(1) Do build up social capital before you try to spend it.
When you are asked to help someone and you come through, you’ve gained an ally. You’ve earned a favor which you can potentially call in at a later date. It makes sense therefore to look for ways to help people, whether it’s making introductions to your network, sharing their posts, giving them advice or lifting them up in some way. By helping as many different people as possible on your professional journey, you’re digging your well, before you’re thirsty.
(2) Do comment, like and share.
If you’re wondering why no one is visiting your profile or you’re frustrated that your posts don’t seem to get any traction, it’s partly because you are not participating in the many conversations taking place around you. Dive in and engage! When you do, you’ll be making new acquaintances, having fun and at the same time, seeding engagement and building brand awareness.
(3) Do take good care of your LinkedIn profile.
If you don’t have a photo, or the photo is poor quality, or you don’t bother to write a summary, or you have not added enough detail in your experience section, or the rich media you’ve added looks crappy, people will assume that you are not taking your LinkedIn brand seriously. Why then, should they take you seriously?
(4) Do engage with your friends and your fans.
Everyone who comments on your content is your friend, when you don’t respond to their comments with a comment or a like, you’ll lose a friend. Fans are always there for you, they’re the first to share your content and they’re always commenting. Embrace your fans and ensure that they know how much you cherish and appreciate them. They chose to promote you and they’re doing it for free. Please pay them in kindness.
(5) Do keep your network visible to all of your connections.
If you hide your network, expect your connections to hide theirs too. That’s a lose lose for everyone. If you are worried about competitors nosing around your network, simply don’t connect with competitors in the first place. Don’t penalize the rest of your network because of this easily isolated and distant threat.
(6) Do say “Thank you” and if you wish, reciprocate when you’re endorsed by a connection.
Good manners. An endorsement is merely a professional thumbs up, a sign that you have a network that cares about and supports you. If you’re given an endorsement which you don’t feel is appropriate, simply hide it. Don’t make a fuss, it is not that big of a deal. If someone endorses you, they tried to do something nice for you – let’s not lose sight of that.
(7) Do ensure that your profile is up to date and strive to be authentically presented.
Nothing says authenticity more than having a current photo. As a test, would someone recognize you by looking at your photo, if you walked into the room right now? I used to have an old photo of a younger, leaner me on LinkedIn and I had to ditch it because it clearly wasn’t who I am now. Keep it real.
(8) Do read all comments before commenting.
I do this instinctively and I can tell when others don’t. They’ll make similar or exactly the same point and they’ll be perceived as someone who is not paying attention, ignorant or worse, self important. It’s the equivalent of barging into a conversation without listening or acknowledging what’s already been said. Rude! Recognizing others, their point of view and building on a conversation topic is the most effective way to dialogue in real life and on LinkedIn.
(9) Do show situational awareness.
You can now tell if a connection is on the mobile or desktop version of LinkedIn (solid green dot = desktop, green ring = mobile), by acknowledging this, you kick engagement up a notch. “Hey Roneen, I can see that you’re mobile right now. Let’s continue our discussion when you’re back at your desk.”
(10) Do change “Press Enter to Send” to “Click Send” in LinkedIn messaging.
Doing this will prevent embarrassing incomplete/confusing comms. It is natural to click enter when typing paragraphs, it is not natural to click enter to send messages. LinkedIn should remove the first, unnatural option. I see this faux pas happening all the time and it is an unfortunate but avoidable user error.
(11) Do connect with followers.
People who follow you are connections waiting to be asked. They made the first move, your job is to to take the next step. Look for commonality, elements (people, places, roles, interests etc.) that you share.
(12) Do browse, return browse and if appropriate, connect.
One of the reasons I’m on LinkedIn is to develop a mutually supportive network. The best way to build this is by paying close attention to everyone who engages with me or my content. When I browse someone and they return browse, that’s an opportunity to engage and to have a conversation. If someone browses me, I will return browse within 2-4 hours, this shows that I am attentive and signals that I am potentially receptive to comms. Rapid, reciprocal and proactive are the hallmarks of a smart social engagement strategy. If you don’t live on LinkedIn like me, get into the habit of checking in at least once a day and at minimum, return browse those profile visitors that intrigue you, accept relevant connection requests and respond to your messages.
