Professional networking site LinkedIn has been touted as a possible new place to find love, but experts warn business owners it could be dangerous territory to enter.
The site, which has over 250 million members worldwide, is immensely popular among professionals keen to promote their businesses, work history and to look for new employment opportunities.
However, Australian women’s publication Elle has reported it is now being used by busy people seeking romance.
Vanessa Lawrence writes that LinkedIn is the image of the “ultimate dating platform”.
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“…it would feature a professional photo of your would-be suitor, a detailed employment history (so you know if that ‘barrister’ is actually a barista) and character references from trustworthy sources. Endorsements would be nice, too,” she writes.
Lawrence interviewed a female project developer, Michelle, aged 35, who had been on three dates she was invited on via the LinkedIn private message function. Michelle said she was happier to meet with men from LinkedIn because she could see their credentials and contacts.
With business owners and professionals being so busy, it is easy to understand why LinkedIn could appeal in favour of joining more publicly revealing dating sites or spending precious time in bars.
However, experts have warned SME owners to proceed with caution.
Director of CP Communications and social media strategist Catriona Pollard told SmartCompany the danger of using a business site for personal purposes is the damage to your industry reputation.
“As a business owner your online reputation is everything,” she says.
“You should be using LinkedIn to build your business profile and personal profile, and to reach out to contacts and clients. Don’t risk it.”
Pollard said a female friend was contacted by a couple of men via the LinkedIn inbox, asking her on a date. Unlike Michelle, her friend’s response was to “freak out”, Pollard says, as she didn’t know these men and wasn’t using the platform to look for love.
“A high proportion of people find their partner at work, and as small business owners the pool of people you work with is smaller, so it is understandable,” she says.
“But if you are using LinkedIn for both work and personal purposes you are blurring the strategies that you are using your social media platforms for, which is not going to be good for your business.”
Australian Businesswomen’s Network chief executive and community director Suzi Dafnis agrees with Pollard that it would be best to approach this use of LinkedIn with caution.
Dafnis says this is largely because unlike Facebook, on LinkedIn there is no ‘status’ to show if you are searching for love or not.
“If you are on a dating site it is clear that you are in the market,” she says.
This can lead to awkward scenarios.
“I was contacted by a person on LinkedIn who called herself a ‘Relationships Manager,” says Dafnis.
“I accepted the connection, then she sent me an email saying she had men wanting to meet me. I realised she was from a dating agency…it was inappropriate…she didn’t know via LinkedIn that I have been in a relationship for 21 years!”
Dafnis says for those trawling LinkedIn profiles in the hope of finding a highly successful person for a romantic match, there is also the issue of looking for love via a CV, not their personality.
“It shows the career aspect of people, but no hobbies, sports, children etc.”
Dafnis says if you are approached for a date via LinkedIn, unless you have a level of interest in going, you could report the person as a spammer.
And if you are keen on a last minute date for Valentines’ Day next Friday, Dafnis says to look to other dating platforms.
“Be careful if you intend to use the network to ‘pick up’, you could damage your professional reputation.”