Why do people behave differently on social networks than at in-person networking events?
Is it that all rational thought goes out the window when facing a computer or device screen (I admit, it does sometimes seem that way) or is it that they’ve never been taught?
I believe it’s the latter.
When trying to get to grips with a new tool you don’t always think through the implications of what you’re doing.
And, in people’s defence, LinkedIn makes it pretty easy to do some stupid things and pretty damn hard to take more sensible steps. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes and I’m sure I’ll continue to make new ones, but I’ve also learnt along the way.
If you want a quick rundown on LinkedIn etiquette (or netiquette as one lawyer I spoke to phrased it!) you’ve come to the right place.
1. Tailor your invites to connect wherever possible
I know this isn’t always possible on devices and within various LinkedIn apps, which is why I always advise viewing someone’s profile and inviting them to connect from within that screen because it gives you this option.
If it’s someone you know well you have the opportunity to start a conversation – to find out how things are going for them and to suggest catching up for a coffee – essentially it’s another opportunity to stay top of mind. If it’s someone you don’t know well or don’t know at all, it becomes even more important. A generic ‘I’d like to add you to my LinkedIn network’ doesn’t tell the other person WHY they should connect with you and why you want to connect with them. At best they’ll accept (and then probably ignore your posts). At worst they’ll report you to LinkedIn for spamming. And a lot of them will ignore you.
TIP: If you ever find yourself in this situation, you can go back to the other person without accepting their request to ask why they’d like to connect with you. To do so, go to the invitations tab (click on the envelope icon near the top right hand corner of your screen) and find the invitation itself. You’ll see a small arrow to the right of the Accept button. If you click on it you’ll have the option to Reply without accepting their invite. You can send them a quick email thanking them for their invite and asking them why they want to connect with you. If they come back with a good reason, you can accept their invite. If they don’t respond you know they’re probably just looking to boost their number of LinkedIn connections.
2. If you don’t know someone don’t select the option ‘I’ve done business with them’ when inviting them to connect.
It will just irk the other person. Instead you can either google them to find out their email address and then manually input it or use the following workaround using LinkedIn Contacts (hat tip to Adam Gordon for sharing this one):
- Click on Contacts – if it’s the first time you’ve done so you will need to click the yellow ‘get started’ button to launch the feature.
- Go to the profile of the person you want to connect to (provided they are a second or third degree connection or are in one of your groups) and save them to your contacts by clicking on the star which appears on the left hand side of their profile under the ‘Connect’ button (just below their profile).
- When you’ve done so, you’ll see the following list appear – select tag and then ‘add new tag’. You could create one called ‘Prospects’. If adding subsequent people, hit ‘save’ each time you tag them.
- Go back into ‘Contacts’ and select ‘Filter by’ and then ‘tags’ from the drop down list that will appear.
- Select ‘Prospects’ (or whatever you named your tag) and you’ll see under each person’s name there’s the ability to connect. If you click on this button you’ll be able to tailor your invite and you won’t have to select how you know that person.
- Once you’ve invited them you may want to remove the tag to avoid inviting people again in future.
3. Whenever you accept an invitation request, send the other person an email via LinkedIn thanking them for inviting you to connect
Ask them a question about their work – again it’s an opportunity to start a conversation and build rapport.
I routinely do this and have generated work several times as a result.
4. Respond when someone sends you a (genuine) message via LinkedIn.
Be personal. Make it about the other person, not about yourself.
5. Only endorse others if you have personal experience of their expertise in an area
If people see that you’ve endorsed someone who isn’t very good in an area, it’s your credibility on the line. Don’t rely on the blue pop-up box to endorse people because it often suggests skills they don’t have (or don’t want to be endorsed for). If you do want to endorse someone, go into their profile, scroll down to their skills section and endorse them there.
6. Thank those who endorse you.
If people bother to endorse you the least you can do is to thank them. You’ll be remembered for it because it isn’t something many people do. It’s pretty quick and easy to do so. Go to your profile, scroll to the skills section and hover over the person’s photo. You’ll see the option to send them a message. You can set up a template to save you typing it out each time.
7. When posting status updates or group discussions always provide an intro if you’re posting an attachment.
There’s so much noise in people’s news feeds and in group discussion lists that you want to make it easy for people to determine whether or not to open yours. Simply posting a link won’t cut it. You need to provide a short intro – either highlighting a key message from the article or post you’re linking to, or setting out who should click on the link and why. You may want to try to initiate a discussion by asking a question relevant to the group too.
8. Post updates that will be of interest/relevant to those in your network/a group.
If it’s a thinly veiled sales piece then don’t bother posting it. Don’t treat LinkedIn groups like a promotional tool. Groups are primarily a discussion forum – be helpful, share ideas, and ask for help if you need it. Rather than posting ‘come along to our seminar on X, Y and Z’, why not ask a question of the group when planning your event to make sure it meets their needs – e.g. We’re going to be running a seminar on X and wanted to find out from you what’s the one thing you’d want to know from such an event?
9. Don’t post the same update into multiple groups simultaneously.
When I asked members of two groups what annoyed them most about LinkedIn groups, an overwhelming number responded with this. People don’t want to see the same update in every group to which they belong. If it’s relevant to more than one group then tailor your intro to that group and space your updates out. That way they’ll likely be seen by more people.
10. If you’ve started a conversation/post then stay involved in the thread.
Respond to people – monitor it. Be a good host. Reply to people’s comments or, at the very least, like them. Show them you do want to hear their thoughts. In group discussions, summarise the thread once comments have slowed down and thank people for their responses.
11. If you use Inmail or LinkedIn email to contact other LinkedIn users don’t ‘sell’ to them.
People aren’t on LinkedIn to be sold to and they certainly don’t want to be sent unsolicited emails by people they don’t know. Use these facilities selectively either by offering contacts and centres of influence something they’ll value as issues arise or to send tailored invitations to join your LinkedIn Group. A great example of using Inmail to offer people something they’ll value is that of a financial adviser based in Australia, Charles Badenach. In 2012 as a result of Federal Budget changes in Australia, professionals were able to gain a tax rebate by pre–paying their private health insurance before the end of the financial year. Charles informed people about this using Inmail.
12. Don’t throw mutual connection’s names into the conversation just to try and sell.
This seems to be a growing trend. I’ve received at least 5 phone calls in the past year from people claiming to know one of my LinkedIn connections and, surprise surprise, asking if I’d like to see a demo of their amazing software. It’s thinly veiled cold calling. There are so many better ways to get on someone’s radar and to see the value in your product or service if you take a longer term and helpful approach.
13. Be positive online.
Negativity has no place as part of your social media tactics.
What lapses of etiquette have you ever made (we’ve all made them!)?
What other advice would you give professionals re. LinkedIn etiquette?
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