In recent weeks I have seen LinkedIn updates and discussions about whether talking politics or curating politically tinged or themed posts and links and other materials is appropriate on LinkedIn.  It is clearly because of the political season and the stridency and controversy surrounding the presidential election that political matters have spilled over into the business social medium of LinkedIn.

We would expect people to discuss political subjects on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and You Tube.  We would not expect the typical business with a presence on Twitter or Facebook to engage in political discussions.  Businesses exist to make money for their owners and managers and employees, and they do that by attracting customers and clients, not repelling them with unfavorable messaging.  Professionals want to get  hired by a client or recruited by or promoted by an employer and to not turn off the employer or the client.unclesamsmokesandvotes

Growing up as a young adult, I was always told that one should avoid talking about politics or religion if one wanted to steer clear of controversy and keep conversations pleasant.  Although it was a general statement, I knew that this rule was honored in the breach when it came to discussions with family, friends, and neighbors and one’s various clubs and affinity groups.  What was clear was that the prohibition on speaking about politics and religion in polite society especially was to be strictly adhered to in the work place.  This is great advice and a good personal policy to have.

We have seen businesses make policy and business decisions to affirm or condemn certain actions that have a political or ideological cast to them.  These are sometimes viewed as ethical, moral, justice or religious values stances.  Some corporate boards or business owners choose to undertake a risk of adverse impacts on their business in order to do the “right thing” as they see it.

Should one’s LinkedIn page be a forum for one’s political views?  I was an early adopter of LinkedIn.  I use it for my business and professional life and to connect with other business people and professionals.  If someone works or has worked for a political party, a political candidate, or an elected official, then that affiliation is relevant information.  It gives me context and background about that person.  Would I be interested in updates, postings, or articles that are   political?  No.  Would I post or send an update with a political theme?  No.  I do not believe most people join LinkedIn for political content.  They join it to present their credentials to the world and to see other members’ credentials and to make possible connections.

Political content is a divider on LinkedIn, not a connector.   Political statements can easily offend.  One’s displaying political content can cause one to have fewer professional or business opportunities and not even know the opportunities were missed.  Personal political content is more suitable to a blog, a Twitter account,  and a non-business  website and, perhaps, Facebook and Instagram.


Copyright © 2016 by G. A. Finch, All rights reserved.


By G. A. Finch

Another lawsuit has resulted from LinkedIn communications bumping up against employment restrictive covenants.  The National Law Journal reported on a recent case out of a Massachusetts Superior Court (KNF&T, Inc. v.  Charlotte Muller, et al., C.A. No. 13-3676) where an employer sued its former employee for violating a confidentiality and non-competition agreement.  In its complaint, the employer zeroed in on LinkedIn and alleged:

“Most recently, Muller has updated her profile on LinkedIn to announce her employment as Regional Vice President of Panther Global Group, resulting in notification to all of Muller’s 500+ LinkedIn contacts she established during, and which were related to, her employment at KNF&T.  To the extent this notification has been sent to current KNF&T clients, this notification constitutes a solicitation of business in direct violation of her non-competition agreement.  A printout of Muller’s recently up-dated LinkedIn profile is attached as Exhibit F.”

Mass Case Photo20131106_154847

The Massachusetts Superior Court denied a preliminary injunction and held that defendant Muller was not soliciting business for the same kind of workers covered by the field of workers of her previous employer, KNF&T.  The Court suggested that a general description of one’s new job in a profile update without active solicitation or accepting business in the exact recruiting categories prohibited by the former employer was not a violation.

This is similar to a U.S. District Court case (TEKsystems, Inc. v.  Brelyn Hammernick, et al.  ) that I blogged about in 2010.  In that case, a former employer alleged Defendant violated the non-solicitation and non-compete provisions by soliciting Plaintiff’s contract employees and clients within the restricted geographic area covered by the employment agreement in using such electronic networking systems as LinkedIn.

Whether a LinkedIn update or message communication to one’s contacts will constitute a breach of non-solicitation and non-compete provisions will be driven by the facts of the particular case.  Bad facts can land a former employee or her or his new employer in hot water.

