Many people are fearful when using social media networks like LinkedIn for business, concerned that they may make a mistake or do something wrong.
Has your fear of making mistakes on LinkedIn prevented you from taking full advantage of all that the professional social network has to offer?
Each day, I see people making mistakes on LinkedIn which not only waste their time, but do damage to their credibility. To ensure this doesn't happen to you, it's essential that you understand and carefully utilize proper LinkedIn etiquette and best practices.
In this post, we'll look at some important 'Do's and Don'ts' of LinkedIn etiquette, and the mistakes you absolutely must avoid in order to maximize your presence.
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LinkedIn Etiquette: 10 Things You Must Do
1. Personalize Connection Requests
The first and most important tip I can share with you is to personalize each and every connection request that you send out. People are far more likely to accept your request if you either remind them of how they know you, or explain why they should connect with you. This is especially important when connecting with people you've never met, as many people on LinkedIn don't appreciate connection requests from strangers without a personal message.
You may not be aware of this, but if one too many people respond to your invitation by clicking "I Don't Know This Person", you'll end up having your account restricted by LinkedIn. This will result in you being required to know the email address of each person you send any future LinkedIn invitations to, greatly reducing your ability to connect with prospects and expand your network.
If you follow just this one tip, you'll greatly increase your success on LinkedIn, simply because most people are not doing it and you'll stand out. I receive hundreds of connection requests every month, and only 1% to 2% percent of them are personalized in any way. In fact, personalized invites are so rare that when I see one, I almost always accept it.
LINKEDIN PRO TIP: Beware of sending invites using apps on mobile devices as they tend to make it easy to send a connection request before you've had the opportunity to personalize it.
2. Send a Welcome Message
When someone accepts an invitation to join your network, send them a personalized welcome message. Just as you would welcome someone into your home, you should welcome them into your LinkedIn network - this is a crucial difference between simply adding connections to your network and building real relationships.
Many people tell me they're active on LinkedIn but they don't find that it generates leads. This is often because they're too busy treating it as a numbers game. In order to create interest among your new connections, you must show interest in them.
3. Respond Promptly
Just as with email, the promptness of your response is often just as important as the message itself. Like email, one or two days are acceptable but don't let it go beyond that before you respond to a message on LinkedIn.
4. Have a Professional Headshot
People choose all sorts of inappropriate photographs to use in their LinkedIn profiles. Remember, LinkedIn is a professional business network and your photograph should reflect that. Don't include anyone else - or your pet - in your photograph.
The profile photo is featured in a circle, which should focus on your head - your eyes and smile. It should be a clean headshot of you facing the camera, preferably smiling with a nice clean background.
Unprofessional looking photographs can damage your credibility and your personal brand, as well as preventing people from connecting with you.
5. Post Content Regularly
Posting content regularly on LinkedIn will help you look more professional and improve your credibility. It can also help keep you top of mind and provide opportunities for others to engage with you.
Interested prospects can easily see how active you are under the 'Activity & Articles' section of your profile. To ensure that you appear active and engaged, try to post a status update once or twice a day, something that would be of value to your target audience. You can further improve your activity by posting your own, original articles once a week on LinkedIn Publisher, which can also help establish your authority on your topic.
Ensure that you post updates and articles that your connections will find interesting or useful. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, LinkedIn is not the place to post personal trivia - stick to business.
6. Recommendation Requests
Always personalize your requests for recommendations. There are default messages for many LinkedIn functions, including this one, but I never recommend you use them. Always personalize messages, including recommendation requests.
7. Nurture Your Relationships
Nurture your LinkedIn relationships through regular engagement. Send messages of congratulations on a new job or other simple value-based messages when appropriate.
LinkedIn makes suggestions in the notification page of connections with significant events that you can engage with. You can also nurture relationships by engaging with your connection's content such as liking, sharing and commenting on their posts.
8. Stay Top of Mind
Stay forefront in the mind of your connections and nurture your relationships by sending messages tailored to each contact's individual needs.
If you come across content that would be of interest or value to someone specific within your network (especially a prospect or client), send it to them in a private message.
9. Keep It Professional
Remember, LinkedIn is not Facebook. When I say keep it professional, I mean don't talk about anything on LinkedIn that isn't related to business. LinkedIn is a business social network and people expect things to be professional at all times. Yes, this means no pictures of your meals or pets.
Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are all great social networks, but it's important to understand the differences.
10. Introduce People
Finally, here is a LinkedIn best practice that can create great social capital for you - introduce your connections to each other.
Think of yourself as a business matchmaker.