(13) Do your homework before you approach anyone on LinkedIn.
Review their ‘All activity’ section before writing that short, ultra-relevant and well informed custom connection request. If someone is moderately active on LinkedIn, you’ll be able to see what they engage on, what they’re interested in and where their focus lies. I tell my clients ‘All activity’ can be a veritable gold mine of useful information and it should be the first and last thing you review before meeting and trying to engage with anyone in real life. These days, not doing this kind of person centric research puts you at a distinct disadvantage.
(14) Do build your network in an intelligent, meaningful and strategic manner.
I look for a ‘tell’ and a number of mutual areas of interest when connecting. If they have 500+ connections, this tells me that they’re open to building their virtual network. If they’re in my home city (Chicago) then there’s a strong chance of meeting in real life. If we share a function or we work in the same field – or we have a high number of 1st degree connections in common, there are multiple good reasons to connect and to build a network with strong foundations.
(15) Do use your time on LinkedIn wisely.
If you’re spending your precious time ‘pruning’ your network to weed out people you think are not going to help you or trying to hide your network, you’re wasting your time. Other time wasting activities include, getting into public spats, touching toxic content, clicking IDK and debating polemic subjects, for these and other don’ts read on…..
(16) Don’t harass or be a pest.
Don’t send communications commenting on or complimenting women on their looks, asking about their status or asking them out for coffee/lunch/dinner. LinkedIn is not Tinder, match.com or Ashley Madison. If you act like it is, don’t be surprised when you are publicly called out by any one of your chosen unlucky female targets. You earned the vilification and shame by not keeping it professional. A friend of mine no longer displays her photo because she was sick and tired of the constant odious, knuckle dragger attention, a sad commentary on what women have to endure because some men apparently don’t have respect, manners or basic common courtesy.
(17) Don’t comment on bikini, risqué or nsfw (not safe for work) content.
Even if you think it’s harmless fun, provocative or edgy, there’s a strong chance that someone connected and perhaps pivotal to you, will find it offensive. And above all – don’t comment to criticize anyone who shared/commented. Let it slide on by, pretend you didn’t see it in your content feed. Treat it like toxic waste, don’t touch it in any way. If you do comment, potentially everyone in your network will see the original post juxtaposed with your comments, they won’t necessarily read your comments but they may think that you exercised poor judgement by being associated with it in any way. LinkedIn is a business focused platform, think boardroom rather than bar.
(18) Don’t get drawn into vociferous, ill-natured public debates (arguments).
If a discussion turns heated, don’t get sucked in, don’t respond with that witty put down – just go somewhere else, walk away and cool off. You can do real damage to your professional brand by going toe-to-toe with another professional in a public forum. There’s a crowd gathering on the virtual sidewalk, they are there but you can’t see them. They’re taking notes and they’re judging.
(19) Don’t discuss politics or religion.
LinkedIn is a great place to engage, learn and build new relationships. Most people prefer to keep their political views and religious beliefs to themselves. A debate, friendly or otherwise about either of these divisive subjects is unlikely to change long-held views and beliefs or add value or light, so focus instead on ties that bind rather than things we don’t and will likely never have, in common.
(20) Don’t use auto-visit, marketing campaign or social selling software bots.
LinkedIn requires a human touch to be done well. If you outsource tasks like profile visits to software programs you forfeit the right to defend yourself against account suspension or deletion. I won’t say this is the inevitable consequence but I will say that the risk is real and too great. There’s cutting corners and there’s cutting your nose off to spite your face.
(21) Don’t write clickbait or frothy, no value content.
Clickbait is 2 visible lines of text in an update designed to get readers to click. If you fail to deliver or squander your attention opportunity, then expect to be ignored next time you post. Empty calories. Try to give the literary equivalent of a filet or porterhouse, don’t write a sub sandwich with all of the contents on display and nothing in the dry, unappetizing middle.
(22) Don’t say you’re done and then fail to follow through.
