Know Your LinkedIn Etiquette

Know Your LinkedIn Etiquette

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LinkedIn is known as the Chamber of Commerce of social media platforms, and with good reason. Much like a Chamber mixer, LinkedIn is where business owners and sales people build their professional connections to nurture leads and get new clients. Of course, at such a function, you’d be expected to follow some basic rules of etiquette in order to be welcomed within the group and successful at networking. LinkedIn is no different. Minding your manners is essential to positioning you and your company as worth knowing – and worth doing business with!

Why Etiquette is Important

We’re not talking about fussy, “pinky-up-while-drinking-tea” etiquette, but practical best practices that will not only help you get the most benefits from your LinkedIn business account, but will also help you from being kicked off the platform entirely should you indulge in the worst offences.

Enter LinkedIn expert Melonie Dodaro, who could be considered the Miss Manners of LinkedIn. Dodaro is the author of several bestselling books about LinkedIn, and has written numerous online courses about the platform – as well as speaks and trains others globally on the topic. This is what she has to say regarding the importance of minding your Ps and Qs:

“If you don’t follow proper LinkedIn etiquette, you risk damaging your credibility, and if you are hoping to use LinkedIn for lead generation you can expect your results to be negatively affected.

“If wasting your time and hurting your credibility aren’t good enough reasons to pay close attention to these LinkedIn best practices, perhaps having your account restricted or entirely removed by LinkedIn is.”

Breaches of Etiquette – LinkedIn Don’ts

There are quite a few “don’ts” regarding boorish behavior on LinkedIn, but this one is so prevalent it warrants being mentioned first. Do not send invitations to connect to people who have no idea why you’re sending an invitation. Such invitations seem like you’re desperate at best, and spammy at worst. If your invitation doesn’t make sense to the recipient, it won’t be accepted.

Instead, Dodaro recommends personalizing every connection request. Take the time to research the person you want to connect with, then write a personalized connection request.

“People are far more likely to accept your request if you either remind them of how they know you or explain why they should connect with you. This is especially important when connecting with people you have never met. Many people on LinkedIn don’t appreciate connection requests from strangers without a personal message.”

Also, Dodaro points out that if too many people respond to your invitation by clicking “I Don’t Know This Person,” LinkedIn will restrict your account. “This will result in you being required to know the email address of each person you send any future LinkedIn invitations to, greatly reducing your ability to connect with prospects and expand your network.”

Don’t Stalk LinkedIn Profiles

LinkedIn business members view each other’s profiles all the time. Just because someone viewed yours doesn’t necessarily mean that individual wants to become a connection or do business with you. In other words, don’t send messages beginning with the words, “I see you viewed my profile.” This just comes off as unprofessional and stalkery. If the profile-viewer seems to be someone you would like to connect with, do some research and reach out on the basis of a mutual interest, background, etc. Or congratulate that person (or their company) on a recent achievement, if applicable.

Also, starting a message or InMail (available to those with a Premium account, which your business should have) with the words, “I saw your profile” is equally bad. Chances are high that you’re about to deliver an unsolicited – and unwanted – pitch, offer or connection request. Any of these actions are sure to quickly tank your credibility and reputation.

Don’t Immediately Follow a Connection with a Sales Pitch

Once you’ve made a new connection, treat that individual and their business professionally and with respect. Your connection needs to know that you see this as the opportunity to build a mutually beneficial relationship – which takes place gradually. These words of wisdom come from Tim Parker – a writer specializing in small business topics – in his article for Business Know-How:

“Remember, relationship first. People don’t want to know your latest offer on your website or in your business as soon as they connect with you. In fact, they probably never want a sales pitch. Establishing yourself as an expert will lead to sales.”

In his article for HubSpot, Peter Caputa – SEO of Databox – identifies those who send what he calls the “quickie LinkedIn sales pitch” as offenders in this area. Caputa writes about the time he had 4,000 unaccepted LinkedIn requests piled up, and accepted a few hundred without individually reviewing them.

