De-grouping to be a more effective leader

August 2, 2013

LinkedIn logoYou are probably familiar with the term “re-grouping”. It means taking a breath and a step back from a situation in order to re-assess the current state of it.

Lately, I have been “de-grouping”, mostly on LinkedIn. For a number of years, I have been a member of the maximum number of groups allowed, which is 50. I signed up for groups related to topics I was interested in professionally including leadership, literacy, languages, marketing, education and other topics. I tried to read discussion posts and contribute. I thought it was a good way to keep my pulse on sectors and industries that I felt were important to my career.

What I found was quite the opposite. Instead of staying on top of news and trends, I was inundated with messages, many of which did not help me learn, grow or provide many insights.

On the flip side, I was also unable to contribute much of value to many of the discussions.

I have pared down my membership to 10 LinkedIn groups. Here are the three criteria I used to decide which groups to stay in:

  1.  I personally know some or all of the members. I’ve seen the whites of their eyes and I can easily remember their smile.
  2. I learn something from the discussions.
  3. I can contribute something of value to the discussions from time to time.

For me, cutting back on the number of groups I am a member of on LinkedIn has helped free up time and energy for other activities such as tending to my clients, teaching students and preparing upcoming presentations and workshops for the fall. All in all, being more selective about how I spend my time and energy online has helped me to cultivate my professional and leadership skills overall. I’m still online… just more selectively than ever before.

I have increased energy as I am using laser-focus to determine which activities bring value to my profession and where I can also make a meaningful contribution.

Related post: How to delete LinkedIn contacts who spam you (and why you should)


If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

How to delete LinkedIn contacts who spam you (and why you should)

July 14, 2013

Have you noticed an increasing amount of spam messages coming to your LinkedIn inbox? I have.

A few years ago, I adopted a LinkedIn Open Networking (LION) policy. I would accept connections from anyone who requested one. I have recently changed my mind on that for one single reason: Inbox spam.

The topic of LinkedIn spam has been growing online. This commentary by Andy Lopata in the Huffington Posts questions whether LinkedIn will sink in a sea of spam.

Lopata reminds us that LinkedIn can be a valuable professional networking tool, but that potential is often not realized. Sinking into spam tactics is bringing down the value of the social networking platform for all users.

Characteristics of LinkedIn spam

I have heard that technically, “Inmail” isn’t spam, but rather a message from a Linked in contact. I disagree with that. Spam is unsolicited virtual junk mail, no matter how it arrives. Spam messages are rarely personally addressed and even if they are, the content is generic. The content is not personalized or individualized. The hallmark of spam is that it is really never about you. It’s about them, their product, their website, their business, their search engine rankings, their whatever.

These direct messages seem to fit into one of these categories:

“Like” spam

I first heard this term from Daylan Pierce who wrote about it on his blog. This type of spam essentially asks you to “like” this or that. The reason people do this is that the more “likes” post gets, the higher it boosts their ranking in social media. If people really do enjoy a post or a resource, they’ll take it upon themselves to share it anyway.


These are either sales pitches or calls for action that are couched as “invitations”. They are not actual invitations, but rather a mass message asking to you buy a product, visit a website, sign up for a program, etc.

Requests for reviews or feedback

As an academic, I have written reviews of professional products that have been published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals. This is very different from LinkedIn spammers who send mass messages with requests for feedback on their latest product or project. If I’m going to spend my time reviewing a new product and then share that feedback in a public way, it is likely going to be a resource that really piques my interest. Spam messages do not pique my interest. LinkedIn spam messages asking me to visit a website (i.e. drive traffic to the website, for the purpose of driving its search engine rankings) and leave a comment (i.e. increase activity on the website, for the purpose of driving up its search engine rankings) get deleted, not reviewed.

Sponsorship requests

As if calls on a weekly basis from telemarketers asking me to donate to a cause weren’t enough, now requests come via LinkedIn spam. Here’s a hint: I won’t support spamming… or causes that ask for donations using this method. There are plenty of good causes out there that get my donation dollars. The recent flooding in my home town of Calgary is a good example.

 “Check out my latest __________” requests

Requests to check out the contact’s latest blog post, YouTube video, webinar or whatever is just an attempt to drive traffic to their sites.

I now have a new policy: If you spam me via my Inbox on LinkedIn, I delete you as a contact. No reply. No questions asked.

How to remove LinkedIn contacts

It is not an intuitive process to remove a LinkedIn contact. You have to go through several steps to do it. Here’s how:

Note down the name of the person you want to delete as a contact.

Click on Network. This will produce a drop-down menu.

LinkedIn contacts

Click on Contacts.

This will produce a list of your contacts.

On the left-hand side menu there is a box to Filter Contacts.

Filter contacts

In that box, enter the name of the person you want to delete. Hit enter.

That should produce a search result of the unwanted contact.

Check the box next to his or her name.

Then, in the upper-right hand side of your screen, click on “Remove connections”. That choice is on the far right of your screen:

Remove connections

This is a bit of a laborious process, but it is worth it. I have found that once someone starts spamming you with Inbox message, they do not stop.

