If you’re looking for a job, you should join LinkedIn, an essential job search tool. If you are not looking for a job but are interested in networking online; or you want to acquire new partners or clients; or if you want to speed up your level of social activity, you should also become a LinkedIn user, in my opinion. All that said, there are some strict rules for courteous and professional use of the network. Here’s my Top Ten list of LinkedIn dos and don’ts:
1) DO connect with your “real world” friends.
I’m amazed at the number of LinkedIn users who join, create a profile, and immediately get to work inviting all kinds of strangers online to join their networks. Sure, it’s fun to browse LinkedIn’s database and search for people you might want to get to know better…but what about your friends in 3D space? The first thing you should do as a new LinkedIn user, after creating an amazing profile for yourself, is to invite your true friends and former co-workers to join your network. There are three steps in this process:
a) Download your Outlook address book so that LinkedIn can find your friends who are already members.
b) Use the Find Colleagues and Find Classmates features to sync up with people you know from school and previous jobs; Y
c) Invite groups of “real” friends who aren’t already LinkedIn users to join your network – you’ll help them connect while growing your own network.
2) DO NOT become an invitation spammer.
It’s tempting to start sending “connect with me” invites to every Tom, Dick, and Sally you find on LinkedIn, but it’s rude. If you want to communicate with someone you’ve seen has an attractive profile, send the person a contact request instead of an invitation to join your network. A contact request, to use an offline networking analogy, is like an invitation for coffee. An invite to Connect is like asking someone to hold steady. Unless you already know a person, don’t spam them with “do you want to start referring people to me and vice versa?” invitation – it’s creepy.
3) DO to others….
It is amazing that a person sends connection invitations to me while proclaiming on their profile that no new connection invitations will be accepted. Talk about all that is taken and not given! There are other LinkedIn users who set up a profile and make connections, and then specify in their profiles that they won’t act on forwarding requests (a key piece of LinkedIn value). These messages say, I want to be on this site and get its value, but I don’t want to deal with other people’s requests. A modern Dante would design a special, uncomfortable, crowded hell for these people: no fire pits, but perhaps an area where all connections are dial-up, cell phones can’t maintain a signal, and no one helps you. with anything, retribution for the “me first” approach to online networking that you displayed in your most recent incarnation on Earth.
4) DO NOT make assumptions about your own irresistibility.
Connection invitations should clearly state why you hope your guest will connect with you, such as because they serve on the same fundraising committee or because your daughters are best friends in fifth grade. With so many activities filling a typical business person’s schedule and so many people in the mix, it’s easy for people to forget how they know you. Likewise, even contact requests should make your case as clear as possible. A message that says “Can I call you? We could work together” is not the loudest tone in the world. People are incredibly busy: If you’re looking for a job or looking for new clients, you can lose sight of the fact that a person needs a compelling reason to spend ten minutes on the phone with you.
It’s helpful to remember what I call the happy life network theory: When you approach a stranger, that person presumably leads a happy and fulfilling life without the benefit of knowing you. It’s not enough to say “I’ll buy you lunch!” or the online equivalent of that offer; a $25 lunch (or a brilliant phone conversation with you) might not be as hard to pass up as you think. So lay it out: this is what I can do for you, or this is what I need, or both.
5) YES keep your profile updated.
A pox for the person who lets their LinkedIn profile languish! If you can’t be bothered to keep your profile up to date, why should anyone else bother to interact with you? If I get a contact request, go to the requester’s profile, and find that their details don’t match what’s in the requester’s email, I’m already disappointed. Bonus: when you update your profile, you can send a mass message with one click so your entire first-degree network knows your news. Note: do not abuse this feature! Reserve profile update bursts for news about an order for a job promotion, book launch, or appointment to a national commission… instead of news like “I started my PMP certification class.”
6) DO NOT confuse quantity with quality.
If I were a recruiter, I’d build the biggest network I could, on LinkedIn or otherwise. After all, there’s no downside to being able to see and reach a large pool of candidates when your job is to spot talent. But for the rest of us, it’s easy to confuse the notions of “a great network” and “a strong network.” The question to ask yourself is “could you recommend this person and could you recommend me?” If not, the primary value in any individual LinkedIn connection will be their ability to see your network (and vice versa). That’s not bad, but it would be a shame to confuse that kind of visibility with influence. Accumulating connections can become something of an addiction, but the withdrawal kicks in when these near-strangers start asking you to vouch for them to their dearest friends.
7) DO NOT transmit questionable requests.
I understood the religion in this article in an instant last summer, when a colleague asked me to send a friend of mine a spammy invitation to his business conference. “I can’t do it,” I wrote, “it’s purely a marketing message.” The gentleman’s reply message essentially ripped my head off, affirming my initial gut reaction that his request was inappropriate. Don’t hesitate to stand up for yourself and your friends when incomplete requests come up (and they will). If you overlook every piece of junk that comes your way, your trusted friends will start to doubt you, and that’s a far worse fate than having to write to another LinkedIn user, “I’m sorry, but I don’t feel comfortable passing by.” . This in.”
8) DO NOT abuse the Find Colleagues feature.
LinkedIn’s Find Colleagues feature allows you to find former co-workers and send them connection requests without intermediaries, a boon if you’ve lost their email addresses over the years. Unfortunately, it’s easy to abuse the feature by listing fake employers or dates of employment on your profile. What can we say about this? If you believe in the wheel of karma, avoid the temptation to claim employers and dates of employment to which you are not entitled.
9) Join the PowerForum.
New LinkedIn users have a lot of questions, and a great place to get answers is the user group called MyLinkedInPowerForum. Send a blank email to [email protected] to join the group and get LinkedIn (and general) networking tips. MLPF founder Vincent Wright is a helpful guide and mentor to LinkedIn users around the world. I can virtually guarantee that he will learn something useful from the daily forum conversation.
10) Disconnect from the bad apples when you need to.
Finally, it’s worth noting that LinkedIn gives you the ability to disconnect from other users if you find that the connection no longer works for you. If you’re plagued with inappropriate requests or other annoyances from one of your connections, you can cut the cord and avoid recurring headaches. Some people just don’t understand the notion of an online community with standards and norms; and it’s not your job to teach them how to behave. Just keep going.