If you’re an avid LinkedIn user, as I am, you’ve probably noticed that LinkedIn brought us all a little Christmas present for 2010: a brand-new interface! Unfortunately, I wish they’d had the decency to give us a gift receipt. I’m not a fan at all of the “new look” so far, although I’m hoping it will grow on me, over time. My first reaction is that they’ve somehow managed to hide some of the site’s best features (like the Answers and Companies pages) even MORE than before — and have saddled the site with a homogeneous, boring, cluttered design guaranteed to confuse novice users.
Since I doubt that any amount of blog-based whining is going to change things, however, I guess we’ll just have to adapt to the new navigation screen they’ve bequeathed upon us. So let’s talk about a more useful topic, instead, which is the LinkedIn “Settings” menu and some of the powerful ways you can configure it.
Over the years, I’ve found that a great many LinkedIn users don’t even KNOW that there is a Settings menu (you’ll see the link at the top-right of any LinkedIn page), much less how to customize it properly to improve their experience on the system. And while most of the features in this menu are pretty darn self-explanatory, let me run through a few of my favorites and the ones that I think many people might want to consider changing from their “default” state.
1) Covering Your Tracks When You View Profiles
Did you know that every time you look somebody’s profile up on the LinkedIn site, the system remembers this and notifies the person (to a certain degree, depending on whether you’re a Free or Premium user) that you checked them out? This bothers me a bit. If I’ve viewed somebody’s profile and decided NOT to contact them, for any reason, I usually don’t want them knowing this fact — or facing the possibility that they’re going to lob me a note, in return, wondering why I scoped them out. Agree with me on this? If so, then go into your Settings menu, click on the “Profile Views” link, and select the “Don’t show users…” option. Voila! Problem solved…
2) Hiding Your Rolodex from Casual Browsing
Without question, the LinkedIn site is all about reciprocal networking, so you shouldn’t be on it if you’re not willing to “share the wealth” and help facilitate introductions and favors for other members of your network, on occasion. This doesn’t mean, however, that you should roll over and let people casually browse through your entire list of contacts, looking for targets of opportunity. Make ’em work for it a little. If you visit the Settings menu and click the “Connections Browse” option, you can turn this feature off so that your list of contacts isn’t directly visible on your profile. This is an especially good idea if you’re in a position like I am, where you’re working with certain folks in confidence and don’t want to advertise this relationship to the entire world! So by turning this setting off, you’ll limit access to your network to those folks who know the specific types of contacts they’re looking for — and who take the proactive step of running a People Menu search to identify contacts by industry, company, job title, and the like. To me, this is a perfectly reasonable requirement and something you can mandate, via the Setting mentioned above.
3) Cutting Down on the Nagging, Nuisance & Noise
If you jump into the LinkedIn universe whole hog, building up lots of individual Connections and joining numerous Groups, you can quickly reach a point of “information overload” where you find yourself constantly nagged with updates and notifications from the site. Have you reached this point? If so, I’ve got good news. If you haven’t yet discovered it, the “Receiving Messages” option on the Settings menu allows you to configure the frequency/method of every type of update the site pumps out. You can leave it in the default state, where every individual message (Introduction Request, Invitation, Group Discussion Question, etc.) is sent to your normal e-mail box immediately, or you can instruct the system to bundle all of these messages into a single Daily or Weekly Digest that you can scan through in a single pass. You can even turn off the e-mail forwarding option entirely, if desired, and ONLY deal with LinkedIn activities when you’re directly logged into the site itself. So for many people, while the default settings work great to start, it’s helpful to know that you can “tame” all this stuff down the road with a few menu tweaks, if/when needed.
In closing, these are just three possible Settings menu alternatives you can monkey around with. You’ll see dozens more you can explore when you click on the aforementioned link at the top of any LinkedIn page. Thankfully, the creators of the LinkedIn tool have given users the power to customize their experience with the site in almost every conceivable way — it’s just that most people never seem to discover these options or remember they’re available, when the time comes!