I hold a few principles about using LinkedIn that are quite rigid. They guide me in how I interact with people on the site. You may agree with some of them, and you may think others are bunk, but regardless, I follow them all closely — almost to a fault.

My Rigid LinkedIn Principles

  1. Like many people, I will not accept an invite without a personalized note. At least tell me how we know each other. “Bob, I took your ‘Advanced LinkedIn’ workshop and would like to connect”: Good enough. (I make one exception: If I know the person sending the invite, I will forgive this faux pas.)
  2. I will thank you for connecting with me. I guess this goes back to my childhood, when I was taught to always say “thank you.” There is one rare exception to this policy: If you send me an invite without a personalized note and I accept it, I won’t feel the need to thank you. If you’re lazy, I’ll return the favor.
  3. Please don’t use LinkedIn’s publishing feature as a way to announce your events or advertise your products. This is not what the feature is intended for.
  4. I will not open your profile if you don’t have a photo. Sorry. I think you’re hiding something. I know you might be concerned about age discrimination, but please. A photo gives you an identity, which is necessary when you’re networking. Honestly, I think not showing a photo is creepy.
  5. I will lose respect for you if you abandon LinkedIn. I’ve seen people work hard to create kick-ass profiles, only to abandon them. Perhaps because maintaining a profile is too much work? I’ve also seen people land jobs and forget that networking must continue even as they’re working. “I don’t have time,” they tell me. “Make time,” I retort.
  6. I will hide you if your face appears on my homepage numerous times in a row. When I see someone’s face 10 consecutive times, my initial thought is, “Did you schedule these updates on Hootsuite to occur at the same time?” People — spread them out! (Note: I am a bit of a hypocrite; I update multiple times a day, way beyond the once-a-day recommendation. Who came up with this arbitrary number, anyway?)
  7. Read my posts and comment on them, and I’ll do the same with yours. This is just common courtesy and good blogging etiquette. As well, I won’t simply “like” your post without leaving a few words on what I thought of it. I figure if you put the effort into expressing your thoughts, I should return the favor.
  8. Don’t use LinkedIn like you would Twitter. I know it’s tempting to converse in real time with your connections, but when you do so in a group discussion, it’s reminiscent of tweeting. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy Twitter, but LinkedIn ain’t Twitter. At least, I hope it doesn’t become Twitter.
  9. Briefer isn’t always better. You’ve been told that your profile summary should be as brief as possible, that no one wants to read a novel. This is sound advice for your resume, but keep in mind that you are given 2,000 characters for this section of your LinkedIn profile to tell your story, show your passion, and grab visitors with some accomplishments.
  10. I don’t know where you got the idea I have skills in “staff development,” “project management,” or “nonprofit.” I know you’re trying to be helpful, and I appreciate it, but please don’t suggest skills for me. I’m trying to present as accurate a picture of who I am as possible.
  11. If your profile is a wasteland, I’ll think you’re not serious about LinkedIn. Maybe you’re only on LinkedIn because someone said you should be. Whatever the case, I’ll form a negative opinion of you and won’t read your profile.
  12. Don’t immediately ask for something. Some people don’t know better. They’ll send me an invite with a personalized message, but in it will be a request for, say, a critique of their profile. Hold on a second. Start a conversation before going for closing. You’re just giving me a reason to hit “ignore.”
  13. When I see an update that is negative, I won’t respond to it. I believe in truth and honesty, so here’s the truth. When you’re negative, I pass on you. As an example, I have a string of conversation developing in response to a post I wrote, and some of the respondents are going off on a negative slant. I don’t respond, “like,” or comment. I simply pass on the conversation.
  14. If you ask me to await your call, call me. Follow-up is key to conducting business or a job search.
  15. It irritates me when people say LinkedIn alone will get them a job. This is more the fault of an adviser or the articles they’ve read, but job seekers need to know that LinkedIn is not a magic potion. You need to do some personal networking as well. LinkedIn is a supplement to personal networking.
  16. Further, I’m frustrated when people tell me they’re afraid of being on the internet. To them, I say not to bother with LinkedIn. LinkedIn isn’t for everyone. I’ve come to realize this, and I tell people this outright.

Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 15 job search workshops at an urban career center.

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