With all social networks, there’s a right way and wrong way to use them for business. Understanding appropriate LinkedIn etiquette and best practices will make you more successful using the platform and less fearful of making a mistake.
With today’s messaging technology and social media platforms, our way of communicating and showing up in the world has changed, become far less formal.
However, what you post on Facebook is likely not right for LinkedIn. When using LinkedIn for business, there are spoken and unspoken rules.
If you don’t follow proper etiquette, you risk damaging your credibility, and your lead generation results will be dismal.
If wasting your time and hurting your credibility isn’t enough reason to pay close attention to these best practices, perhaps having your account restricted or entirely removed by LinkedIn will. This can happen if you don’t adhere to these fundamental principles for using LinkedIn effectively.
Why Following Good LinkedIn Etiquette is so Important
Newman from Yonyx explains why good etiquette in the professional sphere is so important to your success and relationship building:
“Polite behaviour and decorum are a must – the rules are unwritten and apply to social situations and workplace relationships. In the workplace, especially, business etiquette includes working professionally, maintain proper manners and engage with co-workers in a spirit of cooperation and respect.
Business etiquette is easily noticeable – both when it is present and absent. It makes you stand out among a sea of people and increases one’s chances of achieving greater success in your choice of job. It is extremely important to practice business etiquette to succeed – it fosters good relationships not just with employees but also customers and other business vital partners.”
Essentially, understanding and employing good etiquette, on LinkedIn or in any situation, helps you to stand out, build relationships, and increase your success and business results.
So just what does good etiquette on LinkedIn look like?
Below I am going to share with you 20 important LinkedIn etiquette and best practices (things you should and shouldn’t do) to help you be more successful with your LinkedIn lead generation and social selling activities.
LinkedIn Etiquette & Best Practices: 20 Do’s and Don’ts
The first and most important best practice I can share with you is to personalize every connection request that you send out to people you don’t know at all or know well.
I get it, LinkedIn makes it VERY easy to accidentally send the default connection request, on desktop and especially on the mobile app. You must consciously and actively avoid sending the default invitation as well as take the time to do a little research and write a personalized connection request.
This one best practice will be the difference between someone clicking Accept or Ignore in response to your connection request. If someone clicks Ignore, they will also have the option to select ‘I don’t know this person’.
WARNING: If you receive an excessive number of ‘I don’t know this person’ responses, your account could be restricted and will destroy your ability to connect with prospects and expand your network.
Personalizing your invites is not optional if you want to connect with new prospects and succeed at generating more leads and revenue for your business.
2. Send a Welcome Message
You’ve connected with someone on LinkedIn, now what?
Think about this.
Would you complain about not getting any new leads from attending a networking function if all you did was collect business cards and never follow up with anyone?
How do you expect a LinkedIn connection to turn into anything other than a random connection if you never make contact beyond the initial connection request?
I’ve spoken at so many events where people have said, “I don’t ever get leads from LinkedIn.” Out of all these people, the majority never progressed beyond sending and receiving connection requests. You can’t magically expect business to appear just by being on LinkedIn or any other social network for that matter.
Stop collecting connections, it’s time to build relationships if you want to succeed with LinkedIn.
How do you do that?
You start by sending a short, yet friendly welcome message after your connection request is accepted. In this message, you would want to thank them for connecting and show some interest in them.
For example, you may compliment them on something within their profile, their business or something they have recently shared on LinkedIn. If you can find any commonality with them such as shared experience interests or connections, bring that up. This is the start of your relationship building process on LinkedIn. And whatever you do, do NOT ask them for anything in this message. If you do, the possibility of a relationship will be over.
To get to know your connection, it is crucial to follow this step. It is the difference between merely adding contacts to your network and building real relationships. No matter how many connections you have, they will be of no benefit if you do not take the time and effort to build relationships with your connections.
3. Irrelevant Messages Are Spam
The term spam means different things to different people.
To me, spam is anything that the receiver doesn’t find value in. Make sure that any message you send to a connection is entirely relevant to them, otherwise don’t be surprised when they don’t respond or mark it as spam.
For example, I often get messages from people who ask if I am interested in learning how to use LinkedIn for business and inviting me to their ‘LinkedIn Webinar‘ on the basics. They have not taken the time to read my profile or learn that I have written and created multiple online courses and books about LinkedIn and that I speak and train globally on the topic.
Also, I regularly get messages from people inviting me to attend their lunch-time networking event in a city 5000 miles away.
Some people use automation tools that send mass messages to all of their connections. These can be dangerous on LinkedIn for this exact reason. With the use of these automation tools, they send their entire LinkedIn network a message that is irrelevant to 90%+ of their entire network. Nothing can diminish the possibility of a relationship with a potential prospect faster than receiving inappropriate messages from you.
