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Nothing But the Ruth by Ruth Carter
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NOTHING BUT THE RUTH!

LinkedIn Is NOT a Dating Site (And Other Ways to Harm Your Reputation)

Responding to unsolicited pitches on a professional platform.

By Ruth Carter

I’m a fan of LinkedIn. I use it to connect with fellow lawyers and the types of people who might need legal services within my practice areas in the future or who may post information that will help me be more successful or provide more value to my clients.

LinkedIn Is a Tool

When used properly, LinkedIn can be an asset to your career. However, if you don’t use it respectfully and effectively, you can tarnish your reputation.

Specifically, there are those people who, immediately upon connecting with you, send a pitchy, annoying or inappropriate message. I take offense because when these people send me a message, I have to deal with it. Thus, it’s a waste of my time — time that could be better spent doing more productive things. Like hanging out with my dog Rosie.

Count the Ways People Ruin LinkedIn

The Unsolicited Pitch

I loathe messages from new connections who sound like they’re trying to close the deal on the first interaction. These are real messages I’ve received from people minutes after accepting the connection:

  • “I’ve been consulting, teaching and training attorneys to transition to ‘a better way’ to practice for almost 25 years. The network helps attorneys get control of their business and get back their life. Let me know if joining our community sounds like something you’re interested in!”
  • “Thanks for the connection. My company does things a little bit differently in that we leverage technology to give you a better solution to your accounting needs, while also keeping your costs lower than traditional CPAs and bookkeepers.”
  • “Your company looks well-positioned in your market. I show law firm owners how to boost their business and efficiently reach their goals. Are you looking to leverage your practice now or in the future? If so, I would love to set up a call and share how my eight-step system is helping other attorneys achieve significant growth in their respective markets.”

Don’t Be This Guy on Linkedin

Sometimes I respond to these types of messages with “You’re acting like this guy,” with a link to Gary Vaynerchuk’s “Don’t Be This Guy” video. In it, Gary shuts down someone who tries to close with a single question during a Q&A.

Last week, a guy requested to connect and then immediately messaged me with, “I can increase client conversion, create more ongoing revenue and stop turning customers away & leaving money on the table online, without having to figure out web development or funnels. Do mornings or afternoons work best for a call this week?”

I responded with, “I can recite pi out to 10 decimal places. Are we done saying things that add no value to the other person’s life?”

Thankfully, our ethics rules prevent us from sending horrible unsolicited pitches like this. I wish more industries had rules like this, too.

Nonstop Nonsensical Buzzwords

Sometimes I receive LinkedIn messages from strangers that appear to be a string of buzzwords and jargon connected by prepositions, and I have no idea what they’re trying to say. The most recent one said, “[Our] “program models leverage and expand on collaboration among qualified agents, subject matter experts and those credentialed in professional services. Specifically through gatherings and delegations aligned to industry events.”

What?!

I responded that I didn’t understand what they were trying to say, and they continued to spew incomprehensible nonsense. I switched tactics and decided to play dumb and respond with, “Are you looking to set up a consultation? My rate for legal services is $275 per hour.” That tends to effectively communicate that I’m not interested in whatever they’re pushing (whatever it is).

“Let’s Schedule a Quick Call”

Then there are the new connections who immediately ask to schedule a 15-minute call to see how we can help each other or “to learn more about us and share your story.” I assume they’re more interested in promoting their business than actually getting to know me.

I always respond to these messages by saying that I schedule get-to-know-you calls at 4:30 a.m. when I’m walking Rosie. If the person is really interested in talking with me, they’ll make it work. If they’re interested in talking with anyone with a pulse, they’ll pass. To date, I think I’ve only had one person accept my invitation.

LinkedIn Is Not a Dating Site

And there is the occasional message from someone hitting on me. It happens often enough that I made a video about it. I used to ignore these messages, but then I decided this is an educational moment — for them.

Now my typical response starts with something like, “Eww! What is wrong with you?” It’s creepy to hit on someone via LinkedIn. Just don’t do it.

Attempts to Keep Bad Connections Away

A few months ago, I added a line to the “About” section in my LinkedIn profile that says:

“Please do not send me a request to connect immediately followed by a message with an unsolicited pitch. If I want to hire you, I’ll seek you out.”

I don’t think it’s having any effect. If all a person is doing is a search for “lawyer” and “Phoenix” or something to that effect, they don’t see this section.

Recently, after dealing with a few particularly annoying people, I changed the header image in an attempt to keep pitchy people away. At first, I considered modeling it after my Guest Post page, which says: “Sending me an unsolicited pitch is an expression of your willingness to send $20 to the charity of my choice.” However, given my doubts that most of these people ever look at my profile, instead, I went with a blue rectangle containing the message: “Do not send me an unsolicited pitch. If I need your services, I’ll seek you out.”

Perhaps I’m channeling my inner Oscar the Grouch, but, honestly, it seems like these guys left me no choice.

Do These Spammy Tactics Work?

LinkedIn is a tool. How you use it will determine whether it helps or harms your career. Sometimes I use my LinkedIn connections when I need a referral source. I will never send you any referrals if you message me in any of the ways above. Those tactics may work on others (do they?), but they have the reverse effect on me.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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Ruth B. Carter Ruth Carter

Ruth Carter — lawyer, writer and professional speaker — is Of Counsel with Venjuris, focusing on intellectual property, business, internet, and flash mob law. Named an ABA Journal Legal Rebel, Ruth is the author of the “The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers,” as well as “Flash Mob Law: The Legal Side of Planning and Participating in Pillow Fights, No Pants Rides, and Other Shenanigans.” Ruth blogs at UndeniableRuth.com and tweets @rbcarter.

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