The medium of communication, whether it is by telephone, email, mail, fax, or social media, does not change the substance of improper communication that may violate non-solicitation, confidentiality, and non-compete provisions.

As I have admonished in my earlier post:  If you already have pre-existing relationships with employees, customers, clients, potential customers and potential clients, then be sure to list those in a carve-out provision before you sign non-solicitation, non-compete and confidentiality agreements; there may be overlap between your existing contacts and your prospective employer’s contacts and you don’t want to be precluded from utilizing them post-employment.Blog LinikedIn Muller Photo20131106_161614

In turn, employers should remind departing employees that their social media may not be used as an end-run around any restrictions contained in confidentiality, non-solicitation, and non-compete agreements.

Finally, social media is still a mostly uncharted world of communication that must be approached prudently.  One must be conscious of the social, legal, and business impacts of whatever messages and images one is putting on the internet.

Copyright © 2013 by G. A. Finch, All rights reserved.



I have been using LinkedIn for about three years with mixed results.  I have advocated that executives’ using LinkedIn is critical to maintaining visibility in an increasing virtual world.  People do indeed research others on the internet and having a website and a LinkedIn bio is important to provide positive and relevant information about your business, organization or profession.  Executive and corporate recruiters definitely use LinkedIn and are probably the main generators of revenue streams for the LinkedIn business model.

LinkedIn Keeps Growing

More and more people are signing up as evidenced in more and more requests that I receive from persons who wish to become one of my connections.   I now have 600 connections and counting.  This large number does not make me feel either popular or especially connected. Many of the requestors I do not know well and there are several that I do not know at all.  That’s okay.  I am again an open networker, so I rarely decline a request to connect.

Mixed Bag

I find that I do not have time to keep up with all the daily updates, and I would guess that maybe one out of  50 updates I do find interesting.  Not that my own occasional updates are terribly compelling or interesting.  My updates usually involve telling folks about what kind of legal matters that I am working on.

The affinity groups are uneven in their being current and substantive.  Some discussion groups are better than others.  The biggest problem: Who has the time to check in and keep current?  I know that I suffer from time scarcity and lingering on LinkedIn can’t be a priority for me.


I do like the business news feed that is on my home page, and I actually try to read the articles when I am there.

LinkedIn also provides a portal to my blog, which is convenient for its distribution.

The best feature about my “connections” is that it keeps me current on people’s job changes and e-mail contacts.

The introductions via connections are awkward and they seem more personable to accomplish via private e-mail exchanges between the interested parties and their mutual connection.

You need an enhanced paid account in order to do direct in-mail communications with persons to whom you are not connected.  In-mail communications from strangers may come across as intrusive.

I am not negative about LinkedIn.  I do think that it has not lived up to either its promise or potential.  The key thing is for LinkedIn to develop more content to make it attractive as a destination website.  Interactivity will have to revolve around compelling common interests like a cause, an alumni group, or a trade or professional group continuing-education matter.

Must Keep Using

Should you forgo LinkedIn?  I think not.  You want to make it easy for potential customers, clients, employers, recruiters and business partners to research you.  LinkedIn, through internet search engines, has become a primary source to do that.  As I have said in previous posts, it’s your free billboard.


It is the beginning of the year.  The time for New Year’s Resolutions.  My little son reminded me on New Year’s Eve for us to make our New Year’s “Revolutions.”  His revolution was to do 40 minutes of guitar practice per day (up from 20 minutes).  He had carefully written it down and happily wadded it into a ball to throw into the fireplace.  As the flame consumed his promise to himself, I complimented him on his lofty ambition. Resolutions are indeed personal intentions of revolutions directed at ourselves.  My son’s malapropism has some relevant meaning.

It got me to thinking about appropriate resolutions for executives.  There are many I could conjure up, but three seemed like an easy number to digest and remember.

