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The anathema of LinkedIn for family offices

Social media can be a bit like marmite (that English spread) that is used as a metaphor for likes and dislikes. It divides people quite strongly into likes and dislikes.

Facebook, perhaps the most famous of all social media was in its early days seen as a conduit for oppressed people to get their views out without censorship from autocratic dictators and dictatorships. It was also a convenient and benign medium for friends to chat and share pictures and stories. 

Today, it and others are seen by some as giant oligopolies taking and using our data, mostly for their own benefit. Accused of becoming the oil barons of the 21st Century, in jeans and T-Shirts but without the philanthropic side and mostly with a moral compass driven by their sales and marketing departments.

The world of online business intercourse in the digital age has all the charm of a North Korean newscast

Others go further and regard them as a viral pandemic that gets inside our data DNA and is not susceptible to vaccines. They are more pernicious than Covid and less open to control.

Naturally, this is not how they see themselves.

I had for a while thought that Linkedin was different. It’s the only social media site I participate on. I am now changing my mind.

Linkedin seemed like a balanced site for like-minded business people to make contact with. To share ideas, get to know one another and maybe even look at deals together.  Since it has been bought by Microsoft it has become more voracious and ubiquitous. Seemingly never satisfied with the data it has and always seeking more.

I find myself in an invidious position running a single-family office. In the pre-Covid days when we physically attended meetings and conferences I took it as a given that those on the sell-side ( like most of you I am sometimes buying and sometimes selling) would have done their homework, identified the buyers and politely approach them when the opportunity arose. 

It could take me an hour to walk across a room when it was known that I was looking to invest. Sellers, of all types, would approach me to get my intention. I often marvelled with respect at the clever psychological tools they would use to achieve this end. 

Since the beginning of time, the usual appeals of food, wine, stimulating company, sports or social events, private dinners at good restaurants were all used with or without the agreement or knowledge of the compliance departments to gain the exclusive attention of the buyer by the seller.

I took what I considered to be a reasonable ethical position on such things. I said “no” if I had no obvious interest in what was being offered and “yes”, if I genuinely felt it was a product or service I needed or might buy and if this gave me an opportunity to meet the sellers in a more social situation. I like to get to know the people with whom I will do business. I always, when working for others reported these meetings to avoid compromise. Today, when I mostly report to myself, I still apply the same rules.

In my view, the world of online business intercourse in the digital age has all the charm of a North Korean newscast. I have come off all social media, in reality, I have never liked it much and never really participated online. I just prefer a real-life to a vicarious one. Until now I made an exception for Linkedin.

I am now reconsidering this position. Why? Because I try and be open and friendly as I think I am in real life and agree to link with those that seem like-minded and may be of mutual interest to one another. 

This is will now stop. With regret, I now find after agreeing to link with someone I get inundated with unsolicited product or service pushes. Even my polite ‘No Thank You’ is often followed up by do you know someone else who may be interested. Why on earth would anyone think that I would then burden friends or colleagues with unwanted offers from people or companies I don’t know and don’t want to know!?  

The structure of LinkedIn doesn’t help either. You only seem to have a binary response. Why not a 3-month trial which is NOT automatically renewed but only by the selection of both sides to agree to remain linked? By that time both of us can have worked out if this is a useful relationship or not.

In future, I shall, with a few exceptions, reject all offers to link. The exceptions will be people I think would be good links and those that do some basic research and do not just send me a standard link request. And even for those, who send a personalised and relevant email explaining why it makes mutual sense to link. 

It will need to make sense to me as well, to get a yes!

 

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