If something clearly makes LinkedIn different from other social channels, it is the fact that is not a “fast-food” platform. It is a long-term commitment on creating and nurturing relationships with people who share similar interests.
Surprisingly enough, I still find a lot of people who still can’t grasp the concept of business networking. And it just boils my blood and chills my bones to see professionals who are treating LinkedIn like a sales pitch platform, or a place where they need constant validation to feel special.
So let’s clarify some things about business networking on LinkedIn, and maybe learn something from it to become better professionals and human beings.
The 10 Commandments of LinkedIn networking
- Thou shalt not take the attitude “I only connect with people that I know”.
People with this attitude just blow my mind. I am sorry, do you not get the concept of networking? LinkedIn has more than 500 million members worldwide, and if only want to stick with the people that you know, just go ahead and use Facebook.
If the founders of LinkedIn had the narrow-minded idea of limiting users to their comfort zone, LinkedIn would have never even existed. This business-oriented network was created with the purpose of providing a virtual space where people can find others of their “species” and connect with them easily.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mean that you should go ahead and add everyone randomly. This is not what business networking is, and will not provide you with any value. But do the effort to connect with people who share the same interests with you, and where you see potential to form future business relationships. This is what LinkedIn networking is all about.
2. Thou shalt not take the attitude “I only connect with people who give me a reason to”.
Another thing that I see way too often are people who feel so special and important that they will refuse to accept an invite because the person hasn’t provided any justification or valid reason for the connection.
Well, let me burst your bubble: nobody owes you an explanation on why they want to connect with you. They found you, they saw your profile, they saw your title, and they decided that you will be a good fit for their network for some reason.
Luckily for you, LinkedIn provides you with great features such as “ignore” the invitation, “mark as spam”, “block”, between others. You are by no means obligated to accept the invitation.
Check the person’s profile, take a look at his experience and your mutual connections, and if you don’t see anything in common that might interest you, just don’t accept the invitation. There is no need to message him/her asking for an explanation like they owe you one. It is a networking platform, not an office.
3. Thou shalt not connect with people solely for sales reasons.
Connecting and messaging someone just because you want to sales pitch your products? Just don’t. Nobody likes that, it is annoying, and is highly likely that you will be marked as spam – and LinkedIn can shut down your profile if you are marked as spam too often.
As I said, LinkedIn is a long-term focused platform, so be patient and do not demand immediate results because they are probably not going to happen. Get to know your connections, interact with them, and publish posts and articles that provide value for them; sooner of later the results will come without having to annoy the people that you are interested in connecting with.
And if you are looking for short-term solutions, maybe you can try out other platforms.
4. Thou shalt not expose other people publicly.
This one is kind of self-explanatory, but whenever you are unhappy with a connection, don’t expose them to the public even if you are in your right. It is just not professional.
Mark them as spam, warn LinkedIn if needed, even call the police if you feel threatened ;but keep it professional and don’t shout out names in public. You are not on Facebook (well, you shouldn’t do that on Facebook either – these things are just not elegant).
5. Thou shalt not register their company as an individual connection
It seems to be trending that some companies register themselves with a personal account for individuals, and send annoying sales pitch messages directly to the connections that accept them.
Well, for these companies LinkedIn created this special, magic feature called ”Company page”, where you can register – guess what– your company! There is a reason that you cannot send direct messages to other connections from a company page. And why would you do that?
If you see a potential client, it is much more professional and personal to send him a direct message through your own account – he can see which is the company that you are working for.
There is no need to make an individual account for your business, and many people will not accept such connection anyway as they are here for networking with real people. It might be a different story for other social platforms, but LinkedIn cares about personal connections rather than companies spamming around.
6. Thou shall avoid ignoring direct messages as much as possible
If you are a person who receives a lot of direct daily messages, you might be tempted to ignore the majority of them. I know that it can be stressful to be constantly engaged with your connections, but isn’t what LinkedIn networking is all about?
Don’t forget that there is another human being on the other side of the computer. Just a simple ”No, thank, I’m not interested”, or just ”Thank you!”, is not that time-consuming, and you will let people know that they should move on with other clients/recruiters/partners etc.
And who knows, maybe one day you will need them as well! Even if you don’t, a little respect never hurt anybody – and yes, I try to respond with a simple ”Thank you” even to annoying sales pitch messages.
7. Thou shall not be scared to do a follow-up with a connection
Whether you have contacted a recruiter, a potential partner or client, or just someone for an advice, it’s OK to follow-up if he doesn’t respond within a week or two. After all, people are not constantly on LinkedIn, and it is possible that they have forgotten.
Just remember to stay respectful and not act like the person owes you something. If they ignore you a second time (ah, breaking the 6th commandment!), maybe it’s time to move on.
8. Thou shall always stay true to himself
Whatever you do on LinkedIn (and in real life), always stay honest and true to yourself. Don’t publish fake news, ads, exaggerated posts about your products and services. Your company does not need to be perfect and sell the best product there ever was.
After all, people want to connect with your brand on a personal level, and they can forgive you for not being perfect if you provide them with the exact value they need.
Stay true to your words and build yourself a solid reputation. In LinkedIn networking, it matters.
9. Thou shall not share their whole personal life on LinkedIn
We have Facebook for that. Just kidding – don’t share your entire personal life on Facebook neither. Or on any social platform at all. Actually, on the Internet.
10. Thou shall not be afraid to approach third connections
Many people like to limit themselves to only adding people they know, or second connections at best. Well, third connections are actually human beings that want to network as well! Don’t be afraid to approach them if you consider that you can create a valuable relationship with them.
And most of all, remember that you don’t owe them an explanation on why you want to connect – sure, a personal message can definitely help, and feel free to write it if you want so, but it is optional! I am tired of people who feel so special and arogant that you need to pump up their ego before having the ”honor” of connecting with them.
LinkedIn is a social media platform for networking, not the Sillicon Valley – so let’s not forget the purpose it was created for.