Resolution # 1: Look Before You Leap

At this time of new possibilities and opportunities, an executive who is considering moving to another company should carefully scrutinize his non-compete, non-solicitation, and confidentiality agreements he has with his current employer to ascertain whether he would be in violation.  The executive should not try to do this without the assistance of legal counsel.  Employers have gotten more aggressive in seeking enforcement of these agreements as evidenced by the many court cases around the country.

Resolution #2: It’s Not Secret If Everyone Knows Or Employees Don’t Know It’s A Secret

Confidentiality Agreements are meant to protect the proprietary information and trade secrets of a business.  If the executive leadership has not instituted safeguards, controls, and notices of confidentiality for its important business information, then do not expect a court readily to treat it as confidential information.

An employee confidentiality agreement is a good start.  Physical and technological protections of business information along with legal protection of intellectual property through copyrights and patents are a good finish.   Think locked filing cabinets, password protected computer files, documents marked “confidential,” and so forth.  The New Year is a good time to establish protocols for safeguarding trade secrets, etc.

Resolution #3: Know How To Use Social Media But Don’t Lose The Personal Touch

If you are an executive or professional, no matter what your age, you are committing business development and networking malpractice by not understanding and utilizing social media whether it is LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.  Whether you realize it or not, you, your business, or your profession are affected by social media and will continue to be at an accelerated rate.

You don’t have to be a “techy” to join LinkedIn or pen a blog – I am living proof of that.  You must do something or you will be increasingly on the margins of access to information sharing.  After some skepticism, I recently signed up for Twitter and I will let you know how it goes.  Older executives must adapt and be continuous learners.

Despite the rise of social media, it is still not a substitute for meeting with people in the flesh, having conversations on the telephone, and sending thank you notes and condolence cards.  Being there and showing up still counts for a lot.  Younger executives should cultivate old fashion pressing the flesh.

Senior executives and the twenty-something young Turks can learn from each other.  To borrow a phrase from my son, that would be a nice “revolution.”


A general counsel friend who was updating his LinkedIn profile queried me as to whether it was prudent to list his activities related to his Catholic faith.  He was concerned about turning off legal recruiters and potential employers by

John F. Kennedy

revealing his substantial commitment to his church and faith-based organizations.  I kidded him that he was not Jack Kennedy running to become the first Catholic president of the United States.  We have come a long way from 1960 in terms of religious prejudice.   But he does raise an important point.

Diminishing Religious Discrimination

Last year, there were some people who thought Chicago would not elect a Jewish mayor and that notion seems laughable now.  Commentators have noted that Republican primary presidential candidate Mitt Romney has to overcome an anti-Mormon bias among significant conservative and evangelical  elements in his party.  Muslim Americans certainly have to contend with stereotypes.  We have elected our first African-American U.S. president, so should we be concerned about residual religious bias in the social media market place?

I certainly do not dismiss the fact there remain various degrees of discrimination and bigotry whether it be religious, ethnic, racial, etc.  Should that fact dictate what we reveal about ourselves in our LinkedIn profile?

Appropriateness of Religious Information

If your non-business pursuits reflect your substantial commitment to your faith-based activities and you want to share your religious interests publicly, then by all means you should do so. However, if you want to proselytize your religion on your LinkedIn page, then you will likely alienate potential employers or customers. LinkedIn, after all, is about business. If your religion is a big part of your public identity or you are a clergyman, rabbi or imam, then listing your religious activities certainly makes sense.

Your Story on LinkedIn

For many executives and professionals, their references to religious related organizations simply round out a picture of their non-work related, nonprofit, and charitable endeavors.  For example, I list the fact I was president of St. Joseph Seminary at Loyola University of Chicago Board of Advisors and that I am a member of the Queen of All Saints Basilica Men’s Club (including being an assistant Webelos Cub Scout Den Leader at the Basilica.)  Although I do not wear it on my sleeve, I am proud to be a Roman Catholic, and revealing that fact tells people something about me – it contributes to my story.

Your LinkedIn profile is a piece of your narrative.  Executives and professionals should think carefully about how they craft their narratives.