Doing this will invoke the Law of Reciprocity, and often people will return the favor and introduce you to some of their connections, thus expanding your network in a very personal way. This is a great opportunity to support your connections and nurture relationships.
LinkedIn Etiquette: 10 Things You Must NEVER Do
1. Don't Send Spammy Messages to Your Connections
For example, I recently received a message from someone in my network asking me to export my entire connection list and share it with them.
This is a ridiculous request for two reasons - the first reason is that I don't know this person, so why would I share something like my connection list with him. Second - and more importantly - because I value the people I'm connected to, why would I share their contact information without their permission?
Remember that everything you send to your connections should be positioned for their benefit, not yours. If it's not, then it's likely to be considered spam.
2. Don't Send Irrelevant Messages
Don't send out irrelevant, script-styled messages to your connections.
Another example of a message I received was an invitation to visit someone's booth at an upcoming Doctor's Convention. I'm not in the health industry, nor am I in their local region, so this was completely irrelevant to me. Don't send any messages that the receiver is not going to glean value from - ithis also comes across as self-serving and spammy.
3. Don't Send Messages With, "I see you viewed my profile..."
It's a great idea to regularly check who's viewed your profile, and even connect with them - but do so without sending a message saying, "I see you viewed my profile."
That just feels creepy - just because someone looked at your profile, that doesn't mean you need to mention it, and if viewing your profile was a good enough reason to connect, they would have already sent you a connection request.
If the person who viewed your profile is someone you want to connect with, by all means do so, but have another reason to make the request and don't mention their visit to your profile.
4. Don't Lock Down Your Profile
Privacy settings are there for your protection, but don't forget this is a social network and you want to engage with other people. Don't make the mistake of trying to protect and treat your LinkedIn profile like your Facebook profile - LinkedIn is a business platform.
With this in mind, make your contact list open to connections, make your activity feed open to everyone, and ensure your name and profile is open to everyone.
If there are some people who you don't want to share your information with, then they shouldn't be a part of your network, and you should (and can) simply remove them as a connection.
LINKEDIN PRO TIP: One important setting you should change is the one that says, "Viewers of this profile also viewed". This is located on the Privacy & Setting page. This is the LinkedIn default, and it can easily result in your competitors showing up at the side of the screen when someone finds you - only leave this on if you want to send potential prospects to visit profiles of your competitors.
5. Don't Add Connections to Your Email List
Do NOT export your connection list and add them to your email database - EVER. Just because someone has connected with you on LinkedIn does NOT give you permission to add them to your list and send them emails. This is completely unethical and in some countries (like Canada) illegal.
6. Don't Ask New Connections or People You Don't Know to Endorse You
Don't ask someone to endorse your skills unless they are friends, family, colleagues, a client, or someone who knows you well.
One of the best ways to get endorsements is to give them. When you endorse someone, that person receives a notification and will often reciprocate by endorsing you.
7. Don't Ask Strangers for Recommendations
Never ask someone you don't know for a recommendation. I have this happen to me often and I'm not sure what they want me to say.
"Based on Johnny's profile, he seems like a nice guy."
If they don't know you, or have never experienced your services, they can't possibly give you a genuine recommendation. So don't ask.
By the same token, never give a recommendation to someone that you don't know or whose services you have never experienced. Your credibility is on the line if that person turns out to be less than professional.
8. Do Not Post Self-Serving Content
When sharing your own content, make sure your goal is to provide value first and foremost. Do NOT post promotional information about yourself or your business without providing some sort of value to your connections.
9. Don't Criticize Others or Comment Negatively
Another major faux pas is to criticize others or comment negatively. I often see people in heated debates, or insulting their competitors, which serves no purpose other than to turn many people off. Keep your comments positive and never be insulting.
10. Don't Forget to Check & Reply to Comments
When someone takes the time to read and comment on your status update or LinkedIn Publisher post, make an effort to reply to them in a timely manner. Not only is this a great way to start or build a relationship with the commenter but keep in mind that your post or article will now be visible to their 1st level network, expanding your reach.
It's Not About You, It's All About Them
The biggest mistakes on social media stems from the misconception that people care about what you have to say. That's simply not the case. They care about finding solutions to their problems - that's it.
Remember WIIFM - people are always thinking "what's in it for me".
The golden rule of LinkedIn etiquette and social media marketing in general is to always provide undeniable value that speaks to the exact type of person you're trying to connect with.
What examples of good or bad LinkedIn etiquette have you seen? Let me know in the comments below. And please go ahead and share this infographic to help others from making LinkedIn etiquette mistakes that can hurt them personally or professionally.
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