The 3 LinkedIn Etiquette Rules You Should Never Break

LinkedIn is one social network where little mistakes can directly impact your financial future. Avoid these LinkedIn no-nos that could work against you when building your networking or looking for a job.

I first started blogging and hosting online videos for Fast Company in the spring of 2011. However, like many social networkers, I've been slow to update my LinkedIn professional profile in a timely manner (perhaps that's no-no number one).

In an effort to practice what I preach about building and maintaining an online brand, I spent some time last week tweaking my current work positions, accepting invitations, and even going so far as uploading a video clip on my profile page, which can be done with the SlideShare app.  

Within a few short hours of adding my not-so-new Fast Company role, my LinkedIn inbox piled up with messages that included the same enthusiastic subject line, "Congratulations on your new position!"  The note inside each correspondence looked strangely familiar, "I saw you're now Blogger/TV Host at Fast Company and wanted to say congratulations!" Wow. Either my contacts were struck by grammatical lightning that supercharged these identical messages, or they broke a few of the most important LinkedIn rules for good etiquette.

1. Stop using LinkedIn's auto-generated templates. 

Whether it's congratulating someone on a new role or requesting a connection with someone, avoid generic messages. While LinkedIn does often pre-populate message fields, you will get a whole lot further with your networking efforts if you take some time to personalize your correspondence. Within a few seconds you can include a custom note to a contact (instead of "I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn) and add a little context. For example, if you're connecting with someone you just met at a conference, remind her about this meeting by including some details about your chat (including the date and any other relevant info). Using auto-generated templates time and time again is a sign of laziness, which is probably not the impression you want to leave with potential colleagues on the largest professional online network in the world.

2. Stop pushing your social updates to your LinkedIn status. 

When services such as HootSuite entered the social media space, they answered the prayers of many networkers trying desperately to update multiple online profiles at once. A good social media dashboard can come in handy when you're trying to schedule messages or post a quick update. However, it's an even better idea to tailor an individual post to a specific social network. For example, if you're writing an update about your new job on Facebook, it's probably okay to use more casual and enthusiastic language on that site if most of your connections there are friends and family. If you're looking to share similar news with the LinkedIn community, go for something a little more polished. In terms of sending Twitter tweets to LinkedIn, it's okay once in a while, but don't make a habit of it (especially if you use a lot of Twitter terminology, such as @, RT, or MT).

3. Stop asking for LinkedIn endorsements from people you don't know. 

In real life, it would be a strange networking move to request a testimonial from someone you don't know. However, in my own experience, it occurs on a regular basis on LinkedIn, despite the company's mandate since its launch in 2003. LinkedIn is very clear that their network allows you to connect with people you know. In fact, if you dig deep into the company's user agreement, you will discover that you are in fact bound to specific rules building on this belief: "Don't undertake the following: Invite people you do not know to join your network." In short, requesting an endorsement from a stranger is a definite no-no and can only hinder your LinkedIn experience because it comes across as a naive and amateur move.

When it comes to LinkedIn etiquette, this is one social network where little mistakes can affect your financial future. To avoid mishaps, tailor your messages, customize your posts, and nurture relationships with people you know.

[Image: Flickr user Nicki Varkevisser]