Networking is serious business. It’s also a serious business of etiquette. The kind about which Emily Post, had she lived in the age of LinkedIn, would have written volumes.
Sadly, Mrs. Post isn’t here to guide us. In her absence I offer the following Rules of Etiquette for LinkedIn:
- When to Link-In: Wait until you’ve at least had substantive conversations or cause to connect with someone. These are your professional associates. You should be judicious and not rush to connect with everyone simply because they are there. This will ensure the network you create online is strong and ultimately beneficial for all parties.
- With Whom To Link-In: You wouldn’t walk into a strange building and start introducing yourself at random. Don’t do so on LinkedIn. This doesn’t mean you have to know everyone personally with whom you connect, but you should have some commonality. Look for that commonality: perhaps you are in the same industry, you’ve met at or attend the same conferences or events, or someone suggested you connect. Which leads to the next point …
- How to Link-In: If individuals are important enough to connect with, show them this is the case by writing a short, personal note. Far too many people just click the “Connect” button and use the generic email message LinkedIn provides. That’s spam, and reaching out that way lets your prospective network partner know you had neither the time nor inclination to make a meaningful connection. What does that say about the type of contact you’ll be for his or her network?
- What to Link-In: LinkedIn isn’t Facebook. Pictures of the kids, funny memes, jokes and any non-professional content are all inappropriate. Period. We’re on LinkedIn to grow our networks, learn from one another, share our professional insights and expertise and, sometimes, to find clients and/or employment. Awkward selfies, videos of kittens and hysterical GIFs should (and do) live elsewhere.
- Why Less is More on LinkedIn: Posting to share an industry-specific article is good. Periodic updates about your professional world are helpful. Promoting your blog is certainly expected. Posting every article, status update and stray thought you come across throughout the day is not helpful. It’s unwelcome, it turns people off, it floods newsfeed of your network contacts with information that smacks of attention getting behavior and, I’m sure Mrs. Post would agree it’s simply gauche.