Do NOT send your connections anything sales related or irrelevant; they will consider that spam. Everything you send to your connections should be positioned for their benefit, not yours if you want to stand a chance at building a relationship with them.
4. Respond to Messages/Reply Promptly
Similar to an email, the promptness of your response is often just as important as the message itself.
If you are sending messages to your new connections, some of them are very likely to reply. Check your LinkedIn inbox regularly and respond to the messages you receive.
This is exactly what people think when they receive a message from you, that you are open for some form of conversation, so responding to them when they replied to you is critical.
5. Who’s Viewed Your Profile
Are you looking at who’s viewed your LinkedIn profile? If you are not, you could be missing out on possible prospects who have already shown an interest in you.
People are searching for people on LinkedIn, and if they’ve come across your profile and not taken the initiative to send you a connection request, this is your chance to reach out to them.
If there is someone that’s viewed your profile whom you would like to be a connection with, reach out with a personalized connection request just the way you would to any other potential prospect. There’s no need to include, “I saw you viewed my profile,” in your message.
You can also get some additional insights in the “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” section including what companies your viewers work at, the job title(s) of those that are viewing your profile most often and how they are finding you.
If you have a free LinkedIn membership, you will see only the last five people that have viewed your account. However, paid memberships enable you to see everyone who has viewed your profile in the previous 90 days.
6. Professional Headshot
People are visual, and the first thing we notice in a LinkedIn profile is the profile picture photo. According to LinkedIn, profiles with headshots are 14 times more likely to be viewed than those without a profile picture.
You must have a photo of you, not a company logo, not a family vacation picture, a professional headshot of you. Don’t miss the opportunity to make a great first impression by ensuring that the image is set with a clean background and focuses on your eyes and smile.
Remember; this is your personal brand, and you only have seconds to make a positive impression.
7. Your Profile Must Pass Their WIIFM Filter
One of the biggest mistakes made on LinkedIn is writing a profile all about you and not speaking to your ideal clients. The truth is nobody cares about you; they don’t care about your business, or what you sell—they only care about what you can do for them.
People are always viewing your profile through their WIIFM filter—what’s in it for me.
Speak directly to your target market. When someone lands on your profile, you want your potential clients to know they’re in the right place and that you are the person who can help them with their specific problems.
8. Name Field
Adding something other than your name in the name field is a violation of LinkedIn’s TOS (Terms of Service) and can get your account restricted.
But beyond this breach of contract, using something other than your name makes you harder to find, looks unprofessional and reduces your credibility.
There are exceptions. These include things such as suffixes, e.g. Ph. D, as well as former names, maiden names, and nicknames (as these can make it easier to find you by those who know you).
LinkedIn’s Terms of Service state that it is unacceptable to add personal information such as email addresses or phone numbers, or to use symbols, numbers or special characters.
9. Bye Bye, Boring Headline and Summary
When someone lands on your LinkedIn profile, you have seconds to impress them and make them want to learn more about you. The very first thing they will see is your headline and the beginning of your Summary section. If you don’t grab their attention, they will click away, and the opportunity is lost.
You have 120 characters in your headline to tell people who you are and what you do. You can further expand on this in the first two lines of your summary section. This is where you can inspire your viewer to click Show more, to open up your complete Summary section and learn more about you.
10. Your Activity
It is extremely easy for anyone viewing your profile to see just how active…or rather inactive you are on LinkedIn.
Your activity and engagement will keep you top of mind with your connections and is a crucial ingredient to relationship building. You cannot build relationships if you aren’t present and engaging in conversations with your prospects.
A great way to stay active and visible is by posting a status update regularly, as well as posting to LinkedIn Publisher if you write articles. It’s also very essential to engage with the posts and articles of your connections in your newsfeed by liking, commenting and sharing when relevant.
11. Privacy Settings
Privacy settings are there for your protection but don’t forget this is a professional platform where you want to grow your network. LinkedIn is the place where you share your professional background and not all of your personal information and family photos, so you can be much more open with who you connect to.
With this in mind, allow your profile to be public, make sure your full name is visible to all of your connections, that people are notified when you are in the news, and that your connections can see your connection list.
If there are some people whom you don’t want to share your information with, then they shouldn’t be a part of your network, and you should remove them as a connection.
12. Never Add Connections to Your Email List
Do not export your connection list and add them to your email database or send them messages through a third-party email marketing service provider. Just because someone has connected with you on LinkedIn does NOT give you permission to add them to your list and send them emails. Not to mention it is illegal in some countries.
