Having used a number of social networking technologies over the past several years, I continue to be mesmerized by the sheer lack of professional etiquette when it comes to utilizing these tools and sites.
By far, the most prevalent one is LinkedIn and a great deal of market buzz surrounding this platform has reinvigorated the following top 10 etiquette requests of everyone who sees a direct and relevant benefit to achieving their personal and professional objectives from this environment.
The Top 10 LinkedIn Etiquette Requests:
- I don’t know you. We just met. What makes you think I know you well enough (or know anything about you, for that matter) to expose or recommend you to my portfolio of relationships, which I have worked a lifetime to build? Please – don’t send invites to people you don’t know or have anything in common with other than what you perceive is in it for you.
- Please don’t bluff. This is not the place to pretend we have a mutual friend or that so-and-so referred you to me because the fastest way to dilute if not completely lose your credibility is for me to pick up the phone, call the referring party, and have them say that they have no idea who you are. If you name drop, make sure it’s a legitimate one.
- Find a way to become interesting. LinkedIn provides a number of generic requests for connections, forwards, and recommendations. If you want to elevate yourself above the noise, let that really interesting person within you out! Most people choose whether or not to open your e-mail based on the subject line, so you should come up with something more clever than simply, “Let’s connect.” Make the subject line engaging. Give me a reason to not only open it, but act upon it! Similarly, make the content of the request relevant, poignant, and actionable. And lastly, don’t add to my plate by asking me to make up how I should introduce you to my contacts. Instead, arm me with the ammunition I need to help put your best foot forward.
- Contextually relevant. What I did for a living 20 years ago has little to no bearing on what I do for a living now. Don’t send me a request for something that has no bearing on what’s of interest or value to me. It’s amazing how many people simply forget that – although powerful, practical and useful – tools like LinkedIn are just that – a tool.
- Me and 10,000 other people. Although one of LinkedIn’s core strengths is to reconnect past colleagues, colleague is the operative word here. When I was with SGI (Silicon Graphics) in the mid-1990s, SGI had 10,000 employees. Just because we worked for the same company in the same decade, you are making a huge assumption that we were colleagues or that I know someone who used to work at the same company at the same time. Remember: relationships are between individuals.
- Guilty by association. I am amazed to read recommendations for individuals who apparently everyone else in the world (other than the recommender) thinks is an absolute incompetent buffoon. Do not recommend people based on a popularity contest or out of guilt because they did the same for you because whether you like it or not, your connection to them and association through LinkedIn recommendations aligns your credibility with theirs.
- Trust continuum. Draw a line with a ticker on each end and one in the middle. This represents what we call the trust continuum. The center is neutral. To the left is –1. To the right, +1. Most people start out in the center. I don’t know you, so you have two opportunities. You can either choose to enhance your position with a consistent level of predictability and move to the right, or you can choose to dilute your credibility – my faith in your word and deeds – and move yourself to the left. If others won’t say it, let me: I seldom invest time and effort in those hanging out on the left.
- Abuse the connection and you’ll be removed. Nobody likes to get egg on their face. If I connect with you online and the very next day you send me five requests to recommend you without us ever having worked together, or even worse, you suddenly barrage me with requests from others, you have clearly abused our connection. Some people I connect with based on the nature of their work, intellectually stimulating conversations we’ve had, or the perception of greater mutual opportunities ahead. Make me regret this and you are three clicks away from being completely removed from my LinkedIn network.
- So what? In this day and age, companies use titles like you and I change underclothes. You are an assistant senior vice president of global pencil pushing at Company XYZ. So what? A) I have never heard of that company and have no idea what they do. B) What was your realm of responsibilities? What results did you deliver? What impact did you have on the viability and growth of the organization? Profiles with little to no content under a title are the digital version of an empty suit.
- Use good judgment. The good Lord gave us all discretion. I am amazed at how few people actually use it. LinkedIn is a social networking tool for business professionals. It is not Match.com , eHarmony, or Facebook for college dropouts. Use spell check. Use correct grammar. This is a forum for business professionals – keep requests on the business side. Make sure your comments and recommendations are professional, polished and exemplary of your style, thought process, and how you want to be perceived. Lastly, remember to include a current photo! Your college yearbook picture from 1982 is not the best way to get your professional image across.
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