Linking LinkedIn and Twitter: You can—but should you?

Here’s an article I wrote recently for Ragan.com about linking your LinkedIn and Twitter status updates:

Published: 11/17/2009

Linking LinkedIn and Twitter: You can—but should you?
By Ari B. Adler

If you use networks to different ends, the overlap may be undesirable

“You got your chocolate in my peanut butter.” “No! You got your peanut butter on my chocolate!”

Those of you old enough to remember that ad campaign for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups can appreciate Twitter co-founder Biz Stone’s using the reference when talking about LinkedIn and Twitter status updates getting connected.

For the younger readers, just trust that it was clever, fun and enduring—perhaps the very attributes Biz Stone would like people to think about Twitter.

LinkedIn now allows you to connect your Twitter account to your profile, to have your Twitter feed sent to your LinkedIn page and to have your LinkedIn status updated via Twitter by simply adding #in to your tweet.

Stone and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman are touting it as the greatest thing since, well, since peanut butter cups. They claim it will help people get things done. The question is, what things?

Updating Twitter and LinkedIn simultaneously is simple enough, if not the easiest thing to remember when you’re hyper-multitasking and trying to zip off a quick update via your thumbs while waiting for an elevator. But should you do it just because you can?

Various descriptions have been coined over the past year to compare all the networking services. The one most frequently used denotes LinkedIn as the office, Twitter as a cocktail reception and Facebook as a backyard barbecue. If that’s the case, should you be connecting all of your status updates from one to the others?

If you belong to a social networking group, your reasons for keeping that group of “friends” may be different from the reasons you connect with people in another group. So would you want your status updates and comments to be the same everywhere?

That answer would be “no” for Lindsay M. Allen, a professional communicator from Mt. Pleasant, Mich., who is unemployed and relying on LinkedIn as part of her job-search strategy.

“I’ve had some version of the same status update [at LinkedIn] for about eight months. I go in and refresh it, but that’s it,” Allen said. “I don’t need LinkedIn to know what I’m saying to Twitter. I need LinkedIn to know I’m looking for a job.”

Allen’s comment raises a point that most users should consider. Do you make the same comments and bring up the same topics of discussion at an office meeting as you do at a family gathering, a night on the town with friends or a professional networking event? You probably don’t, and if it’s not something you do in person, then don’t do it online, either.

In his book, “Six Pixels of Separation,” Mitch Joel writes, “…digital channels break down the notion of ‘it’s who you know,’ because we all live in a world where we can know everyone—and everyone can know us.”

That’s one reason people should think twice before linking all of their status updates together. People we know and people we don’t know can now learn much more about us than ever before, but often it will be learned out of context.

If the analogy of the office and the cocktail party holds true, then think about how you behave in those two settings. It’s very likely that what you say and, more important, how you say it will vary from a professional office to a reception after work.

That also depends on who is at the reception with you. Peers and colleagues who know you well will understand if you decide to have fun and blow off some steam. Unless you cross some heinous line, what you say after work is unlikely to affect your professional standing with them. But what if you were at a cocktail reception with a room full of strangers? Would they take what you consider fun banter to be a true representation of who you are and how you operate?

Joel also writes in his “Six Pixels” book, “LinkedIn is the dark horse of online social networks for professionals. It is amazing and, with some simple tweaks, you’ll be shocked at how quickly it can grow your digital footprint.”

That shock Joel writes about could be of another kind—a kind that is likely to do more harm than good. Although some may see it as a time saver to update all your status boxes at once, it’s really akin to just walking into every meeting and social gathering with a bullhorn, shouting out whatever is on your mind and not caring if the people in the room will get it or even care. Or worse, they could be offended by it.

That is assuming, of course, that people are actually paying attention to status updates on LinkedIn. The site devotes much less of its screen real estate to status updates than Twitter or Facebook. Status updates have never been the focus of LinkedIn, which may be one reason some folks will decide not to bother with real-time updating.

“Considering the limitation of status updates you can see at a time on LinkedIn, it’s a non-issue for me. I haven’t merged them and don’t intend to,” said Ari Herzog, an online media strategist from Boston.

“No one uses LinkedIn to check statuses,” said Derek Wallbank, the Washington, D.C. correspondent for MinnPost.com. “You’re updating to the cosmic void.”

Ari B. Adler is a professional communicator with experience as a newspaper reporter and editor, as well as a government and corporate spokesperson. He is the communications administrator for Delta Dental of Michigan and an adjunct instructor at Michigan State University and University of Michigan-Dearborn. You can follow him on Twitter at @aribadler.

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