I am no LinkedIn expert. But I do use it. I post status updates, I join groups, I comment in discussions, and I check backgrounds of just about every person I am about to interview or even meet.
I also get lots of requests to connect, and as a result have about 3,000 connections, so I suppose I could be described as an active 'LinkedIn'er'. Active enough to realise there are a few things LinkedIn users simply should never do!
Firstly, let's get away from chasing numbers when it comes to connections. Target your niche, for goodness sake. I seldom send connection requests, but when I do, I know the person. I will have met or dealt with that individual. I will certainly be sure that person is in a related field, and that there is potential for our business objectives to overlap.
And I do not accept all requests to connect. It's tempting, I know. We all love to feel loved. But when I get a request to connect from a library assistant at a university in South America, I mean seriously, why would I? And by the way, I mean no disrespect to that individual. He may be a great guy with great skills, but is there really any likelihood that we can add much value to each other from a professional point of view? And that's what LinkedIn is for, after all.
Secondly, don't spam your connections with marketing material, requests to read your blog or any other self-serving communication. I delete people who are using their LinkedIn list purely to sell aggressively. That's not what it's for.
Thirdly, please don't ask me for a recommendation if you hardly know me. Chances are, I hardly remember you. In fact, frankly, don't ask for recommendations at all. Don't you think soliciting people to say nice things about you is just a little bit tarty?
In fact, on that topic, the whole concept of LinkedIn recommendations is flawed, open to flagrant abuse, and borders on self-love. Who is going to publish an unflattering recommendation? Indeed, who is going to write one? I have seen LinkedIn recommendations from managers, when I know that manager has fired the person they're recommending! What a load of old cobblers!
I have written the odd recommendation myself – but only when I really know and value the person's work, and even then I do it partly out of a desire to please. I increasingly do not answer recommendation requests, particularly where the person is not well known to me.
And let's round off this little rant with one more pet peeve. Don't be a tart with your updates. We all know there is software that allows you to multi-list your updates, using TweetDeck for example. So, you tweet some banal observation about what someone in the office is wearing, but you copy that tweet to your LinkedIn status too?
I mean seriously, do you think we want to see your LinkedIn status updated every 10 minutes with your inane tweets? Do you think that's what LinkedIn is designed for? That kind of update is bad enough on Twitter, but on LinkedIn it's just so much dross.
My final point is specifically for those using LinkedIn for recruitment. It's a great resource. Please do not abuse it, or the people on LinkedIn, by blanket 'headhunting' approaches. Don't be the LinkedIn equivalent of the guy in the pub desperately trying to hook up with everyone – anyone!
Be a little subtle. Do some research on your target. Find a plausible reason to engage, interact, and then ease into job opportunities.
LinkedIn will work best for you if you:
- Target the right audience
- Use a professional tone at all times
- Share great content; and
- Display your expertise in your field
Only after you have done all that, can you afford to "sell" yourself, and even then, just a little.