17 Unspoken Rules of LinkedIn Etiquette

On most social media networks, it seems like anything goes. Things are a little more loose on Facebook and Twitter, but LinkedIn is strictly professional, giving it a different kind of status when it comes to etiquette. You have to be careful about what you put out there, how you make your requests, and remember to be polite. Are you stepping on toes without realizing your mistakes? Read on to learn about 17 unspoken rules of LinkedIn etiquette.

  1. Only do what you’d be comfortable doing in person:

    On the LinkedIn Blog, Lindsey Pollak shares a priceless gem: “If you wouldn’t do it in person, don’t do it on LinkedIn!” This is a good rule to keep in mind even if you can’t remember lots of little rules. Be polite, professional, and don’t let your manners go out the window just because you’re online.

  2. Be personal:

    When connecting with strangers on LinkedIn, it’s easy just to send the default message, but it’s much more polite and friendly to create a personal message. It doesn’t have to be an essay, but you should share a quick note about why you’d like to connect with that person, instead of sending an impersonal request.

  3. Mind your Ps and Qs:

    Please and thank you don’t take much time to say, but it’s amazing how many people forget about these polite words online. Make your etiquette stand out and offer a please any time you ask for something, and a thank you any time someone does a nice thing for you.

  4. Don’t cause a traffic jam:

    Status updates are always welcome, but if you’re posting more than 10 updates before your connections have had a chance to sip their coffee, you need to slow it down. Three updates within a short period of time is enough; if you have more consider spreading them out throughout the day to avoid a traffic jam.

  5. Give recommendations:

    What goes around comes around. If you would like to get recommendations on LinkedIn, don’t forget to share your own, too. People like being recommended, at it’s great for building your social capital. Write a good recommendation; hopefully you’ll get one, too.

  6. Ask for recommendations strategically:

    If you’re going to request recommendations, don’t send them out to everyone you know. Think about who, specifically, can share valuable insight. When requesting your recommendation, ask for recommendations on specific projects or work history that you know they’ll have something to say about. It helps them come up with something easy to say, and lets them know that their recommendation is important enough to you that you’ll make it personal.

  7. Keep it professional:

    Remember that LinkedIn is a professional site, not a personal one. Vacation pictures, whining, and drama are not appreciated. Stay professional, offering business discussions, events, and opportunities instead.

  8. Avoid making it all about you:

    It’s great to share what’s important to you on LinkedIn, but be careful not to get too full of yourself. Remember that LinkedIn is all about connections and nurturing your network. Ask yourself what you can do for your contacts, instead of frequently requesting that they do things that only benefit you.

  9. Don’t add connections willy-nilly:

    It’s fun and useful to have a large network, but add too many strangers, and you’ll devalue the real connections you have. Plus, it’s unnerving for people on the other side of the request: they have to decide whether they’d like to accept an invitation from a stranger or not. Play it safe; only add people that you really have a connection with, whether you’ve met them in person or conversed online.

  10. Make it easy for people to remember you:

    If you are going to connect with someone that you aren’t very close to, help them remember who you are. Remind them how they know you, mentioning that it was great running into them at a conference, chatting on a podcast, or however else you met that person.

  11. Take a real photo:

    Be sure to keep your LinkedIn profile photo appropriate for business. Photos from the beach, images from your favorite sports team, or ones without you in them at all are not really appropriate. Take the time to get a professional photo, or just get a friend to snap a nice one of you. It will help you put out the right impression.

  12. Don’t be spammy:

    This one should be obvious, but judging by the amount of spam that still plagues LinkedIn, some people still need reminding. When posting press releases and other marketing materials consider whether your posts are really relevant to a group or your LinkedIn followers, and whether or not you’ve already shared this information before. People don’t like to see irrelevant information, or the same thing over and over again. And it should go without saying, but sales pitches aren’t welcome.

  13. Avoid getting into fights:

    Again, this one’s obvious, but worth a mention. Be careful not to get into spats in open forums, or at all. It looks bad to fight publicly, and it feels bad even to do it in private. Do your best to smooth things over and keep LinkedIn a positive place to connect.

  14. Keep Twitter on Twitter:

    A common LinkedIn etiquette complaint is about users with constant status updates, and those that link their Twitter accounts with LinkedIn. Chances are, your professional contacts do not care to hear ultra-frequent updates, and your Twitter account may not be 100% professional. Sure, it’s tempting to save time, but it’s much more polite to craft specific messages for LinkedIn, and keep them to a polite volume.

  15. Be patient with the new guy:

    You may be a LinkedIn pro, but new users are still jumping on every day, and they don’t necessarily know what they’re doing. As they try to figure out how best to use LinkedIn, be patient and kind, and even offer to lend them a hand.

  16. Know and follow group rules:

    When you join a LinkedIn group, be careful to find the rules and follow them. You’ll be able to avoid awkward emails from group owners and embarrassingly getting called out as a rule breaker.

  17. Write back, no matter what:

    If someone contacts you, acknowledge the message. Even if you don’t have a real response for their question or request, it’s still polite to write back. Ignored messages hurt, and every connection merits a response. If you’re too busy to take care of it at the moment, just say so. Chances are, your connection will understand.

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