When it comes to professional networking online, LinkedIn is becoming the clear leader and an almost required destination for career building. Like most social networking sites, they allow you to create a profile page and share status updates and other information with your friends and followers.
In theory, it's a great idea and a great place to network with other professionals. However, if you've spent even a day or two on Facebook, you know that many, many, many people that seem nice and interesting in person can be annoying and guilty of egregious over-sharing when they're behind a computer screen. While I know that our Facebook feeds are limited by the content that our friends share, most of us aren't in a position to just un-friend our close friends and (god forbid) our family members. Even though my aunt always feels the need to share a prayer several times a day and I have cousins who really enjoy sharing chain type status updates, I am not at liberty to stop being friends with them. Besides, even if I could, I wouldn't because social media allows me to wish them a Happy Birthday, see pictures of their families and touch base with them easily, without requiring me to give them a call.
So what's the difference between LinkedIn and Facebook and how can you avoid being that annoying person on your professional networking account?
Here are some tips for keeping your Linkedin classy:
Use a real photo – The picture you choose should be recent and it should be a picture of you. For some reason, there has been a huge increase in the number of people who are using pictures of their favorite celebrities, of inanimate objects, of their cars or motorcycles and even their babies and pets. While this might be acceptable on your personal social networking accounts, it's not appropriate on LinkedIn. Always use a nice headshot, even a candid one, that shows you as you really are and hopefully, one that says something about your personality.
Don't post personal things – LinkedIn is for professional networking, as such, you shouldn't be sharing prayers, political views, personal updates, complaints and other things that would alienate your professional connections. Save those things for Facebook or Twitter. Your professional network should come from a wide variety of backgrounds and hold wildly different views. Sharing these types of things can be offensive or cause them to make generalizations about you and your professionalism.
Only share industry related articles – If you run across an article or blog (like this one) that you think is well written, funny or in any way worth sharing, then feel free to post it on your Linkedin. The main thing is that the information you're sharing is useful, entertaining or at least compelling and that it is work related in some way.
Always personally ask for a connection – When asking real world contacts to connect with you on LinkedIn, personalize the request. Don't get lazy and use the default options. Instead, take a couple of minutes to greet them by name, share how they met you or where they know you from and bring up some topic you've discussed with them before. For example, if you know the person loves to drink wine and they had told you about their trip to an area winery the last time you saw them, you should mention it by asking if they've gone on any other winery tours or ask for a wine suggestion.
Don't sling mud – One really useful thing that Linkedin offers is the ability to see someone's co-workers and to ask for recommendations from contacts. If someone asks you about a person you've worked with in the past or requests a recommendation from you, always be nice and polite. If you think highly of the person, this will be easy. If not, you should decline the request very professionally, but don't say anything negative. Slinging mud is always tacky and a classy person should already know that when you play in the dirt, you always get most of it on yourself.
Don't exhaust your network with post fatigue – Post updates frequently, but be careful not to wear people out. Get involved in discussions and share information with others, but don't post several things every hour. Before you post, ask yourself if it's important, if it's helpful and if you think people will find it interesting. If the answer to at least two of those is yes, then share it. However, if you've already shared several things today, then why not hold off for a day or two?
Professional networking doesn't have to be difficult. Just remember that there is a huge difference between personal social networking, like on Facebook, and professional networking, like on LinkedIn. Keep the two separate and you'll have a much larger chance of success.
Do you use a professional networking site? If so, what do you do to stay professional? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
Image source: LinkedIn