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Friday, March 19, 2010

LinkedIn Etiquette: Beyond "please" and "thank you"

If you're reading this post -- my guess is that you're not quite sure of etiquette on LinkedIn. Or, maybe you think you know it all and want some reassurance. Regardless, here are a few social media etiquette tips that I've learned over the past few years of using LinkedIn.

1. Personalize EVERY invitation to connect.
If you use the standard "I'd like you ask you to join my professional network on LinkedIn" it's like the equivalent of sending spam. It tells your requested future connection you don't even care enough to type a few keystrokes to refresh their memory. Or, you really don't know them and you're secretly hoping they'll connect with you so you can try to sell them something. Give your contact a frame of reference and a personal greeting.

2. Say please.
Wouldn't you rather be ASKED than TOLD to do a favor for someone on LinkedIn? Whether it's requesting to connect with someone, asking their insight on a topic, or help with a problem, saying "please" shows respect.

3. Say thank you.
When someone gives you something of value or helps you out, you should say thank you. Always. Even on LinkedIn.

4. If you don't have something nice to say, say nothing at all.
If you've ever read through the "ANSWERS" section and seen a snide comment, you know what I'm talking about. Nobody wants to read sarcasm on a professional networking site.

5. Don't send out blanket solicitation or "just checking in" messages.
Yes, it's a professional networking site. No, this does not give you the right to send out professional yet unpersonal messages. If you really care to keep in touch, personalize the message to me with "Hi Brenda...." instead of "We haven't chatted in a while and..." It comes across as very impersonal and shows me that you don't get it.

6. If you want to apply to a job within my network, make sure you're 100% qualified and 100% interested in the job.
I'm always more than willing to help anyone in my LinkedIn network to connect, especially when it comes to applying for a job. But if I help to make a connection for you and then you decide against applying for the job or acting on my approval to forward the invitation to a connection, it could potentially impact my credibility with that connection. Plus that connection is going to remember it the next time I ask them for a favor.

7. Don't post your birthday, marital status, horoscope sign, or any other personal information on your LinkedIn profile.
Enough said. This message brought to you by

8. If you don't feel comfortable giving or receiving a recommendation, don't.
I've ignored requests to offer recommendations for people for a variety of reasons. It could be that we don't know each other well enough yet. If you're giving a recommendation and I don't accept it, it could be because the recommendation you're offering me doesn't seem genuine based on our professional knowledge of each other. Your professional credibility is tied to the recommendations you give and receive.

9. Use a professional photo on your profile. You don't need to pay a professional photographer, but try to at least pose on a solid, light-colored background wearing professional attire, with a head-and-shoulder shot. Smiling. No sunglasses. No full-length body shot. Nobody else in the picture with you. Even if they are cropped out. (yeah, we can tell)

10. Help your network.
Be a resource. LinkedIn is not just about you. It's about how you can help your network.

Please share this with a connection who is just getting starting on LinkedIn, and tell them your favorite tip from this list. And if you're already following ALL these tips, take a moment to pat yourself on the back.

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