LinkedIn is, far and away, the most advantageous social networking tool available to job seekers and business professionals today. Far and away.
So why is it that so many of us stink at LinkedIn etiquette?
That’s right, folks. We stink at it.
We send out lazy, generic connection requests. We ask people we barely know for recommendations. We ambush people, asking for favors before we’ve ever spent even two seconds of time building rapport. We shove our Tweets through our LinkedIn feeds, even though half the people on LinkedIn could care less about Twitter.
You want to use LinkedIn to your massive networking advantage? Then you need to start working strategically and mindfully. And before you even think about logging on next time—you need to digest a few basic rules of etiquette.
1. Generic Requests are for Suckers
I’m going to assume that you use care in selecting who you’re going to invite into your LinkedIn network (you should). Why then, do you send them this note: “Debbie has indicated you are a friend?”
This generic invite is a huge turnoff to the majority of LinkedIn users—especially those who get dozens of requests each week, or who don’t really know who you are or why you’re attempting to link up. (Fact: I ignore each and every generic connection request I get.)
You absolutely must send a personalized note to every single person you’d like to connect with, telling them who you are and why you’re inviting them to connect. Sure, some of these people are your pals and they’ll know you right away. But in every instance that you extend an invite to a professional (or relatively unknown) contact? You have to introduce yourself and outline your goals and intentions.
2. When You Ask for a Recommendation, Be Specific (and Know the Person)
Clearly, LinkedIn recommendations can be massively advantageous. Third-party endorsements are job-seeking gold, especially when they come from clients, supervisors, or prominent professionals. So, don’t squander this opportunity by sending a vague or wishy-washy request for the recommendation (and definitely don’t ask people you barely know for an endorsement).
A great request will let the person know why you’re approaching, what, specifically, you’re looking for, and for what you intend to use the recommendation. Example:
Hi Susan, I’m currently seeking a new project management opportunity and wanted to ask if you’d be willing to provide a recommendation outlining your experience working with me. Specifically, I’m looking at positions that require an ability to view the ‘big picture’ and then assemble resources to ensure a project is completed on time and to budget.
If you could speak to my skills with managing both ‘big picture’ projects and critical details, I would be very grateful.”
It’s also a good idea to email the person directly before you send the LinkedIn recommendation request. This helps ensure that no one feels ambushed or obliged.
3. Avoid the Default Text Like the Plague
LinkedIn has some very nifty templates and default text available, which makes it so easy to do things like request an introduction to someone’s contact. Don’t do it. Just like you’re not going to send a generic connection request, you absolutely cannot use the LinkedIn default text to communicate with professional contacts. Make it personal. Make it specific. Make it clear that you’re not the laziest person alive.
4. Stop Tying Your Tweets to Your LinkedIn Feed
I don’t care how simple HootSuite and TweetDeck make it for you to integrate your Twitter feed into your LinkedIn status updates. Resist the urge. You’re dealing with two entirely different audiences, with different personalities, writing styles, and lingo.
Twitter is like a summer cocktail party. In all likelihood, not many people will bat an eye if you get drunk and fall into the pool. LinkedIn is the mixer that follows your big professional conference. Surely, you can be conversational in your LinkedIn updates. You just can’t get drunk and fall into the pool. Big difference—and good reason not to integrate the two.
5. Review Spelling and Grammar Like Your Life Depended on It
I’m continuously simultaneously entertained and horrified by the sloppy mistakes that come my way in LinkedIn requests. You want to establish a great connection or score a favor, introduction, or recommendation? Spell well. Brand yourself right from the start as a smart, articulate, and precise human being.
When it comes to LinkedIn, stop stinking, start thinking. And use these rules as your compass.