They say people do business with people they know, like and trust. It seems the online world has blurred what it means to be a ‘friend’ or a ‘connection’. While we have never been so ‘connected’ in an online sense of the word, I believe we have also never been so ‘disconnected’ in an offline sense of the word. Take a look around next time you go out for dinner and count the percentage of people on their phones engaging in ‘anti social’ media.
More and more business is done online and more and more people are headhunted via LinkedIn. And it’s not all bad. LinkedIn can play a role in your professional life if you understand its value as a networking tool. Today’s article is for those of you who value relationships, but resent having to spend time online and want a guide to LinkedIn Etiquette for Australian Professionals.
I believe we have better things to do than spend too much time online. Even though the online world is where we’re reading more and more of our news and content these days, we have places to go and treasured people to spend time with in the real world.
Connection vs Friend vs Foe vs Potential Date
The first place to start with LinkedIn Etiquette is to have a connection criteria for invitations to connect. When you receive an invitation to connect you must decide within 3-7 days of receiving this invitation if you wish to accept the connection or not. I believe not responding to an invitation to connect is like not taking someone’s business card when they hand it to you.
I will accept an invitation to connect if you have a headshot photo, are from a country I transact with and have at least 100 connections. Do I need to know you? No. I have a follow up message I send over the next week or so (or when time allows) that helps me to screen these new connections and to determine their intent for reaching out.
In many cases, people I do not know invite me to connect because someone they know has mentioned my name and so they are reaching out via LinkedIn as their preferred way of making contact. Importantly, being connected with someone on LinkedIn does not mean you endorse them for their skills or recommend them.
LinkedIn represents an online opportunity for conversation starters across a variety of industries and geographic locations. I recommend being connected with everyone you know from all walks of life so that you are providing LinkedIn with a sense of your network so it can serve up other potential connections you may know and help people find you.
If your privacy settings are set up so that your connections can only see your mutual connections, your LinkedIn network has the potential to move far beyond a status based database of your who’s who (that’s what your phone contact list is) and instead becomes a virtual room where you just never know who you might bump into in your LinkedIn community. I have so many examples of clients and friends being approached on LinkedIn for incredible professional opportunities and collaborations.
Being Salesy on LinkedIn is Sleazy
If someone agrees to connect with you, it does not give you permission to sell to them.
Bad behaviour can sometimes rear its ugly head on LinkedIn. In this LinkedIn article from 2014 I first talked about this concept and my belief that most people do not like to be sold to. Here’s some of the responses to this article which still hold true today.
The salesy methods I mention in the article remind me of the person at the bar or nightclub on a Saturday night, who works on the theory that the more strangers they proposition, the more likely they are to eventually get someone to say ‘yes’ to a drink or dance with them.
Salesy just feels a bit sleazy.
Use of Emails and Contact Details
It is absolutely not okay to export your LinkedIn connection’s details for the purpose of adding them to your email newsletter. This is hands down the worst behaviour I see on LinkedIn. To protect yourself from this practice, I recommend you change your email settings so that your email address is not visible to connections and you are not searchable via your email address. There are LinkedIn commentators who will disagree with this advice. And that’s okay, because I believe your email inbox is a sacred place and you need to be invited to attend. I’ve met many professionals who find the act of being added to a newsletter without their permission to be repellent and a reason to black ban individuals from future business conversations.
Be Collegiate & Collaborative on LinkedIn
The alternative to this approach is based on the idea of leveraging LinkedIn as part of your content marketing strategy.
Consider your ideal client or employer.
Talk to them when you write.
Actively show them how you solve their problems or are the best candidate for the role.
Position yourself as a thought leader in your industry based on your skills and area of expertise, and add value to your connections.
LinkedIn Etiquette & Your LinkedIn Connections
I believe the future is human and that we must remember to take the time to show genuine interest in those around us. In an increasingly disconnected world, picking up the phone or taking the time to comment intelligently online will help you stand out from the crowd. The LinkedIn etiquette I recommend with your LinkedIn connections includes:
- ‘Like’ connection’s updates in your LinkedIn newsfeed that are in your area of interest.
- Comment intelligently and constructively on articles that your connections share.
- Collaborate in groups – have an opinion and share it when relevant.
- Privately thank connections for endorsements (assuming they have worked with you and witnessed your skills in action).
For some fun – what horror stories can you share about LinkedIn connections behaving badly?
I provide my unique perspective in fortnightly updates and run a Lunch & Learn each month from February to November. Sign up to my newsletter to help you learn LinkedIn – the right way!