As I said in a previous post about putting your photo on your LinkedIn profile, if someone wants to discriminate against you because of your age, looks, ethnicity, race or whatever, you would not want to work or do business with that person anyway.   I would add religion to that list.

Use of Commonsense

As is in everything in life, moderation is the watchword.  If your career pertains to faith-based organizations, then a long list of religious-oriented activities would make sense.  If you are an executive for a Fortune 500 company and a 100% of your listed activities is religious based, you may limit your potential opportunities within your company as well with other employers.  The more well-rounded your employers’ perceive your experience, the better.


A general counsel friend wanted to revise and make more robust his LinkedIn profile and queried me as to whether it was necessary to have a photo.  He may have been self-conscious about his looks.   Join the club.  Aren’t we all? He did want his revised profile to be seen by possible recruiters.  He also had a question about revealing one’s religion on LinkedIn, but that will be the subject of another blog post.

Mirror Mirror On The Wall

Many people are self-conscious of their photos and just do not like being photographed.  Some do not like the way they look because of age, weight, baldness, etc.   Some do not like the idea of others having photos of them for privacy or security reasons.  So having their photo out there on the internet on LinkedIn makes some people very uncomfortable.  Understandably, you find it more so for women than men.

Being Judged

For purposes of using your LinkedIn profile as a resume billboard for a job search or business development, it gets even trickier.  Some people do not want to be excluded for consideration for a job or a contract because of race, ethnicity, age, average looks, and so forth.  We all know that people can be discriminated against for those reasons (race and ethnicity were not the concerns of my general counsel  friend as he is neither a racial nor an ethnic minority).  Unfortunately, research has shown physical attractiveness can give a person a leg up in life. Nevertheless, for a job interview or for a business meeting, you will eventually have to meet potential employers or customers in person.

Let It Be

You are who you are, and you should be at ease with yourself even if there are nincompoops who may not be comfortable with your identity, looks and  background.

My personal belief is that if someone wants to discriminate against me because of my age, looks, ethnicity or whatever, I would not want to work or do business with that person anyway.  People are naturally curious as to what a person with whom they will do business looks like.  I know that I am.  A photo provides more context.  Accordingly, I have no hesitancy putting my photo on LinkedIn.

If I were a woman, I would probably be a bit more circumspect because of security concerns as there are weird people out there in the world.

Bottom Line:  You can skip a photo on LinkedIn without sacrificing the effectiveness of your profile.

LINKEDIN FLEXING ITS MUSCLES: Are you flexing yours?

The fact that today President Obama is having a town hall meeting hosted by LinkedIn at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California says a lot about LinkedIn’s impact on social media and its evolving potential.  Obama will answer questions from a live audience at the museum and from LinkedIn members on the internet.

Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California

This past August, LinkedIn reached a milestone: It surpassed 120 million worldwide members with fewer than half of its total number of users residing in the United States.

I am about to reach my own milestone with LinkedIn: My connections now total 499 and will cross over to 500-plus any day.  500 connections is a robust number.  What does this all mean for my use of LinkedIn?

It is clear that LinkedIn is growing by leaps and bounds and is the dominant game for professional social networking notwithstanding Facebook. Most LinkedIn members are still in the infant stages of their utilizing its full potential.

People are using LinkedIn to post and view updates from their connections.  I think more people view updates than post them, so the posters do get a lot of visibility.  I know that posting updates does provide opportunities for offline conversations with my connections.  A fellow board member will say, “Oh, I saw the item about your family being on the early morning news show for your children’s first day back to school.”  This comment begins a conversation.  The trick is not to becoming a serial, pesky updater and becoming part of the internet noise which we all are trying to reduce.

G. A. Finch's LinkedIn Profile Page

I have been able to get people job interviews for advertised positions when I have used my LinkedIn connections at a particular company or organization to facilitate an introduction.

LinkedIn does post jobs in particular fields, but it is no Monster.com and has plenty of room to grow.  The company states on its website that it “has a diversified business model with revenues coming from hiring solutions, marketing solutions and premium subscriptions.”  So clearly, it intends to become the go-to source for employment recruiters and job seekers.

