'I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn'.
How often have your received this inoffensive, modest invite? Many a-time you will have accepted the overture, tapped the yes button, usually a friend, ex colleague or somebody you already know quite well. But how many times have you ignored it, deleted or even taken affirmative action and callously pressed the 'I don't know' button?
LinkedIn is all about expanding your network; reaching out and deepening relationships with contacts you already have, as well as widening your circle beyond the familiar friends and colleagues. You can read more about the importance of extending your network into the unknown in our Audit Advantage article Building Better Relationships but suffice to say, a system-produced, generic, mass message is not going to engender new connections of the incoming or the outgoing variety. This is all about LinkedIn Etiquette and the first rule has got to be:
- Customise and personalise. From your invitation to connect, to your entreaty for endorsement or other requests for support or information, don't send mass messages. They feel like spam and will most likely get the same reception. Tailor your communication to the person and the context. It will take a little more effort but the return on investment of the time you put in will be well worth it.
- And then there's your photo. If you don't have one, get one. If you do, then make sure it is commensurate with the professional marketplace of LinkedIn. Holidays, families and humour might be de rigueur for Facebook but here, a business-stance is the order of the day.
- Turn off notifications when you update your profile. If you don't then all your contacts will be emailed every time you make a tweak. Some edits you might like to share (such as a change in career status) but you don't want everyone alerted because you've made a spelling correction or lost a job!
- Open up your contacts to your contacts. You want to broaden your network beyond the people you already know and so do your contacts, so don't be stingy with 'sharing' privileges. Be ready and willing to make (and request) personal, one to one introductions.
- Don't impose LinkedIn. It's easy to do this unwittingly, enticed by the 'People you may know' offer. But bear in mind these are people not already on LinkedIn - and maybe for good reason. If they already have a 'connect' tab, fine; but if not they are more than likely insidiously pulled through from one of your address lists, so don't fall into the trap of luring them in - let them decide for themselves!
- Beware of stalking. If someone has not accepted your invite to connect - leave it there. You may not want to know why they don't want to connect with you!
- Use endorsements with discrimination. It's tempting to return an endorsement with like (and alas, I fear, oft expected as a 'fishing' expedition). But ethically, only you can decide if this is the right thing to do. If you can genuinely endorse an activity from firsthand experience - do it. If not, be brave and gracefully accept the incoming approval without reciprocating.
And finally, LinkedIn is not Facebook (or Twitter). LinkedIn is about business and professional networking, not for unadulterated social discourse. So think twice about anything you post - has it got professional context? If not, the best recourse is Facebook!