LinkedIn has a language problem that is actually meaningless. So get over it.

Folk I know, particularly I’m thinking here of folk best described as “social media types”, are a bit sniffy about LinkedIn (direct link to my profile).

I wonder if it’s stuff like this that puts them off? The capture below is a box I get when adding someone to my network on Linkedin. Before I can add someone to my contacts list, I need to tell Linkedin about how I know them, and this quickly breaks down the process because of the way language is imposed on the activity:

In this example “Kelly” can only be a “colleague”, “classmate”, someone I’ve “done business” with, a “friend” or “other” (if you select “I don’t know Kelly”, Linkedin will tick you off as the network is supposed to be about real relationships*, and not a way of meeting new people).

Do relationships work like that? Not really, people slip between categories (how about a friend who you went to Uni with and now work with? Where do they go? What box do they go into?). For many folk, these categories don’t even make sense because our world doesn’t consist of “doing business”. In my case the people I want to keep in touch with are academics, media professionals, and past, present or future students; my contacts don’t fit well in these boxes. So students become “colleagues” (which is kind of nice, as I prefer to teach in a collaborative rather than an authoritarian mode), and folk I’ve met at conferences are probably people I’ve “done business with”.

My hypothetical “social media types” are used to having more control over their data than this. They’re used to tagging objects in ways that make sense to them, and using multiple tags so that they can retrieve the right data at the right time. LinkedIn doesn’t allow this. It presents itself as  a “social” tool but speaks a language that seems asocial to those who really care about what social media is and does, and how it works.

So does that mean Linkedin isn’t for them?