The one current drawback to LinkedIn is that many people, if not most, don’t check the site frequently, so an update or an email message can get stale.  LinkedIn needs to create more incentives to visit its site a couple of times a day rather than a couple of times a week or a month.  Recently, LinkedIn has added a news content feature which should encourage its members to visit their home pages.  For example the home page news features business bloggers from HBR.org (Harvard Business Review), which is actually quite good.

The advice I would give LinkedIn is to increase the quality and availability of high-end business and political news and blogs, e.g. add content from the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.  This quality content will drive more traffic to LinkedIn.

As I have said in earlier posts on social media, an executive or professional can’t afford not to be on LinkedIn as it is increasingly becoming the dominant venue for people to check out the executive or professional.  LinkedIn is a free billboard to let people know who you are, what you have done, and what you can do.  Now it should also be about what interesting things you are doing now.

Why wouldn’t you be on it?  Why wouldn’t you file updates?


Heather Harper

G. A. Finch interviews Heather Harper, associate executive director of the John Marshall Law School Center for Real Estate in Chicago.  Harper formerly practiced law at Paul Hastings and Sidley Austin.  Finch and Harper both presented on Networking 104: Navigating the Social Web at the John Marshall Law School.  This interview follows up on Harper’s presentation.

FINCH:  Heather, I really learned a lot about the business potential of Facebook and Twitter from your presentation on Networking 104: Navigating the Social Web.  I know that Your Executive Life Blog readers will benefit from your insights as well.

First of all, like many professionals and executives, I do not use Facebook or Twitter for business purposes.   In fact, I do not use either at all, but do use LinkedIn and I blog.  Many people are looking to be convinced of the business utility of Facebook and Twitter. Let’s talk about the social medium Facebook. Why should an executive use Facebook for other than personal purposes?


HARPER:  I think executives, like all people using Facebook professionally, need to be strategic and thoughtful about whether to use Facebook professionally and how to be effective.  Executives should keep in mind that Facebook started, and is still for many people, a purely social site for connecting with friends and families.  However, many industries have strong presences on Facebook for commercial purposes.  For executives, I would follow your customers.  Customers prefer vendors who understand and respect their business.  If your customers are tech-savvy online businesses that have a strong presence on Facebook, your company’s absence may convey that you are out of touch.  If your customers are like some customer clients who are not on Facebook and look at it as a risky medium, it could be detrimental for you to be on Facebook professionally.

In all areas of social media, executives should continue to learn about new tools and think strategically about using them to achieve specific goals rather than jumping on the bandwagon because everyone else is doing it or eschewing the tool without much thought.

FINCH:  What are the most interesting features of Facebook to know about and utilize?

HARPER: I’m a pretty standard Facebook user.  I watch the News Feed (the scrolling list of status updates, pictures, etc.), upload pictures, write on people’s walls, and I “like” many group/organization/business pages. 

Although I don’t often use many of the interesting features, I’ll give you one example of a recent use.   Facebook has a check-in feature that allows a user to broadcast his/her location to a large group, presumably to meet.  I don’t use it.  However, the other day I noticed that some family friends checked in at Little Beans Café.  The couple that checked-in has an infant son who is a little younger than our son.  We thought it would be fun to meet them at this play location, so we hopped in the car and went to this local business.  I’m sure the owners of Little Beans Café appreciated the free advertising for them.  I discovered a great place, and I’m sure I’ll return!  

FINCH:  What are the boundaries between personal and professional use?

HARPER: Everyone will have different boundaries between personal and professional use.  Whether you use Facebook professionally, personally, or both, it is prudent to look at every posting through the eyes of someone you respect.  In my case, that’s my father.  If I post something that would embarrass my father or make him cringe, it’s probably not the best thing to put out there for the whole world to see.  Even if you use Facebook personally, you want to make sure your online presence is a positive and accurate representation of you.

