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Don’t Be a Jerk on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is one of the greatest business tools ever, but it can be misused—even abused. Your reputation is perhaps your most valuable business asset.   So your behavior on LinkedIn must reflect the way you want to be perceived. Here follow some tips for how to position yourself on LinkedIn as a trustworthy professional, and not a jerk. 

When setting up your profile

  1. Use a professional headshot. Add an informative graphic to your profile background. 
  2. Take advantage of the allowed 120 characters to write a rich, benefit-laden headline that indicates the value you offer.
  3. Produce a conversational, first-person “About” story that details what you can do for others, and positions you as someone people would like to know and perhaps do business with.
  4. Fill out your profile 100%.
  5. Make a customized URL for your profile if needed.

When building your network

  1. When sending an invitation, always include a note explaining how you are connected and/or why the person should link with you.
  2. Do at least a bit of research about your target connection, to make your note relevant. “I don’t respond to an invitation where the inviter clearly knows nothing about me and my business,” says Charlene Weisler, head of Weisler Media LLC.
  3. Avoid cookie-cutter invitation messages like “I’m trying to grow my network” or “I notice we’re in the same industry,” says Jeremy Woolf, fractional CMO.  Craft each message afresh. Authenticity counts.
  4. Ideally, your first interaction with a prospective contact should not be an invitation to connect, says Casey Hall, Principal at Lumberjack Media.  “You should have either met them, or reviewed their profile, or followed them, or reacted to or commented on something they posted, in advance,” he advises.
  5. When inviting a new connection, don’t refer to a mutual contact without their permission. Worse: Don’t state or even imply that the mutual contact endorsed you or recommends you (unless they actually do).
  6. Don’t make the very next message after the connection a pitch, advises Hall.  

When posting content

  1. Post, don’t share. B2B guru and LinkedIn marketing trainer Joe Apfelbaum has tested this and learned that you get 10x more distribution if you create a fresh post, versus sharing someone else’s post or a link to an outside article. LinkedIn’s algorithms disfavor links because they take users away from the platform. So, if you come across something worth sharing, create your own post summarizing or commenting on the topic, and include the link to the original post in the comments, instead of the body of the post.   
  2. Similarly, if you wrote a long-form article on the LinkedIn platform, it will—unlike posts—show up in Google searches. But it won’t be distributed to your network. So, to get it noticed within LinkedIn, summarize or introduce the article topic in a post with the link to the article, and show the article as a featured item in your profile, explains Apfelbaum.
  3. Don’t throw in a million names at the bottom of your post to capture people’s attention. It works in the short term, but it’s cheesy. Casey Hall points out that this practice is especially annoying because it clogs up people’s inboxes.
  4. Do tag people who are truly relevant to the post. And add up to 3 relevant popular hashtags, to increase findability.
  5. Avoid clickbait practices, warns Hall.  What may seem clever once, quickly becomes hackneyed and annoying. Examples: “All nurses are heroes.  Like if you agree.” Or “Who’s the better tech company, Cisco or Oracle?”  Ugh.
  6. Rule of thumb from Apfelbaum: “Don’t sell. People love to buy, but they hate being sold to. Be a giver. Business emerges from building relationships.”

Any behaviors that you recommend or abhor? I welcome your ideas and experiences.

Ruth Stevens

Ruth Stevens advises clients on customer acquisition and retention. Ruth serves on the boards of directors of the HIMMS Media Group, and the Business Information Industry Association. She is a trustee of Princeton-In-Asia, past chair of the Business-to-Business Council of the DMA, and past president of the Direct Marketing Club of New York. Ruth was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing by Crain’s BtoB magazine, and one of 20 Women to Watch by the Sales Lead Management Association. She serves as a mentor to fledgling companies at the business accelerator in New York City. Ruth is an author and contributor to many notable business publications. Her books include B2B Data-Driven Marketing: Sources, Uses, Results and Maximizing Lead Generation: The Complete Guide for B2B Marketers, Trade Show and Event Marketing, and co-author of the white paper series “B-to-B Database Marketing.” Ruth is a sought-after speaker and trainer, and has presented to audiences and business schools in Asia, Australia, and Latin America. She has held senior marketing positions at Time Warner, Ziff Davis, and IBM.

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  1. Jeremy Woolf

    Thanks for putting this together Ruth. A timely reminder for those of us who’ve been on LinkedIn since the very early days, and a great primer for those discovering its power for the first time. One of the great things about social media is that actions can scale (dare I say go ‘viral’). But this is also one of the worst things about it. You don’t build relationships at scale, you build them one at a time.

  2. Antonioben

    3 Networking Tips with LinkedIn Groups for Business Writing on the Web FEBRUARY 29, 2012 LinkedIn is today to working professionals what Facebook was to college students when it first launched: a networking tool with a specific audience and purpose in mind.

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