Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Dos and Don’ts of LinkedIn Etiquette

by David Whitemyer, AIA

Back in February, Kelly Blazek made national news after sending a rude response to a young John Carroll University graduate who simply asked Blazek to connect on LinkedIn. The individual to whom she sent this message shared it on multiple social media sites. Blazek, who heads a popular local online job bank in Cleveland, wrote the following:

"We have never met. We have never worked together. You are quite young and green on how business connections work with senior professionals. Apparently you have heard that I produce a Job Bank, and decided it would be stunningly helpful for your career prospects if I shared my 960+ LinkedIn connections with you - a total stranger who has nothing to offer me.

"Your invite to connect is inappropriate, beneficial only to you, and tacky…

"Oh, and about your request to actually receive my Job Bank along with the 7,300 other subscribers to my service? That's denied, too. I suggest you join the other Job Bank in town. Oh wait - there isn't one…Don't ever write me again."

Blazek’s actions opened up a conversation on multiple blogs and news outlets about online behavior and LinkedIn etiquette for professionals . With over 225 million registered users – and 2 new users every second – LinkedIn is still one of the fastest growing online social networks.

But because it’s still a fairly new service and it attracts a lot of young adults – with nearly 30 million students and recent college graduates – not everyone knows how to behave on the site.

Here are 8 common questions about professional protocol on LinkedIn.

1. Is it acceptable to decline a connection request?

Absolutely! If you don’t know the person very well or are genuinely not interested in having a connection with him or her, you can decline their request. But be polite, and if you have a moment, send them a brief email explaining that you’re trying to keep your connections list slim.

2. Can I exaggerate my work experience?

Never. It’s a small world. It’s nearly guaranteed that your coworkers, employers, friends, and past coworkers will view your profile at some point, and so it better be honest. Additionally, make sure you update your profile if things change. According to Creotivo, 42% of LinkedIn users update their information regularly.

3. Is it OK to send one of our firm’s credentials packages to a LinkedIn contact?

Only if he has requested it or if you promised him you’d send something. People on LinkedIn don’t like to be sold to. They like to make new connections and to share ideas, articles, and useful industry-related information. Don’t be a salesperson on LinkedIn.

4. Can I send a connection request to someone that I don’t know or have never met?

Of course! But don’t send her a blind request. Send along a short, friendly email to tell her that you admire her work, or her firm’s work. If you’re requesting the connection because you noticed that one of your other connections or friends are linked to them, point that out.

5. Is it OK if I share personal information on LinkedIn?

Share only professionally relevant information, such as a promotion or a story about a project you’re working on. Don’t share pictures of your children, pets, or food. That’s what Facebook and Instagram are for. And don’t ever share any personal opinions about politics or religion.

6. Am I supposed to endorse people who endorse me?

Yes…well, maybe. LinkedIn’s “endorse” feature has a lot of people confused. Still, there are over 10 million endorsements provided every day, according to ShiftDigital. Even if you think it’s pointless, the nice thing to do is to reciprocate endorsements. It’s as simple as a click.

7. Should I hide my connections list?

That defeats the purpose! Make your connections list public. The purpose of LinkedIn is to network and to help connect professionals together. According to SocialTimes 61% of people use LinkedIn as their primary professional network. Don’t horde your connections.

8. Would it be OK if I posted a funny video on LinkedIn?

Probably not, unless it’s clearly and un-offensively tied to a relevant topic in your industry or in a group you belong to. And since there are more than one million groups on LinkedIn there may be an opportunity. But do not share funny cat videos or trendy music videos.

David Whitemyer, AIA, is a Contributing Editor at PSMJ Resources, Inc., a licensed architect, and project manager at Brent Johnson Design, a Boston-area museum-planning firm. He can be reached at dwhitemyer@psmj.com

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