Facebook has been known to change privacy settings, so something you thought was totally private could end up being broadcast to a larger audience.  In my opinion, it’s always in poor taste and bad judgment to openly ridicule people on Facebook, especially people related to your career, such as co-workers, employers, or clients.  Try to keep it positive and about you. 

In my opinion, personal profile pages should really be primarily personal.  If you want to use Facebook professionally, it is best to create a separate company profile that people can “like”. 

For personal Facebook pages, the issue becomes who should be your Facebook friend.  It is certainly easiest to limit Facebook to personal use.  You will be able to speak and share with friends and family only, without having to worry about blurring professional lines.  However, there are limitations to this approach.  Are you friends with some of your co-workers?  Are you friends with some of your customers or clients?  Professionals often make friends through work contacts.  I can’t provide an easy answer for this one.  It all depends on the user’s comfort level.  As long as you are mindful of your friend list and obey the general rule that you should only post things that you would want someone you respect to see, you should avoid most uncomfortable situations.  Remember it’s always appropriate to tell professional connections that you use Facebook personally and would like to connect on LinkedIn.

FINCH:  How would a business page work on Facebook and would it be appropriate for every industry?

HARPER:  This question is a long one to unwind.  First, it’s not appropriate for every industry.  I think people in industry should continue to check back and reevaluate, but right now I don’t think Facebook is appropriate for some of the more traditional industries (law, financial services, consulting, etc.).   Here are just a few businesses/organizations that really do well on Facebook:

–          Companies that make something.  If you make a product, you better have it on Facebook so I can “like” it.  For instance, I found this great product called Way Basics.  They have a page on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/waybasics.  I instantly liked it on Facebook because I wanted to share this product with my friends and because liking it on Facebook says something about me (I like eco-friendly products).  If you make something, you should be on Facebook.

–          Advocacy groups, non-profits, and/or political groups.  If you are political, Facebook is a great way to get the word out.  Obama famously used Facebook during his election.  You can check him out: http://www.facebook.com/barackobama.  If you’re trying to organize, it’s a great way to get people on-board.

–          Companies that are trying to drive traffic to a site online.  If you’re a company that is trying to drive traffic to your website, it’s a good idea to be online.  One caveat – if you’re an executive  and you’re trying to drive traffic to your organization’s site, try to think if the people you want visiting your site are on Facebook and/or expect to find you on Facebook.  If the answer is no, this is probably not the place for you.

Right now, I don’t think it makes sense for very traditional businesses to be on Facebook.  There should be a reason for being there.  Here’s a great example – ComEd.  This utility’s Facebook page is peculiar: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Commonwealth-Edison/112198968792384.  Why is it there? 

FINCH:   What are your thoughts on privacy filters?

HARPER:  I think privacy filters are a nice way for people to set boundaries.  One word of warning – although it hasn’t happened in a while, Facebook did change privacy settings without letting everyone know.  Don’t assume that privacy filters are 100% or that they will never change. 

I personally don’t worry too much about filters because I use Facebook for personal use and I don’t post anything embarrassing or inappropriate.  I give full access to my friends and very little access to people outside of my friend network.


FINCH:  For the uninitiated like me, what are the mechanics and features of Twitter?

HARPER:  There are people who spend a lot of time on Twitter who could give you a much better answer.  I’ll just touch on a few features.  For those who want to figure out how Twitter fits in the larger social network spectrum, it’s easiest to think of it as a conversation.  When you tweet, you are participating in a conversation.  Tweets are also relatively ephemeral – people see them and then they disappear into people’s feed.  While someone could go to your Twitter page and read old tweets, I don’t think this is how most people use the tool. 

In Twitter, people (or companies) follow other people (or companies).  If you follow someone, their tweets show up on your feed.  The most basic way to use Twitter is to follow people who have interesting things to say and to tweet things that interest you.  Simple tweeting is limited in scope; you will only reach those who follow you.

