Why Relying on LinkedIn Messages Can Be Risky

From time to time I hear about misunderstandings and mishaps caused by poor communication through LinkedIn messages.

There might be cases where you turn to this channel because you are trying to reach someone and you don't have their contact information. Or perhaps you are using it because you commonly use LinkedIn messages among friends for routine communication.

But for many people this channel doesn't work very well and to rely on it for critical messages can be a risky practice. Your messages might not be seen or they might be seen and then lost.

First of all this happens because many LinkedIn users create a profile and update it from time to time but then rarely log in so they don't even see that there are any messages. Some light users might also log in but they are not familiar with the user interface and don't notice the pending messages. Others might see the messages, but visiting rarely they always have to wade through spammy recruitment messages and advertisements so genuine messages are rarely visible. Quite often people might see a message in notifications but not be able to find it after the first read.

Even if people are happy to receive messages through LinkedIn some of these messages might be missed for technical reasons. Messages sent with connection requests are notoriously hard to read on mobile apps and there are some odd behaviors which cause messages between connected people to be visible on the website but invisible on the app. People like me who are aware of these problems sometimes check the website to look for lost messages; most people do not.

You can usually tell if someone is likely to see your LinkedIn messages by noting how long it is since their last visible activity. When it was not even this year you can be reasonably sure that the inbox is very full. If it doesn't look like they spend much time on LinkedIn you might consider the alternatives. Even if they are heavy users they might miss a LinkedIn message.

To a certain extent you can predict which other messaging tools people might use based on the year in which they graduated, but this is a very crude method and fails with people like me, who prefer WhatsApp or WeChat to LinkedIn. But in general older people tend to prefer traditional email while younger people are more likely to use Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, Telegram and other messaging apps.

One way to find out how people prefer to receive important messages is to see if they ever wrote instructions. Many people who receive many contact requests post explicit instructions somewhere on their website. Try searching for "how to contact Firstname Lastname" or look on their website. Other people -- typically people who receive many pitches -- are deliberately hard to find.

But in the end there are some unusual means of communication that could turn out to be effective today just because nobody uses them. A traditional paper letter, for example, gets around the LinkedIn mailbox problem and the attempts of some people to keep their email addresses hidden. Most businesses have a well-known street address so anyone can mail a paper message. This is likely to be taken more seriously than a random cold email because of the higher cost of sending a letter. Any spammer could send a million emails but anyone who could afford to send a million paper letters could also send a servant to deliver a personal message on a silver tray.

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If you would like to book Andrew Hennigan for a lecture, workshop or training course about communication you can send an email to speaker@andrewhennigan.com or call 0046 73 089 44 75.


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