If you're involved in business development or recruitment, you're already spending lots of time on LinkedIn. As a self-described LinkedIn junkie, everyone who knows me knows that as a result of all the time I spend there, I have strong opinions on LinkedIn etiquette, and have no qualms about calling someone out who violates rules that I consider sacred.
That being said, I also respect, appreciate and draw from the higher powers in the LinkedIn universe — people like Wayne Breitbarth, author of The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success, the seminal book on the subject, and Lindsey Pollak, a widely read blogger for LinkedIn. They and others regularly offer great etiquette and effectiveness advice that I continue to draw from. I should also add one caveat: I'm still learning from some of my own mistakes, and occasionally draw rightful fire from other etiquette police. Mea culpa.
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So here's what I believe are the 10 most important LinkedIn etiquette tips:
- Complete as much of your profile as possible. You don’t need to share every little detail of your experience, but a description of your role at each stop in your professional career builds trust. And while we’re on the subject of trust...include a professional picture of yourself! “Faceless” profiles make it seem as though you’re hiding something. This is a social site, so if you are going to participate at all a picture is a must have.
- Connect with people you know — or at least know of. Sounds obvious, but accepting invitations from unknowns makes little sense, nor is it appropriate to invite the same. My own decision rule is very simple: I accept invitations from people I’ve met and respect as professionals, and from people whose reputations precede them through trusted recommendations or public scrutiny.
- Respond politely. Whether or not you accept an invitation to connect, a direct, professional response is usually the best next step.
- Say please and thank you. Frequently. What we all should have learned in kindergarten applies to LinkedIn as well. When you ask for something say please. When someone does something considerate, even if it's not invited, say thanks.
- Keep updates interesting and professional. We want to know when you've accomplished something noteworthy, read something that's valuable, or discovered something you think should be shared. We (I) don't care what you had for lunch or what you're doing this weekend with your family. Save that for Facebook or Instagram.
- Give recommendations to get recommendations. There's nothing wrong with asking for a recommendation. But the best way to ask is to first give one. When you think about it, the best recommendations should come from the people you know and respect the most, who naturally are the people you can most genuinely recommend.
- Be honest. We've all experienced this. You find a former peer on LinkedIn and as you review their experience you see they've misrepresented a past role or the responsibilities they had. As a result you look at everything they claim to have done since then with a little more skepticism. Don't do anything that puts you at risk of harming your credibility.
- Don't be a pest. You won't do yourself any good professionally if you annoy people. We all know someone who does. Don't be that person.
- Participate. Kind of like when you go to a party: Don't go if you're not going to talk to people and add to the energy of the group. Same thing with LinkedIn. Be active, share information, interact with other people’s updates, grow your footprint, and be additive to the collective good.
- Use video! Our August blog discussed changes LinkedIn made to its product offering and video is a big part of that. Video influencers on LinkedIn are taking full advantage of its popularity. Including video in your profile makes you more approachable/human. And don’t forget to use video messages to share, comment on, and like other content. Don’t just use the LinkedIn buttons either. Give good content a shout out in your message!
With more than 500 million users in hundreds of countries, LinkedIn is largest professional network in the world. The professional, collegial environment it represents are what users enjoy and what makes it such a special tool for business development, recruitment, and best practice sharing. It's up to all of us, through our behaviors and attitudes, to keep it that way.
Got more tips we should consider? Please let us know!