If you think of Twitter as a conversation, it becomes easier to see how the use of @ marks and # tags makes your conversation more tailored and interactive.  You can direct a tweet at a person or organization by using “@” before that person’s Twitter name.  This increases your Twitter reach in two ways.  First, you show up in that influential person/company’s feed, so if you want to talk to someone who is influential in your industry, this is an access point.  Second, your tweet will appear for all followers of the person you are speaking to on Twitter.  If you use @[insert influential person here], your tweet will be read by more people.  Identifying well-respected Twitter users in your industry is essential.

Another way to increase your interactivity is to engage in topic-specific speech.  Topics are denoted with # before the name of the topic.  For instance, I went to a conference last fall – GreenBuild.  While I was there, I followed #greenbuild.  People were discussing the event as it happened.  This is a good example of people coming together to “talk” on Twitter about a relevant issue.  You should also know the most relevant topics areas in your industry.

Once you know the hot topic areas and Twitter users, you can craft your tweets to be directed at people and topics, giving them more visibility.  For instance, instead of saying “check out my new website www.website.com”.   You might say “@person1 @person2 @person 3 check out my new website www.website.com #topic 1 #topic 2 #topic3”.

FINCH:   What are the bad uses of Twitter?

HARPER:  In my opinion, tweeting trivial personal details is a mistake.  When Twitter first started, I think people were wondering how it would be used.  I see less trivial personal tweeting and more engaged discussion on focused topics. 

FINCH:   How does an executive or professional effectively use Twitter?

HARPER:  You use Twitter to share information in your industry.  You can use it to promote your blog, comment on current events and news, and follow other people.  Twitter is a conversation with one difference – the conversation is broadcast for everyone to see.  If you engage in thoughtful discourse in your industry, and your industry accepts Twitter as a means of communication, you can establish yourself as an expert.

FINCH:  Do you have a recommendation as to how much time one should spend on Twitter as opposed to all the other available social media including Facebook and LinkedIn?

HARPER: Not really.  I think it is very idiosyncratic.  I don’t personally tweet much.  I participate by following.  It’s a personal decision.  I know some people feel overwhelmed by social media, but I’ve never felt seduced into spending ridiculous amounts of time using Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. 

FINCH:  How often is too often in tweeting?

HARPER:  It depends.  One way to look at it is this – if you have thousands of tweets and only 25 people following you, you may be tweeting too much.  However, I see people who tweet pretty much non-stop during the day.  As long as you have something interesting or relevant to say or share, tweet away!  I personally get annoyed when people tweet obvious or useless statements.  I love it when people share links.

FINCH:  I worry that people are spending too much time in the virtual world of social media and the internet generally to the detriment of natural face-to-face interaction and live conversations.   Will good writing and speaking and social skills deteriorate as a result?  What are your thoughts?

HARPER:  I don’t think so.  Social media isn’t replacing in-person interactions.  We’re just communicating much more and much more quickly than people did in years past.  I find the interplay between social media and in-person events the most fascinating.  I love that I can attend a conference and also attend an online Twitter discussion of that conference simultaneously.  It is as if everyone in room had an opportunity to add depth and perspective.  I use Facebook personally.  I still call, Skype and visit my friends frequently!  Facebook allows me to skip past the boring “what have you been up to” because we already know.  Instead of updating each other, we’re talking about our lives.


Closed Networker

When I started using LinkedIn two years ago, I was a purist in that I only invited and accepted invitations from people with whom I had a business or civic relationship.  I did not “connect“  to acquaintances.  I also tried to keep my LinkedIn network to business and not personal contacts.  I did not want to mix the two. I was a closed networker. 

If someone whom I did not know sought to connect to me on LinkedIn, I would either archive the request or suggest that the requesting person come by my office to meet me when it was convenient for us both.  I wanted to evaluate the person and have a meaningful basis to be in each other’s network. I was a little self-conscious and sensitive about the idea of rejecting a requestor and coming off as being exclusive or self-important.

Open Networker

My thinking changed about seven months ago for two reasons: 1) I reminded myself that my business and personal worlds were not so compartmentalized and were in many ways seamless, so to limit my LinkedIn network to my business and civic contacts was artificial and counterproductive; and 2) I heard a LinkedIn presenter argue for his open, come one, come all policy.  As a result, I became an open networker and accepted anyone who wanted to connect with me. 