I’ve observed quite a few tantrum posts where the author has decided to throw his toys out of the pram. You may have seen these too “Why I’m Quitting LinkedIn” “Good Bye LinkedIn” “LinkedIn, I’ve Had Enough” etc. I certainly can understand the frustration which erupts from time to time when using LinkedIn, but I’ve never understood the dramatic exit declaration which always, always ends up as a lie or a second act. When people do this kind of grandstanding, they subsequently lose credibility by hanging around, or creeping back to the platform they left, in a hissy fit.
(23) Don’t send boilerplate messages.
Every now and again someone connects with me and immediately sends a message which has clearly been copy and pasted a thousand times. It feels scripted and forced. Don’t do that. Try to craft a personalized message which refers to something we have in common, or a topic that was discussed recently. Start that important first conversation in a natural, organic way, don’t sound and act like a robot, don’t pitch me on your services. I will never agree to a short conversation to “find out more about what you do”, this simply confirms you don’t know anything about me or my capabilities.
(24) Don’t stalk by accident.
Check and close any open tabs if you happen to be on someone’s profile. Check settings to see where you are logged into LinkedIn and log out of those other active sessions. You could appear in their browsing history without realizing it. Logging out of those other sessions is also a simple yet effective security protocol.
(25) Don’t tag other users unless you think they’ll respond.
Use past experience as a guide, if they previously engaged on the same or a similar topic then it should be relevant. If someone removes their tag, take note and don’t tag them again. If you’re trying to engage Influencers by tagging, understand that the likelihood of getting a response is slim because Influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers are inundated with tag notifications on a daily basis. Tag those Influencers who are known to engage and are receptive to tagging.
(26) Don’t connect with someone just because they have a pulse.
Be strategic and tactical when developing your network. Don’t pursue an open network or LION connection methodology. Aim for quality, not quantity when building virtual relationships. When you connect with anybody and everybody, you’re left with a disorganized phonebook, instead of a valuable rolodex.
(27) Don’t click IDK, or report anyone for spam when they reach out to connect with you.
Just click ‘Ignore’ and refrain from taking the extra, unnecessary punitive step of reporting them. You don’t know them, you don’t need to hobble them. I’ve always considered the IDK/spam reporting option as spiteful and mean spirited. Live and let live. I fully expect LinkedIn to remove this nasty reproach.
(28) Don’t troll or feed trolls.
Don’t be obnoxious. If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all. If you disapprove of language or find certain words offensive, don’t criticize or chastise, just move on. Some users will go out of their way to goad or provoke you, some will just be content to see their provocation in print. Don’t give them any oxygen or time, either ignore them or delete/report their comments and if you feel it is warranted, block them.
(29) Don’t overshare.
A frequent criticism I hear is that LinkedIn is becoming more like Facebook and I take this to mean that there is too much noise. Don’t feel that you have to churn out a post or an update every day just to be present. Don’t write unless you feel you have something valuable to say. Are you saying something different, unique, important? Are you focused on your core skills, talent and experience? If your engagement stats are in a slow death spiral, that’s usually a good indicator that you’re oversharing and not delivering value to your network.
(30) Don’t send a connection request without customizing.
I’d rather say “Let’s!” than send no message at all. Don’t say “I stumbled across your profile” when connecting. It makes you sound like you are literally stumbling through life. Say something like “I was researching X on LinkedIn and found you” or “I was exploring Y and this led me to you”. Be deliberate and strategic instead of haphazard and accidental. You want the recipient to accept your invitation, right? Then spend a few seconds to say why they should.
Full disclosure – I’m not perfect, I’ve done 3 of the ‘Don’t’s’. A free profile review to the first person to guess which 3.
I wrote an article back in 2013 (3 Stunningly Good LinkedIn Profile SUMMARIES) which bootstrapped my LinkedIn consulting career, 2,000 people have shared it on social media. The guidance I gave 4 years ago in that popular (and widely ripped off) post is still applicable today, I hope you get an opportunity to read it sometime. If you need help with your LinkedIn profile, summary, headline or LinkedIn strategy/goals/aspirations, email me firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m currently accepting new clients.