Updated: Oct 4, 2019
LinkedIn can be a valuable career-building tool. But to build positive relationships, avoid these common business etiquette mistakes.
If you use social media, you’ve probably seen many cases where people misuse it. While it can be surprising to see how people use personal social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to overshare about their lives or post-inflammatory opinions, people often forget that LinkedIn is primarily a professional/business network
LinkedIn is transparent about its purpose; it is in their word the world’s largest professional network. But even though the network exists to help people build relationships to further their careers, or to represent their organisations in a public forum, so many people use the platform in ways that are risky for their career, offensive or spammy.
Susie Wilson shares her knowledge, and gives you some examples of common business etiquette mistakes you should stop doing on LinkedIn today:
1. Posting inflammatory comments
I post articles LinkedIn regularly, and I am no stranger to the comments section. Generally, I receive constructive comments on my articles—either people who enjoyed reading, raise relevant discussion questions about the article, or disagree with what I wrote respectfully.
But there’s a small portion of commenters who just want to let some anger or resentment out. I have had people criticise me personally, and to make very unfounded assumptions about me based on my posts. This type of thoughtless commenting often doesn’t reflect well on the person who is making it, especially since their profile is associated with their company and the fact that LinkedIn is a global platform with people who have very different cultural norms. What might be normal to say in one culture could be interpreted as very offensive by another.
It’s easy to forget that what we post on LinkedIn can be permanent. Users should remember that anything you do on the platform can become part of your professional record, and may also be a reflection on your employer, as your company name is tied to everything you post.
2. Selling via LinkedIn messaging
Everybody who’s been on LinkedIn has probably gotten a cold sales pitch through LinkedIn messenger—a person who you’ve either recently connected with, or who is requesting to connect with you, sends a canned or automated marketing pitch about their business. A common tactic these days is the bait and switch, where someone makes a note in the invitation about noticing your profile and wanting to be connected, then makes a sales pitch through messenger as soon as the invitation is accepted.
This is an immediate way to lose credibility with potential leads and is the professional equivalent of asking someone for their phone number at a bar before starting a conversation; I make a point of removing every person who does this from my connections list. Always focus first on establishing a relationship or authentic rapport. Trying to sell to people who don’t even know you may work in some instances, but in many cases, it rubs people the wrong way and can make them distrustful of your entire organisation. People can also see right through the AI bots that are commonly used in LinkedIn messenger to try to get the other person to engage, they don’t feel genuine or personal.
3. Tagging unrelated people in your posts for exposure
Writing articles about influential people or posting a question for someone you know in a comment or post is a smart strategy for building awareness and dialogue. But some on LinkedIn try to gain visibility for their posts by tagging unrelated people who have big followings. This is similar to putting tons of hashtags at the end of your post.
Again, tagging people is not necessarily a bad idea, but make sure those people are related to your content. If you’re tagging lots of people who have nothing to do with what you’re sharing, it might devalue your content and affect your credibility with other readers. You might also upset that person, who can untag themselves and may even remove you as a connection.
4. Talking Politics
There are time and place for political opinions—but unless politics is your career, it isn’t a great idea for LinkedIn. And this isn’t just the case for inflammatory political opinions either—it’s impossible to know what political comments may be distasteful to others or rub them the wrong way
Etiquette Expert Susie Wilson suggests if your organisation is listed on your LinkedIn profile—as is the case for many—it’s vital to remember that you represent that organisation on the site. LinkedIn is not the appropriate forum for political discourse, especially when you are representing your employer.