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In the United States alone, there are over 180 million users on LinkedIn, with over 774 million user accounts in 200 countries all across the globe. Four people per minute find a job through the platform, and countless connections are made between professionals.
There’s plenty of potential out there, and effective networking is the name of the game on LinkedIn. It’s tempting to dive right in to get a piece of all the exciting action because it doesn’t take much time to get a profile up and running.
However there are some rules and guidelines on the uniquely professional social platform, and it’s important to keep them in mind as you network. Implementing and following a few key principles while on the site will not only lead to higher quality connections but also ensure your profile receives the right kind of attention.
1. Don’t spam
The easiest way to lower the value of your LinkedIn profile is to come across as spammy with your actions. This could mean sending generic messages to all new connections, which are easy to spot by those with experience on the platform. You can avoid this by making sure your outreach has at least some personalization, as it shows you did some research.
Another form of spam would be tagging your connections in posts that aren’t relevant to them. Tags are a wonderful tool when used properly, but when done in mass, they can come across as impersonal and annoying.
Ideally, your requests, messages and tags should target people you can help, and those that can help you. Accounts that are marked as spam are subject to being restricted or banned, so by aiming for quality over raw quantity, you can avoid this unsavory classification.
Related: How Not to Be a Spammer When Marketing Your Business
2. Keep things professional
It’s surprisingly common for some to use LinkedIn in a non-professional manner, and for those serious about furthering their career, this is a massive misstep. This means making sure your outreach always has a professional aim instead of a personal one. Without a doubt, there is a social aspect of LinkedIn, but this doesn’t mean commenting on someone’s appearance, politics or personal history is fair game.
Use discretion and consider everything you do on the platform to be somewhat public, and remember that all your interactions should tie back to a professional purpose.
If it’s not something that you would say while in the office and facing someone, then there’s no reason to type it online. By keeping this guideline, you can avoid putting yourself in a compromised position that ultimately lowers your profile’s value and your professional prospects.
3. Be nice, but constructive
Being kind in your interactions on LinkedIn has all kinds of benefits, and very little in terms of drawbacks. People work better together when the members are nice, as famously exemplified by Google’s 2012 Project Artistole study. In essence, once people are reasonably assured that they can speak their minds without fear of repercussions, then ideas start to flow more freely, and productivity rises.
This doesn’t mean you must smile and nod at every post disingenuously, you can and should of course critique a comment or post when you feel it necessary. However, doing so without a biting or mean-spirited tone works wonders for both your community standing and the conversation as a whole.
There’s nothing to be gained from leaving negative comments or messages on LinkedIn. The overall trend of LinkedIn is that the nicer you are, the more likely people will want to interact with you.
Related: How to Be the Nice Guy Who Never Finishes Last
4. Provide value before asking for anything
Right out of the gate with any new connection, it’s best to provide something of value before asking for any favors. This could be a simple compliment, insight on their industry or even an invitation to an event. Do so freely and try not to immediately follow this up with your request, as this can somewhat sour the outreach.
Consider the giving of value to your connections an investment of sorts, a gesture of goodwill with no strings attached. This starts the relationship off on a positive note, and down the line will likely lead to a more mutually productive connection.
5. Polish before you post
Whether it’s your about page, work experience, or a new article you plan to publish, it’s important to polish everything you post. It’s understandable a bit complicated as most profiles these days contain statistics, acronyms and date ranges, which makes them a tad more complicated than normal sentences. This is why these are the areas are where most people fumble.
A simple typo won’t sink your profile, but repeated mistakes might lower your status in the eyes of others. Clean things up and have some consistency within your profile. It’s far better to take a few more minutes to polish than to publish a rushed and poorly constructed post.
LinkedIn is a platform that can connect professionals around the world in an instant, and when used properly, it is a powerful tool in any industry. By following just a few rules and using your best judgment, you can network like a pro.