Why I am no longer a LinkedIn Open Networker (LION)

I admit it. For me, being a LinkedIn Open Networker has failed. Instead of widening my network in an open and inclusive manner, open networking has filled my Inbox with unwanted messages that are a waste of time and energy.

I rarely send LinkedIn mail any more. When I do send Linked InMail, it is personalized, specific, to the point, and of legitimate value to the person or people I am writing to.

On occasion, I have received a message from someone I know personally who is working hard to build a new business or brand. If they send me a message asking me to visit their website or like something, I will do that for them… but the reason I do is because I know them personally. We already have a relationship and they are asking for a favor. I know, intuitively, that if I were to ask for a similar favor that they would do the same for me. The difference is the depth of our relationship and a sense of loyalty to one another. Spammers often do not even know who you are… They just spam everyone in their address book. There’s no depth to the relationship, no trust and no foundation of history or loyalty that justifies asking for a favour.

LinkedIn can be a powerful professional networking tool. Building trusting professional relationships takes time and effort… and it starts with caring about the other person as both a professional and a human being. Let your sense of personal leadership and a desire to cultivate meaningful professional relationships drive your LinkedIn (and all social media) activity.

Related post: De-grouping on LinkedIn to be a more effective leader


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

6 Things You Probably Didn’t know About Social Media and the WWW

September 23, 2011

Did you know…?

In 1978 authors Roxanne Hiltz and Murray Toroff envisioned a future in which computer-mediated communication (CMC) would have a major effect on people’s every day lives. Their book,”The Network Nation”, is published by MIT Press in Cambridge, MA. It has been updated and revised since its original printing and is now considered a classic book in the field of CMC.

In 1992 the World Wide Web was officially launched to the public. (Can you believe that the Web is only 20 years old?!)

In 1997 SixDegrees was established as the first social networking site that most resembles the sites we use today, but users were skeptical and reluctant to interact with strangers. The company was sold in 2000 and today many people believe that the original company was too ahead of its time.

LinkedIn was created in 2002 and publicly launched in 2003 (before Facebook!)

In 2004 Facebook was launched.

Two years later, in 2006, Twitter was launched.


Share this post: 6 Things You Probably Didn’t know About Social Media and the WWW

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Social Media in a Family Literacy Program

May 21, 2011

Yesterday I was in Edmonton for the Food for Thought conference put on by the Centre for Family Literacy. A group of 42 literacy coordinators, practitioners and other professionals packed the workshop room to learn about how to use social media in a family literacy program. We talked about:

  • How to set up a Facebook page
  • What to put on your Facebook page
  • How to use Twitter including how the “@” and “#” or hashtags work
  • How to use Hootsuite

I gave a live demo of Twitter and Hootsuite. I showed how to mention other people and how to use hashtags to find topics you’re interested in. We also shared tips on how to use programs like Hootsuite to schedule updates and tweets and make social media more effective.

We also had a wonderful discussion about how to have a Facebook page without having it tied to a personal Facebook account. That was new for me. I have a couple of Facebook pages for different things that I do, and the only way I’ve ever built them was through my personal account.

For me, it was great learning to know that there are newer options available that don’t require an individual to have an organizational page tied to their name.

Here are the juiciest tips I shared from my own experience using social media:

Top Tips for using Social Media in a Literacy Program

Use social media as a way to reach more learners

There are some learners, particularly younger ones, who are digital natives. They have grown up with technology and may even be turned off by the idea of “old school” reading and writing. By stepping into the world of social media, you can meet those learners where they are today. You won’t reach all learners that way, of course. But it does open the doors to reaching those who might otherwise dismiss traditional literacy programs because they don’t relate to them.

Decide where you want to be on the “privacy continuum”.

Different people have different needs and comfort levels with posting personal information on the Internet. It is OK to be private… or even fib just a little bit, while still being authentic. We talked about how to figure out where people fit along the continuum and that no matter where that is, it’s OK.

Post regularly

Using a service such as Hootsuite can help you to streamline your social media activity, so it takes less time. I shared that had scheduled a number of Tweets before I left Calgary so that I was covered until I got home.

Think about sharing and helping others

We talked about how to use social media as a way to give and share resources. We looked at pages from a variety of literacy organizations. I pointed out how social media is meant to be a social, and reciprocal, activity. I recommend that people “like” pages of other organizations they support.

Avoid the “Incessant Ask” or “push”

One mistake non-profit organizations make when they use social media is to post a constant barage of requests for funding or donations, or just post about their own programs. The idea of social media is to engage with others, not push information on them, or worse yet, push unending requests for money at them. Re-posting, re-tweeting and sharing others’ information is a good thing!

Create conversations

Social media is just that – social. It’s a place to engage with others… talk with them. Ask questions. Be interested. Keeping a good balance between giving and taking, as well as giving and asking, are key points to keep in mind.

Say “Thank You”

I showed how to track “@” mentions and why it is important to say thank you when others re-post or re-Tweet your material. You may miss the odd one here and there, but overall, making a concerted effort to show appreciation when others like and share what you do, goes a long way in creating positive relationships and making you a good digital citizen.

I just loved working with this group. They’re passionate, engaged and ready to help one another out at a moment’s notice. Thanks to everyone who attended the session, shared and engaged with us!


Share this post: Social Media in a Family Literacy Program

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

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