According to DMR Stats, on April 2016, LinkedIn had more than 433 million users worldwide, gained two members every second, had 123 million users in the U.S. and reached 200 territories.
Very impressive numbers for a professional network that started slowly compared to others, but has gained its place as professionals have taken the time to use it more. LinkedIn users finally realize how it helps in building relations, promote their products and services, support sales, position their careers and so on.
I have been a member of LinkedIn since May 2004, and I’ve seen it grow throughout all these years. Since day one, I knew it was going to be a huge success.
Today, I teach people how to use the tool to their advantage, and people ask me almost daily what they should do to approach others on LinkedIn properly, both, the ones they know and those they don’t know.
My answer is always the same, it depends. And it really depends on many factors. I will give you some guidelines as to what you need to have in mind when using LinkedIn, so you don’t overdo it, cross the line, or lose a significant opportunity.
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First, you need understand LinkedIn and how it works. LinkedIn has an enormous database, and I recommended you learn how to manage it. If you don’t, then you might contact the wrong person in the right company, and that can be a big mistake.
I would suggest you create a strategic list of first and second-degree connections within the organization you are interested in getting in touch with and find the “appropriate” way to forward. Don’t go with the first person that appears on the search list. Make a plan that defines who to contact first based on your first-degree connections.
Second, you need to write assertive content for your profile. If you want people to trust you and respond to your messages, please have well written, friendly content on your profile. Make sure you upload a picture where you look approachable, and someone anybody wants to do business with. Also, make sure to include as many recommendations as possible.
Now, here are some instances when people tend to cross the line and how to avoid it:
When Open Networking
A lot of users, like myself, are open networkers, that is we accept all invitations without filtering anyone. I like it because I’ve met wonderful people and the way the tool works, the more connections I let into my network, the bigger my reach within LinkedIn. The problem is when those people use my connection to direct selling or religious purposes.
That completely crosses the line. If you choose to go this route, make it so you add value to your new connections, and not to fill a personal agenda. That is not acceptable under LinkedIn etiquette standards.
Most articles out there would suggest sending personalized invitations. Otherwise it looks “wrong”. The reality is that not everyone has time to write an invitation for everyone. A twist for this would be to send a preset invitation and later send a short note thanking the person for accepting the invite and then telling them whatever it is you needed to contact them for. This is a faster way and acceptable way to grow your network.
Directly Asking for a Job
I’m a career coach and I teach people how to use LinkedIn for job search purposes on a daily basis. My clients ask me always if they should contact the hiring manager of a particular position and tell them they want such a job. Please don’t. That is crossing the line.
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The way I recommend to go about it is the following:
First, look for common contacts with the hiring manager or someone key within that company and if you have a common contact is always better to get recommended for the position. You can find a common contact using the advanced search bar at the top of the page or through the “find alumni” database, under “my network”.
If there are no one common contacts between you and the hiring manager, you can send a very short note saying you are very interested in the position, inviting him/her to see your LinkedIn profile. It is about making their life easier.
Endorsing Anyone for Anything
Only endorse individuals for what you know they can do or it can affect your credibility in front of those you are endorsing.
Don’t Send Multiple Recipients Messages
Especially if you are trying to promote or sell something. That will only get you removed from many lists. LinkedIn is not intended for direct selling but to build mutually beneficial business and professional relations. In other words, don’t use LinkedIn for spam.
Don’t Take Too Long to Answer
If someone sent you a message and is trying to reach out for whatever reason, there is no excuse not to answer within the next 24 to 48 hours since that message was received.
Groups and Pulse Comments and Discussions
Both can be great sections to grow your network but sadly a few people use them to create conflict. The rule on LinkedIn is that we can all agree to disagree. Being a professional network, we all come from different backgrounds and experiences and respect is a must.
I have to say, people that discuss around LinkedIn tend to be very fact oriented, opinionated and respectful for the most part, which is a hard balance to reach. That is the unwritten rule and has been for years.
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When sending a message to someone you don’t know, introduce yourself, be brief, mention a common connection or interest and get straight to the point. It helps if you mention that you read the person’s profile and liked their career.
As with any other social media tool any information on LinkedIn is there because you uploaded it or requested it. Be mindful of what you do with it. Put yourself in other people’s shoes and think what is acceptable and not acceptable.