Whatever the social network, there’s a right way and wrong way to use it for business.
Understanding appropriate LinkedIn etiquette rules 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, becoming far less formal. But you can’t bring your Facebook posting habits to LinkedIn. It would be inappropriate for you to behave on LinkedIn as you do on Facebook.
When using LinkedIn for business, you need to follow a few 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 aren’t good enough reasons to pay close attention to these best practices, perhaps having your account restricted or entirely removed by LinkedIn is.
Avoid a LinkedIn fiasco by adhering to these fundamental principles of using LinkedIn for business.
Why Following Good LinkedIn Etiquette Is so Important
Emily Newman of 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, maintaining proper manners and engaging 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 vital business partners.”
Essentially, understanding and employing good etiquette, on LinkedIn or in any situation, helps you stand out, build relationships and increase your success and business results.
What does good etiquette on LinkedIn look like?
Below, I share with you 20 LinkedIn best practices (things you should and shouldn’t do) to help you succeed with your LinkedIn lead-generation and social-selling activities.
LinkedIn Etiquette Rules & Best Practices: 20 Do’s and Don’ts
The first and most important best practice you ought to adhere to on LinkedIn is personalizing every connection request you send to people, whether you know them well or don’t know them at all.
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 avoid sending the default invitation. Instead, take the time to research your new LinkedIn connection so you can write a personalized connection request.
This one best practice can determine whether someone clicks 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, destroying 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 have contact beyond the initial connection request?
“I don’t ever get leads from LinkedIn.” I hear this sentiment all the time, especially at my public talks.
The majority of these people never took any other action on LinkedIn beyond sending and accepting connection requests. You can’t expect customers to appear magically just because you created an account on LinkedIn, or any other social network for that matter.
Stop collecting connections. It’s time to build relationships if you want to succeed on LinkedIn.
How do you do that?
You start by sending a short, friendly welcome message after your connection request is accepted. In this message, thank your lead for connecting and show some interest in them.
For example, you may compliment them on a piece of information you found within their profile or a post or status update they have recently shared on LinkedIn.
Look for something you have in common, such as shared experiences, interests or connections. Reference it in your welcome message. This is the start of your relationship-building process on LinkedIn.
Whatever you do, do NOT ask them for anything in this message. If you do, you’ll kill the relationship before it even begins.
To get to know your connection, it is crucial to implement 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 won’t benefit you if you don’t take the time and effort to build relationships with them.
3. Don’t spam with irrelevant messages
The term spam means different things to different people.
To me, spam is anything the receiver doesn’t find of value.
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.
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 to learn I have written and created multiple online courses and books about LinkedIn and that I speak and train others globally on the topic.
Also, I regularly get messages from people inviting me to attend their lunch-time networking events in a city 5,000 miles away.
Some people use automation tools that send mass messages to all their connections. Such tools can be dangerous on LinkedIn for this exact reason.
Using these automation tools, people often send their entire LinkedIn networks messages irrelevant to over 90% of the recipients.
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 your connections should be positioned for their benefit – not yours – if you want to stand a chance at building relationships with them.
4. Respond to messages/reply promptly
Just as with email, often the promptness of your response to a message on LinkedIn is 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.
When people receive a message from you, they assume you are open to some form of conversation. Responding to them when they reply to you is critical.
5. See who’s viewed your profile
Are you checking who’s viewed your LinkedIn profile? If you are not, you could be missing out on possible prospects who have shown an interest in you.
If someone landed on your profile but not taken the initiative to send you a connection request, reach out to them if they are a good connection for you.
Make sure you send a personalized connection request to that person as 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 from the Who’s Viewed Your Profile section, including what companies your viewers work at, the job title(s) of those 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 who have viewed your account. However, paid memberships enable you to see everyone who has viewed your profile in the previous 90 days.
6. Use professional headshot
People are visual, and the first thing they notice in your LinkedIn profile is your profile photo.
According to LinkedIn, profiles with headshots are 14 times more likely to be viewed than those without them.
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 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. Ensure your profile passes their WIIFM filter
One of the biggest mistakes you can make on LinkedIn is writing a profile all about you because such a profile doesn’t speak to your ideal clients.