I received many requests from people in my various LinkedIn Groups.  The requests from some groups like my law school and college were no-brainers  – it made sense to connect with fellow alumni.  Requests from more impersonal groups like industry groups or city groups seemed more superficial, but I went with the flow of being an open networker.  I also received some random requests from people who shared  a mutual acquaintance with me.

Limited, Qualified Networker

My thinking has evolved once again and as I told another student of social networking, I am now a limited, qualified networker.  I was starting to get requests from people who ranged from pyramid scheme types to people I did not respect to people with whom I would never have any reason to sincerely and meaningfully interface.  I felt I was beginning to devalue the capital of my network.  Not a good thing. 

Developing and expanding one’s business network is not a popularity contest.  It is not like running for office and seeking as many votes as one can get.  Also, we all are both inspired and judged by the company we keep.  So quality connections do mean something and have real value.

So what is a limited, qualified networker?  It is a term I made up.  It means I will be open to networking with folks where I have an existing relationship or where there is a real opportunity to have meaningful interaction in the future.  It also means I will screen and be more selective about whom I will choose to connect.  My intention is not to offend, but to be more effective with the limited time that I have. 

The reality is that not all contacts are created equal.


By G. A. Finch

A fellow alumnus, Gene Killian, recently started a discussion in the LinkedIn University of Michigan Law School Group with the query: LinkedIn Use Violates Restrictive Covenants?

Mr. Killian alerted the group to a recent complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota captioned TEKsystems Inc. v.  Brelyn Hammernick, et al. 


Plaintiff TEKsystems Inc. is in the business of recruitment and placement of temporary and permanent employees.  Defendant was a former employee of the Plaintiff and had signed an employment agreement which contained provisions not to compete, not to solicit, and not to divulge confidential information.  Defendant went to work for a purported competitor of Plaintiff.

Plaintiff alleges Defendant violated the non-solicitation and non-compete provisions by soliciting Plaintiff’s contract employees and clients within the restricted geographic area covered by the employment agreement.  Specifically, the complaint alleges Defendant “communicated with at least 20 of TEKsystem’s Contract Employees using such electronic networking systems as LinkedIn.”  The complaint went on to allege that Defendant connected with several named employees of Plaintiff.  Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant specifically asked an employee whether he was still looking for opportunities and alleges that Defendant stated that she would love to have the employee come by her new offices and hear about the stuff she was working on.

These allegations are just allegations and, of course, Plaintiff will have to prove its case.

Social Media Bumping Up Against Employment Contract Provisions

What I find interesting is the intersection of social media and employment contracts.  We talk a lot about both of these subjects in this blog.  Now we see how one can affect the other.

People have gotten way too comfortable with social media like Facebook and LinkedIn. We forget 1) that what is sent into the internet never really goes away and 2) that it can be conceivably be read by thousands, if not millions of individuals.  Most disturbingly, much of it can be used in a court of law as evidence against you.

We don’t know what Defendant’s response and defense will be so we can’t speculate how a fact finder (judge or jury) might decide this case.

Medium Doesn’t Change Underlying Elements of a Cause of Action and  Use of Carve Outs

I do have a couple of observations:

A) The medium or means of communication may vary (e.g., telephone or email), but improper communication is improper communication.  You can’t solicit a customer or former employer if you have signed a valid non-solicitation provision.

B) If you already have pre-existing relationships with employees, customers, clients, potential customers and potential clients, then be sure to list those in a carve out provision before you sign non-solicitation, non-compete and confidentiality agreements.  There may be overlap between your existing contacts and your prospective employer’s contacts and you don’t want to be precluded from utilizing them post-employment.

The TEKsystems Inc. case is instructive in that we should not be lulled by the false sense of intimacy and instant camaraderie of social media like LinkedIn and Facebook.  Our communications, whether on the internet or face to face, can have unanticipated legal consequences.

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