The result? Within hours, he began receiving many “quickie LinkedIn sales pitch” InMails.

“The messages were all about them, their amazing business, and why I should stop what I’m doing and schedule a call with them. The barrage of spam certainly discouraged me from accepting more connections. I imagine I’m not the only one that doesn’t accept connection requests for fear of being spammed. And that’s ultimately bad for salespeople — how long before buyers stop accepting new connections altogether?”

Don’t Send Spammy or Irrelevant Messages to Your Connections

This follows the spirit of the above etiquette breach. Dodaro relates her experience with frequently getting messages from people asking if she’s interested in learning how to use LinkedIn for business, and inviting her to their webinar on the basics of LinkedIn. Obviously, these people didn’t bother to do the most fundamental research on the expert who literally wrote the book on using LinkedIn for business!

“To me, spam is anything the receiver doesn’t find valuable. Make sure any message you send to a connection is relevant to them. Otherwise, don’t be surprised when they don’t respond or mark it as spam … Everything you send your connections should be positioned for their benefit – not yours – if you want to stand a chance at building relationships with them.”

Don’t Export LinkedIn Connections to Your Email Database

This action goes beyond an etiquette breach – it’s unethical and illegal in countries covered by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This practice is also not permitted under the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Anyone on an email list must give permission for your company to use their information for that specific purpose. Your LinkedIn connections are not fair game for your business’s email list.

Don’t Make Negative Comments 

Keep comments that you make on behalf of your business positive and civil. Your company will enjoy a better reputation – and possibly get more business – if you avoid controversial topics and discussions, and engaging in trash talk about your competitors. Instead, be a booster for your community, area schools, sports teams, charities, other local (non-competitive) businesses and your industry. Make comments that support, congratulate and encourage others. You’ll attract the right kind of interest that translates into more connections!

Your LinkedIn “To-Do” Best Practices

Etiquette isn’t just about not doing the wrong things – it’s also about how to do things right and make a positive impression! Herewith are the considerate actions to take that can put you and your company top-of-mind among your connections when they’re ready to do business.

Send a welcome message when someone accepts your connection request – This encourages a dialogue that sets the tone for growing a relationship. Be sure to say more than “thanks,” however. Compliment them on a post or status update they recently shared, or a professional accolade they received. Dodaro warns to not ask for anything at this point, or the relationship will end before it begins.

Also, writes Dodaro, “Many people tell me they are active on LinkedIn but they don’t find that it generates leads. This is because they are too busy treating it as a numbers game. In order to create interest among your new connections, you must show interest in them.”

Respond to messages and promptly reply – Just as you appreciate and expect others to respond to your emails, messages and calls in a timely manner, extend the same professional courtesy to others. Doing so also positions your business as being efficient and serious about delivering great customer service. If you wait a week or longer to reply, your connection/prospect may draw the conclusion that your business is run in an unreliable manner, and is no longer a prospect!

Stay on the radar – Like, share and comment on the content that your connections post. Send congratulatory messages after an event – such as opening a new location, being named to a publication’s “Top 100 List,” etc. It’s a great way to show your connections that you’re interested in their activities – while at the same time making your connections’ other connections aware of your business!

The Take-Home Message and Our Blatant Self-Promotion

Basically, LinkedIn etiquette – just like all etiquette – is about following the Golden Rule: treating others the way you want to be treated. If you don’t appreciate receiving spammy messages or aggressive sales pitches, don’t make them yourself.

LinkedIn can be a valuable tool for growing your business and establishing yourself as a thought leader. Our blog post – “How to Use LinkedIn for Your Business” – provides advice on giving your LinkedIn business page professional polish, posting quality content that’s relevant to your audience and other best practices for expanding your network.

If you’re looking for help that’s more hands-on, our team at Virtual Stacks Systems can provide everything your presence on LinkedIn – and other social media platforms – needs to achieve your marketing goals. We also offer website design and redesign, SEO marketing,  social media marketing,  PPC advertisingreview management services, social media marketing and much more!

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