LinkedIn is a leading social networking platform that can connect you to nearly half a billion professionals around the world. It is a powerful online tool that helps you explore new contacts and careers, and is an easy way to stay up to date with your current network. Many of us are used to communicating with our friends, family members, and colleagues through social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, but what about LinkedIn? Are there certain things we should keep in mind when using it?
Here are six important rules of etiquette to consider before clicking “send” on LinkedIn:
1. Do Not Withdraw and Resend a Connection Request
Although growing your network is one of the most straightforward and important purposes of LinkedIn, you have to do it in a way that is considerate and strategic. Networking on LinkedIn is not just about how many connections you have. You should not focus on reaching the “500+” connections mark as quickly as possible. Try to view your connections as individuals who have their own career, time, interests, and goals.
If you do not hear anything back after your first connection request, give them time. Do not withdraw and resend your requests, thinking that it might help. In fact, it might do the opposite and could even get you blocked by that potential contact. LinkedIn has a built-in feature that sends a follow-up email to the individual reminding them that you have sent a request and are waiting for a reply.
2. Take Time to Write a Thoughtful Message
More often than not, you will be sending an invitation request to someone who does not have prior experience interacting with you. You might have heard them speak at a panel, read an article of theirs on WES Advisor, or attended one of their webinars. You want to connect with this individual because you found their work interesting or relevant to your career development.
In these instances, your chances of getting a positive response increase if you take the time to compose a brief, personal message. Instead of copying and pasting a paragraph of your biography, try mentioning where you learned about their work. Talk about how it was of interest to you, and why and how you hope to benefit from this connection. Ask a couple of questions if it is relevant to the topic. Above all, keep it short and simple.
3. Avoid Sharing Too Much Information
On the other hand, do not make the mistake of making your connection request too personal. LinkedIn is a professional networking tool and if you are sending a connection request to someone who does not know you, think about how strange or awkward it would be for that person to read about your personal story and career struggles right from the beginning.
Do not request to have a call with the person immediately or ask for personal details even after they accept your connection request. Depending on the level of connection you have with the person, this can be viewed as inappropriate. Instead, start your message with an introduction and use a tone that suggests you want to know more about their position, organization, industry, or a specific topic. Once you have established a proper and professional conversation, you can politely ask if they have time to chat over the phone or in person.
4. Be Professional and Respectful
Avoid doing any of the following things when sending a message or sharing a post:
- Comment about someone’s physical appearance
- Make jokes or comments that are hateful and discriminatory
- Ask personal questions about sensitive topics such as someone’s relationship status, salary, and health
- Complain or argue about an organization or business
- Post personal or family photos
The list above might sound obvious, but it is surprising how many people still think it is acceptable to behave inappropriately on LinkedIn.
5. Explore Other LinkedIn Features
Just like any other tool—whether it is your phone, computer, car, or printer—the benefits you get out of LinkedIn depend on how well you use it. LinkedIn is not the ultimate solution to your career plan, so manage your expectations accordingly.
In many instances, you might be a new graduate, or a newcomer looking to connect and find leads to jobs or opportunities. When your connection request is accepted by a contact, do not expect that contact to immediately assist you in your career questions or aspirations. If a contact does not respond to your message, do not feel discouraged. Focus your energy on building a professional, up-to-date profile.
Sharing interesting articles, participating in discussions, and creating new content to assist others is a great way to build your LinkedIn profile and open opportunities to connect with a wider range of people.
6. Pay It Forward
And finally, think about how you can help others through LinkedIn. For many of us, we only use LinkedIn to connect with a person or organization who we think is interesting for our purposes, but we tend to forget that other people might want to connect with us too. Think about how you can help them through LinkedIn. Are there experiences or connections you have that could benefit someone who sent you a connection request? Remember all the ways that a LinkedIn connection helped you with your career, and then think about extending that benefit to someone else.
You may think you do not have a lot to offer on LinkedIn, but there will always be someone who will be grateful for connecting with you. It is important to value other people’s time and expertise, but do not undervalue yourself either. The network is only as strong as the people who are in it, and that includes you.