With more 332 million members on LinkedIn, there’s bound to be some confusion between its users as to what’s appropriate behavior and what’s not. Well, I’m not an expert, and I’ve definitely made some mistakes myself, but I’ve done some research to help us all become better users.
Here are some etiquette tips to help you navigate the world of LinkedIn so you never have to be “that guy” (the person ruining it for everyone else).
Connecting with people you DO know and DON’T know: LinkedIn isn’t a platform for building followers as quickly as possible. It’s a platform used to build professional and, if possible, meaningful relationships. You don’t need to spend your time trying to connect with as many people as you can, as quickly as you can. Initially, try to focus your energy on finding people you already know and have a personal connection with, including past and current colleagues and clients. From there, look for people in your industry that you would like to work with, learn from or simply get to know better in case an opportunity arises in the future.
It’s okay for you to request a connection from a stranger, but you should probably have a reason. (Read: You don’t need more connections simply to build the number of connections listed on your profile.) When connecting with someone you don’t know, try to not use LinkedIn’s blank template, but instead, explain why you want to connect. I’ve said everything from “Based on your experience in the industry, I’d love to connect so I can stay up-to-date on the type of articles you post,” to “I see your company is located in San Diego—so is mine! I’d love to connect in case there’s ever a local event I could advise you of and vice versa.” If you have a mutual colleague or friend in common, feel free to mention it. You don’t have to be incredibly detailed, but if the person you’re trying to connect with is suspicious of unknown invites, your added details will make them more likely to accept your invitation.
You can even look for prospective clients, but make sure you’re connecting with people you can realistically service. Don’t just connect with every consumer you see, make sure there’s always a reason behind your connection invite.
Accepting connection invitations from strangers/competitors/people you dislike: I’ve heard several different responses to this question, but I’ll tell you how I personally feel about accepting an invitation from one of these types of people. Why not? Sure, that person might just be trying to add to their connection number, but what if they’re not? What if a consumer saw your profile and thought, I’ve been meaning to look for a financial advisor and this guy looks experienced.
And your competitors? What can they see that can harm you? If you’re nervous that they’ll see your connections, then simply make your connections private (located in settings); however, if they share mutual connections, then they will be able to see those people listed. But in that case, I repeat, who cares? If you’re in the same industry, it’s highly likely that you’ll share many of the same connections anyway. If your competitor can ruin your company by seeing who you’re connected with on a social platform, you have bigger problems to deal with.
And what about that person you went to high school with that you despise? Who cares? You never know if they have a friend who might someday search for a financial advisor on LinkedIn. If they see that their friend has you as a connection, they’ll be more likely to click on your name and connect than someone with zero connections in common.
If you really want to reject an invitation, then that’s your prerogative. When you reject someone, they aren’t sent a notification saying, “So-and-so rejected you.” They can, however, go back to your profile to determine whether or not you’re still unconnected, so keep that in mind.
Posting: LinkedIn is not the place for you to post pictures of your family vacation, relationship status updates or links to funny cat videos. It’s perfectly fine (and recommended) if you want to post light-hearted or humorous articles, just as long as they pertain to the professional business world. If you feel inclined to post something more personal, stick to your personal Facebook account. And remember, you should only post content or links to articles if you think it would be beneficial to someone else. Don’t spam your contacts with 20 articles every day, just because you want them to think you’re up to date on the news. Be judicious about what you’re posting.
Endorsements: As you’ve probably noticed, you can be recognized, or recognize someone else for their skills and expertise by endorsing them. This is a great way to show the connections you know that you think they’re good at what they do. If you’ve worked with someone in the past, and you can testify to their skills, then by all means, click on those skills! But, if you don’t know this person at all, you may want to hold back. The person you endorse might be confused as to why a stranger is endorsing them, and even worse, they might assume you’re doing it just so you can get endorsed back (making you look bad).
Keep it professional: Remember, LinkedIn is for building professional relationships, not personal ones. LinkedIn is not a dating site. I had a coworker once jokingly say that LinkedIn is the perfect place to find a boyfriend or girlfriend because you can gauge whether or not they’re educated, employed, married, involved in community service projects, etc. Apparently some people have taken the idea seriously, as it’s not uncommon for members to reach out to the opposite sex for more than a professional connection. It’s inappropriate, so let’s all just agree to not do it, okay? Okay.
The biggest mistake of all…doing nothing: As with any social media site, there’s no benefit to merely creating a profile and letting it sit. Connect with others, post content, read and comment on others’ content, partake in group discussions and utilize the platform as it’s intended. You don’t have to check your profile everyday, but you also shouldn’t go weeks without checking it either, especially if you’ve recently reached out to others who might respond quickly.
Be sure to check back next week Friday for advice on LinkedIn Groups!