LinkedIn has gained broad acceptance as a social network for business professionals. Here are my LinkedIn rules to live by: (Your mileage may vary.)
1. Keep it professional.
The goal is to make you look good in a professional networking environment. So don’t be a troll. No one likes trolls. (Except, perhaps other trolls.)
2. Do not add your entire contact list.
LinkedIn has tools for importing your address books from a variety of software and services. Don’t do it. This generates a huge amount of junk mail with your name on it. Unless you are a recruiter and depend on a HUGE database of names or loose connections, you don’t need to connect with everyone you have ever gotten a business card from.
3. Only invite people that you know and trust.
If you would feel strange about calling someone on the phone and having a conversation, perhaps you shouldn’t invite that person to connect.
4. Just because someone invites you doesn’t mean you have to accept.
If you don’t know the person well or at all, perhaps you shouldn’t connect. Call the person wanting to connect and schedule a time to have coffee or something to strengthen your relationship.
5. Don’t be a stalker, or even a little bit creepy.
Use Facebook or MySpace to look up old friends. Once you have rekindled a trusted relationship, invite the person to LinkedIn if it makes business sense.
6. Recommend people and get recommended.
If you have done business with someone and would recommend that person to a friend or client, write a nice recommendation on LinkedIn. We know how lukewarm testimonials sound, so don’t write one unless it is meaningful.
7. Answer questions.
LinkedIn’s Answers section provides an opportunity to show your expertise. Answer with the intent to provide useful information. The person asking acknowledges good answers and you can receive added credibility to your profile.
8. Remove stale connections.
Once a month, browse through all of your connections. Consider removing people that you simply cannot remember. LinkedIn doesn’t alert the other user, so the other person probably won’t notice at all since they probably cannot remember who you are either.
9. Make connections part of your referral process.
If someone gives you a good referral, part of your thank you process should be connecting on LinkedIn. And if you give a referral, ask to connect on LinkedIn.
10. Share your connections.
Those that are connected to me know that my connections are trusted, not flimsy. So if they need an introduction, they know that I can facilitate not just online, but in the real world.