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The world of social media has only been around for about 15 years. From MySpace and LinkedIn to Instagram and Snapchat, there are a variety of social platforms to suit every person and every purpose. Younger generations not only accept that much of their day-to-day lives aren’t private, they willingly “live tweet,” or share up-to-the-moment play-by-play details – which is an entirely foreign concept to those who reached adulthood pre-Instagram (or likely before).

Etiquette

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of social media is the differentiation of the roles for each platform. While Facebook is the largest and most widely-used platform to share content, opinions, and thoughts with friends and family instantaneously, Instagram acts more like a family photo album updated for the digital age to allow for interaction.

LinkedIn stands out as it was launched with a different purpose–helping professionals connect. Today’s professionals can easily be divided into two groups: those that have integrated social media into their existing careers, and those who entered the workforce already has built a social network. Newer candidates just completing their academic career and entering their chosen profession have likely already amassed numerous connections across multiple platforms, and merely establish these same connections on LinkedIn – but is this the smartest approach? Conversely, established professionals and those labeled as experts in their chosen field with a decade or more of experience may have fewer connections, though not always. The chances are that these connections hold greater value, simply because of the time and energy invested in each relationship.

The concept of integrating social interaction into the professional world is far from new; however, digitizing social interactions revolutionized how business is done, and in nearly every industry. It’s also safe to assume these groups of professionals view Internet etiquette – or “netiquette” – differently.

Performing a quick Internet search will return hundreds of results on “how best” to represent yourself digitally. Beyond just having a profile, sharing content, and relishing each Like and Share, professionals look to LinkedIn as a resource to further their careers. Organizations share this approach, though through a lens of lead generation.

NO

  • Random connection requests

✔ YES

  • Genuine connections

Think about why you want to connect with this person – especially if they’re not someone you’ve interacted with much. Will both of you benefit from the connection? Can you help each other, from a professional standpoint?

  • Tip: Brief but personalized introductions instead of templates will go much farther in a connection request. The time it takes you to send a cold, standardized template to connect is about the same time the target professional may take to decline your request.

NO

  • Social stalking

✔ YES

  • Respect

Did you know that every time you visit someone’s profile on LinkedIn, if that person has a Premium membership, they will be alerted to your visit? Multiple visits can leave a lasting impression – and not necessarily the one you want to leave. Decide if you want to connect, either send the request or don’t, and then move on.

  • We know sending a request to connect and then being rejected can sting, but don’t try this repeatedly. If you sent a personalized message with your connection request, and the connection didn’t accept the request, they have a valid reason, and you should respect it.

NO

  • Selfies

✔ YES

  • Content of value

There are many places for personal photographs – “selfies” – but LinkedIn isn’t one of them. Casual images are seen as unprofessional, and a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, those words speak about you and send the wrong message. Instead, share content that holds value. This content can be original, or shared from another source, but will offer information that your network will find useful.

NO

  • Strictly digital

✔ YES

  • See beyond LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the premier forum to match professionals with shared goals. Make each connection count! If you’re in the same geographical area, take the time to meet colleagues in your network for lunch or a cup of coffee. Chances are this will result in you keeping you both closer to the top of the list down the road when the need arises.

NO

  • One-way communication

✔ YES

  • Engage

By definition, a social platform is one where people communicate with each other. As already stated, use LinkedIn to post content that will have value to your network, but also respond to comments and engage with your network directly.

  • Did you know that when you respond to a comment on a LinkedIn post, the engagement is visible to the commenter’s entire first-degree network? Consider this a “free” boost to your visibility and take full advantage.

NO

  • Only use LinkedIn to find a new job

✔ YES

  • Build relationships and network

Don’t make the mistake of confusing LinkedIn with an Internet job board. LinkedIn recognized that many users take advantage of the platform’s extensive professional user base to network and find new career opportunities, and now LinkedIn offers a separate mobile app with this in mind. The goal is to keep job posts and applicants from overloading the content feed, maintaining the primary function of LinkedIn.

NO

  • Post whatever content, whenever

✔ YES

  • Take advantage of LinkedIn’s reach and Insights

LinkedIn has recently introduced a handful of robust tools for both individual users and organizations. They offer Premium features like Insights on a follower’s base and the reach of content posts, as well as paid content options for boosting reach beyond their network with sponsored content. Users can develop a sophisticated LinkedIn content strategy, allowing for deep audience analysis.

  • To pay, or not to pay? Sponsored content is LinkedIn’s version of advertising, but there are other paid options to expand your brand’s reach.

NO

  • All business, all the time

✔ YES

  • A healthy balance

While any activity on LinkedIn should have a purpose, remember to humanize your posts with lighter content sprinkled in. What does this mean? So long as it’s clean and tactful, a sense of humor is welcome on LinkedIn! If an organization collectively volunteers for an Adopt-A-Road program and shows pictures or videos of staff picking up trash, it’s nice to see the faces behind the content posts.

NO

  • Irregular, varied content

✔ YES

  • Be a brand ambassador

To represent yourself, and your brand, create a LinkedIn strategy and devise a content calendar. Whether you are responsible for your own individual LinkedIn profile, your brand’s profile page – or both – remember to own your brand, represent it nonstop, and truly embody how you want the public to perceive your brand. A strong brand ambassador is consistent and respected.

Michael Johnson , January 24, 2018