What is Proper LinkedIn Etiquette?
When it comes to manners and LinkedIn, there are many questions to consider: Whom do you accept? Whom do you reject? What title do you use? If you want to make sure your LinkedIn etiquette is up to snuff, check out my top three tips for how to be polite on LinkedIn:
Tip #1: Accept the Right People
In my article about Facebook, I touched on determining whether to accept or reject an old friend you hadn’t seen in years. Though LinkedIn is a somewhat similar site in nature, its power and influence are much more complex. LinkedIn is about networking and learning to hopefully advance your career. And when presenting yourself on LinkedIn, you want to make sure you are doing so the same way you would present yourself in an office setting.
So, do you accept everyone who wants to connect with you? The answer is “yes” if they meet your professional needs. That’s the question you should ask yourself. That doesn’t mean only connecting with people in your field. You never know when, say a graphics connection could help with business cards, or a lawyer connection could advise you on a legal question.
Now, where I wouldn’t accept is if the person has a shady history of bad business practices or questionable ethics that you wouldn’t want to be associated with. If your friend went to jail for money laundering 20 years ago, it may be okay to accept his friendship on Facebook, but on LinkedIn? When it comes to business–no matter how nice they are–this is a “no.” Bottom line: on LinkedIn you can make some incredible contacts, bu, don’t let someone’s bad reputation ruin your chances. The proper way to reject someone on LinkedIn is to simply not accept their request. You do not have to contact them with an answer back. If the person is hitting you up for a contact or a meeting and uses a request to do so, you can still answer their question in a message but not accept their request. Is that weird? Maybe. But then again, it’s your reputation, not theirs so you make the calls. If they ask you, “Why didn’t you accept my request?” Well, there is your answer – probably because you are the kind of person that would ask me that.
Tip #2: Be Active
I don’t care if you are the life of the party or a wallflower who barely says one word–when it comes to LinkedIn, you have to be active. Be friendly, be fun, join a group or two or ten! You never know who you are going to meet in a group on LinkedIn that might lead you to your next exciting career opportunity.
That said, when you do become active, don’t become annoying. LinkedIn is not the place to join a group simply to overwhelm people with your views. If and when you witness such improper LinkedIn behavior, I am a firm believer in confronting the person. The groups on LinkedIn are there to share advice and news–not to fight and argue. Leave that for a rogue page on Facebook. Basically, if you want to know how to use LinkedIn, as my good friend Ron Burgundy from Anchorman says, you should “Keep it classy.”
Tip #3: Message with a Purpose
If there is one thing that bothers me most about social media, it’s that people are so surprised when they are contacted. It’s called social networking! You don’t have to have a Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn page–it’s not like paying taxes. Having a social media profile is optional, so don’t be so alarmed when someone reaches out to you. And when someone messages you, look at it as a sign of goodwill and even flattery.
If someone contacts you, regardless of whether you want to “connect” or “do business,” it’s always proper to reply. I mean, who are you fooling by ignoring the message? I know I sent it, and you know you got it, so just write back–even if it’s just briefly.
For example, here is a friendly message with purpose that I sent to someone in what I’ll call a “higher authority” position: “Dear Jack, I came across your page through a common connection and would love to hear more about the company’s work in the Maryland area. Can we chat for a bit?”
Jack did not respond and I knew he got my message because he is active on LinkedIn. It would have been easy for him to send a quick, friendly reply saying he was busy. In business, you never know who will end up being in a position to help you one day, so it doesn’t pay to ignore people just because you don’t think they have anything to offer—that decision could come back and bite you. Plus, you just never know what someone has to offer and what they can bring to the table. If someone contacts you, I recommend hearing them out. And at least write them back—that’s called having good manners.
Now that you have the basic LinkedIn etiquette down, you can think of how to step up your game from amateur to pro with this episode from another great Quick and Dirty Tips show, Modern Mentor.
Host Rachel Cooke is joined by LinkedIn expert and ghostwriter Emily Crookston to help us understand who LinkedIn is really for (everyone!) and how to use it in order to establish your voice, grow your brand, expand your network, and more.
Do you have a great story about how you witnessed improper manners on LinkedIn? Post them on my Modern Manners Guy Facebook page so we can all hear the details. As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you, so drop me a line at email@example.com new email. As well, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT. And of course, check back often for more Modern Manners Guy tips.