If you’re involved in business development or recruitment, you’re already spending lots of time on LinkedIn. That’s me! As a self-described LinkedIn junkie, everyone who knows me knows that as a result of all the time I spend there, I have strong opinions on LinkedIn I heart LinkedInetiquette, and have no qualms about calling someone out who violates rules that I consider sacred and obvious. That being said, I also respect, appreciate and draw from the higher powers in the LinkedIn universe, people like Wayne Breitbarth, author of The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success, the seminal book on the subject, and Lindsey Pollak, a widely read blogger for LinkedIn. They and others regularly offer great etiquette and effectiveness advice that I continue to draw on. I should also add one caveat: I’m still learning from some of my own mistakes, and occassionally draw rightful fire from other etiquette police. Mea culpa.

So here’s what I believe (so far!) are the 10 most important LinkedIn etiquette tips:

  1. Connect with people you know. Sounds obvious, but accepting invitations from unknowns makes no sense, nor is it appropriate to invite the same. My own decision rule is very simple: I accept invitations from people I have met and respect as professionals, and from people whose reputations precede them through trusted recommendations or public scrutiny.
  2. Respond politely. Whether or not you accept an invitation to connect, a direct, professional response is usually the best next step. If I turn down an invitation because I don’t know someone, I usually encourage them to find a way for us to meet personally so we can eliminate that objection.
  3. Say please and thank you. Frequently. What we all should have learned in kindergarten applies to LinkedIn as well. When you ask for something say please. When someone does something considerate, even if it’s not invited, say thanks.
  4. Keep updates interesting and professional. We want to know when you’ve accomplished something noteworthy, read something that’s valuable, or discovered something you think should be shared. We (I) don’t care what you had for lunch or what you’re doing this weekend with your family. Save it for Facebook.
  5. Give recommendations to get recommendations. There’s nothing wrong with asking for a recommendation. But the best way to ask is to first give one. When you think about it, the best recommendations should come from the people you know and respect the most, who naturally are the people you can most genuinely recommend.
  6. Be a responsible group manager. That means respond to requests quickly, and enforce group rules evenly. Enforcement isn’t for everyone, because everyone can interpret rules differently and that can lead to conflict, or to re-visiting rules. Being responsible as a manager means your rules will probably evolve as the group grows. Nothing wrong with that.
  7. Be aware and follow group rules. If you want to avoid uncomfortable notes from group owners, read them before you start breaking them. Been there! And if you get called out as a transgressor, be an adult about it.
  8. Be Honest. We’ve all experienced this. You find a former peer on LI and as you review their experience you see they’ve mis-represented a past role or the responsibilities they had. As a result you look at everything they claim to have done since then with a little more skepticism. Don’t do anything that puts you at risk of harming your credibility.
  9. Don’t be a pest. You won’t do yourself any good professionally if you annoy people. We all know someone who does. Don’t be that person.
  10. Participate. Kind of like when you go to a party. Don’t go if you’re not going to talk to people and add to the energy of the group. Same thing with LI. Be active, share information, contribute to discussions, grow your footprint, and be additive to the collective good.

As of February 9th LinkedIn topped 150 million users in over 200 countries, making it the largest professional network in the world. I think at least one contributing factor in the success of LI is the professional, collegial environment it represents and user enjoy. It’s up to all of us, through our behaviors and attitudes, to keep it that way.

Got more tips we should consider? Please let us know!