The truth is nobody cares about you. People 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 – what’s in it for me? – filter.
Speak directly to your target market when writing your profile. When a potential client lands on your profile, you want them to know they’re in the right place and you are the person who can help them with their specific problem.
8. Get it right with the name field
LinkedIn’s Terms of Service (TOS) state it is unacceptable to add personal information, such as email addresses or phone numbers, or use symbols, numbers or special characters in the name field.
Adding something other than your name in the name field is a violation of LinkedIn’s TOS 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. They include title or degree abbreviations, e.g., PhD, as well as former names, maiden names, and nicknames people know you by.
9. Say bye-bye to a boring headline and about
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 see is your headline and the beginning of your About section. If you don’t grab their attention, they will click away, and the opportunity to acquire a lead will be 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 about section. This is where you can inspire your viewer to click Show more to open your complete About section to learn more about you.
10. Be active
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. They are crucial ingredients 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 to post regular status updates as well as share articles on LinkedIn Publisher.
It’s also essential to engage with the posts and articles of your connections in your newsfeed by liking, commenting on and sharing them when relevant.
11. Tweak your 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 activities – not your personal information and family photos. This allows you to be much more open with your connections.
With this in mind, make sure that:
- your profile is public,
- your full name is visible to all your connections,
- people are notified when you are in the news,
- your connections can see your connection list.
If you don’t want to share your information with certain people, they shouldn’t be in your network. You should remove them as a connection.
12. Never add connections to your email list
Do not export your connection list so you can add it to your email database, and do not send your connection 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 email list and send them emails. Not to mention this practice is illegal in some countries.
Regardless of what country you are in, you are still liable for your actions when sending emails to people where these regulations are enacted, such as Canada with its CAN-SPAM Act and European Union with its GDPR Privacy Law. Violations carry strict penalties.
Whether this marketing practice is illegal or not in your country, it is highly unethical. Avoid it entirely.
13. Gather social proof
Social proof of your expertise shows that others have:
- trusted you to engage your services
- enjoyed working with you
- received the results they were looking for.
It is vital you include social proof in your LinkedIn profile. Social proof dramatically increases your credibility and authority.
LinkedIn has made establishing social proof easy by creating sections for Recommendations as well as Skills & Endorsements in your profile.
14. Personalize recommendation requests
Always personalize your requests for recommendations.
There are default messages for many LinkedIn functions, including asking for recommendations, 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 about trigger events, e.g., 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, 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 it works only if it’s the right content and is considered valuable by your ideal prospects and clients.
When sharing content on LinkedIn, whether your own or curated, 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.
Often, people will return the favor by introducing you to 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 to each other 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 having an opinion and aggressively criticizing others.
Schoolyard-style bullying often happens on social media. Do not participate in it. Avoid criticizing anyone publicly.
I often see heated debates online, 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. Don’t be a 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 who will accept a connection request from anyone who sends them one.
You might be thinking: Don’t I want to build an extensive network?
Yes, you do. But the quality of your network is much more important than its quantity. You should be focused on connecting with the right people, and not everyone who sends you a connection request will be the right person for you.
Accepting connection requests from absolutely anyone, as a LION does, you risk ending up with a network full of spammers and fake accounts.
Your network will be far more useful if you focus on connecting with reputable people and targeted prospects.
20. Join LinkedIn groups
One of the fastest ways to expand your network is to join the right LinkedIn groups.
What are the right LinkedIn groups?
The right LinkedIn groups are ones your ideal clients belong to.
When you use the LinkedIn Advanced Search function to find new prospects, you search your network. Your network consists of your 1st-, 2nd– and 3rd-level connections as well as members of the groups you belong to.
Most people make the mistake of selecting groups filled with their industry peers and competitors.
It’s fine to join these groups, but don’t miss out on the groups 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 meet your potential prospects or clients. 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.
By following these 20 LinkedIn etiquette rules and best practices, you will notice a profound difference in your ability to connect and build relationships with potential prospects and clients on LinkedIn.
Did I miss any LinkedIn etiquette rules or best practices in this article? Let me know in the comments below. And if you want to learn more about best practices of using LinkedIn for business, register for my free LinkedIn masterclass: How to Turn Cold LinkedIn Connections into Clients.