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 LinkedIn Etiquette Requests

Connect to Those You Truly Know

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 be told that he or she has no idea who you are. If you drop a name, 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, pertinent, and actionable. And last, 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.

Be Contextually Relevant

What I did for a living 20 years ago has little or 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—tools.

Me and 10,000 Other People

Although one of Linked-In’s core strengths is to reconnect past colleagues, colleague is the operative word here. When I was with Silicon Graphics (SGI) 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.

To learn more, read the revised and updated Relationship Economics paperback edition with 40 percent new content, including an all-new chapter 10 on social media and business relationships (Wiley, Feb. 2011).

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