Regardless of what country you are in, you are still liable when sending emails to people where these regulations apply, such as Canada with their CAN-SPAM Act and European Union with their GDPR privacy law. There are strict penalties for violations.
Whether this is illegal or not in the country you are located, it is a highly unethical marketing practice that should be avoided entirely.
13. Social Proof
Social proof shows that others have trusted you to engage in your services, have been happy working with you and received the results they were looking for. It is vital that you include social proof in your LinkedIn profile.
Social proof dramatically increases your credibility and ability to establish yourself as an authority. LinkedIn has made social proof easy by incorporating sections for Recommendations and Skills & Endorsements on your profile.
14. Recommendation Requests
Always personalize your requests for recommendations. There are default messages for many LinkedIn functions, including this one, but I never recommend you use them. Always customize messages, including recommendation requests.
15. Nurture Relationships
Nurture your LinkedIn relationships through regular engagement. LinkedIn will notify you with trigger events such as when one of your connections starts a new job or is mentioned in the news. Take a moment to congratulate them with a personalized message.
If you come across an article or resource, or something in the news that would be relevant to someone in your network, reach out to them personally with a note and share it with them.
When someone is commenting on your content, reply back to them. If someone shares your content, comment on it and thank them for sharing it.
Use LinkedIn’s notifications and pay attention to the newsfeed to find trigger events that make it easy to reach out to someone and nurture the relationship.
Use LinkedIn and social selling The Go-Giver Way made popular by the author, Bob Burg. Create value, touch lives, build networks, be real and stay open.
16. Post Valuable Content
Sharing content is essential to stay top of mind with your network. But only if it’s the right content and is considered valuable in the minds of your ideal prospects and clients. When sharing content on LinkedIn, whether it’s your own or it’s curated content, your goal must always be to provide value to your target audience.
17. Introduce People
This is a LinkedIn best practice that can create significant social capital for you: introduce your connections to each other when it makes sense.
Think of yourself as a business matchmaker. Doing this will invoke reciprocity, and often people will return the favor and introduce you to some of their connections, thus expanding your network in a very personal way. This is an excellent opportunity to support your connections and continue to nurture relationships.
The people you have introduced will likely think of you when they come across someone who needs what you offer and often will reciprocate with an introduction.
18. Keep It Positive and Professional
There’s a difference between taking a stand or having an opinion and attacking and criticizing others. There’s often a lot of schoolyard style bullying that happens on social media. Do not participate in this. Avoid criticizing anyone publicly. I often see people in heated debates, which serve no purpose other than to turn many people off.
Remember: LinkedIn is not Facebook or Twitter. This is a professional network.
Keep things professional, or you risk losing your credibility and trust with your connections. This doesn’t mean you can’t ever post anything of a personal nature, but limit it and consider your audience on LinkedIn before doing so.
Keep your comments positive and avoid wasting your time in pointless debates, after all, you have some new business to generate!
19. LinkedIn Open Networker (LION)
While becoming a LION (LinkedIn Open Networker) may seem like an excellent way to grow your network quickly, it is neither efficient nor effective. A LION is a person that will accept a connection request from everyone and anyone who sends them one.
Now you might be thinking, don’t I want to build an extensive network?
Yes, you do, but the quality is much more important than the quantity of your network, and you should be focused on connecting with the right people.
If a LION accepts a connection request from absolutely anyone, you can be sure their network will include spammers and fake accounts. Your network will be far more useful if you focus on connecting with reputable people and targeted prospects.
20. LinkedIn Groups
One of the fastest ways to expand your network is to join the right LinkedIn groups.
What are the right LinkedIn Groups?
They’re the ones your ideal clients belong to. To find people through the advanced search on LinkedIn, your network consists of your 1st, 2nd and 3rd-level connections as well as members of groups you are a part of.
Most people make the mistake of selecting groups that are filled with their industry peers and competitors. It’s entirely fine to join some of these groups, but don’t miss out on joining the groups that are filled with prospects for you to quickly find and connect with.
Wrapping Up: LinkedIn Etiquette and Best Practices
LinkedIn is a social platform for businesses and professionals.
It is a professional space, much the same as a business office where you have potential prospects or clients meet with you. If something is not appropriate to be shared with prospects or clients face-to-face in your office, chances are, it is also inappropriate to be shared on LinkedIn as well.
Just by following these 20 LinkedIn etiquette and best practices, you will notice a profound difference in your ability to connect and build relationships with potential prospects and clients on LinkedIn.
Now tell me, are there any LinkedIn etiquette or best practices you use that I didn’t mention in this article? Let me know in the comments below. And if you want to learn more best practices on using LinkedIn for business, you can register for my free LinkedIn Unlocked Masterclass.