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5 LinkedIn Etiquette Rules You Can’t Afford to Ignore

by Bill Cates



LinkedIn can be a powerful business networking tool.


But what about acquiring new clients? It can work, but you must follow these 5 rules of etiquette.



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The 5 LinkedIn Rules of Etiquette


1. Build Connections Before Selling Your Services


Many of us want LinkedIn to be a quick, easy route to new clients. But that’s not how it works. You’ve probably gotten messages from some random person saying they can help you build your brand and grow your profits. Chances are, you usually ignore those because, hey, you don’t know them, and they don’t know you.


No one wants to get those out-of-the-blue messages from you either. You need to build up your “social currency” before you can spend it.


Start by liking and commenting on your prospect’s posts and updates, and even have a quick discussion with them if they’ll engage with you. Once you a bit of rapport built up, you can send a message about the work that you do.


2. Avoid Being Toxic


LinkedIn is, above all, a business networking site. The rules of what you should post and comment are just different than, say, Facebook. For instance, discussing politics is rarely appreciated, unless what you’re discussing directly affects the business landscape (like tax breaks, for instance). Even then, the discussion should be about the policy’s effects, not whether or not you agree with it.


You should also avoid jumping into — or causing — heated debates about irrelevant topics. Sure, a healthy discussion about the direction of your industry or the reasons why Tool X is better than Tool Y is always appreciated, but keep it civil and relevant. Remember, your prospects can easily see what posts you interact with, and what you say.


What’s more, LinkedIn is not the place to post about your personal life, like what you’re having for dinner (unless you’re a chef) or your vacation photos (unless they serve a business purpose). If you’re writing or sharing a post, make sure it delivers real value. Rule of thumb: Before you post, ask if the post will bring value anyone who sees it.


3. Don’t Try to Connect with Everyone Just Because You Can


There are nearly half a billion people on LinkedIn. You don’t have to connect with all of them! There’s a good chance only a few thousand people (at most) will be ones who:


  • May benefit from your services
  • Don’t already have a strong relationship with a different company that provides your services — and aren’t looking for a switch
  • Is in the geographic area where you do business
  • Can afford to work with you
  • Is active enough on LinkedIn to make a solid connection


You probably don’t want to be a LION (LinkedIn Open Networker). Instead, be methodical and strategic with your connections. Otherwise, you will find yourself having to sift through thousands and thousands of random connections just to find that prospect you’ve been thinking about.



4. Avoid Boilerplate Messages


If you’ve made your connection and built a repertoire with a prospect, the worst thing you can do is send a boilerplate message. You know the ones: “Hi X, I’ve been looking at your site/profile and think you could benefit from my services. What do you think?” That message is going to be ignored every single time.


Instead, make your message personal. Talk about their business and/or something you might have in common – like where you went to school. You can start with a message designed to discuss a topic that had been discussed in your network recently.


If you have a strong connection with a prospect, ask if you can schedule a brief phone call to introduce yourself and the important work that you do. On that first, quick, call you can the suggest an in-person meeting.


5. Keep Your Profile Up-to-Date and Professional


If you’re serious about building your professional network and gaining new clients, your LinkedIn profile must be up to date — and as complete as you can make it.  


You must have a photo of yourself. However, that silly picture you took last weekend may be great for Facebook, it won’t fly for LinkedIn. You should have a professional-looking profile photo; a business headshot is ideal. If you aren’t sure what photo to use, imagine you’re walking into a meeting with a prospect. Would they recognize you from your photo? If not, that photo needs to be changed.


You should also be actively posting industry news articles and content to provide real value to anyone who might see it. This helps you build credibility and trust. Always think, “Lead with value.”

What are your top strategies for networking on LinkedIn? I want to hear from you! Really! Let’s start a conversation and “share the wealth” of ideas. Please leave a comment or question below.



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