that it will matter." So I was hooked on social media early on too. I have just started to use LinkedIn again, so this is good affirmation - coming from the person that I see as "the Apostle of the Internet."

    Meredith Gould said...

    Glad to be of service, Fran!

    I think it's especially important for clergy and lay ministers to connect with people in religious publishing, faith formation, religious education, etc., as well as faith-based charitable organizations.

    Will note that over the years people I initially connected with because of healthcare have become more open about revealing/sharing their own commitment to church and faith -- and have told me it's because I've been so open about mine. Of course I have the luxury of being a freelancer and consultant, so I'm not putting my career in (too much) jeopardy by doing so.