I recently received an unusual message on LinkedIn. Let’s just say it was the kind of message you expect from Match.com, not LinkedIn. It made me uncomfortable, so I promptly removed that person as a connection.

Every social media network is different and has its own unwritten rules. It may not be black or white, but with experience, you get a sense of what’s right and what’s not. Sometimes, it doesn’t become obvious, especially with a professional network like LinkedIn.

Clients often ask questions about LinkedIn like “If people endorse or recommend me, should I endorse or recommend them back?” and “A competitor sent me a connect request. Should I accept?”

For endorsements and recommendations, you can simply thank them. Only endorse and recommend if you know them and would be comfortable with everyone seeing what you said on their profile.

As for competitor connection requests, you can accept it if you think their network would be useful to you. On the other hand, if you’re worried about them connecting with your clients, you may not want to connect with your competitor.

You can manage your LinkedIn Profile privacy controls to dictate what the public and your connections see in your profile. It’s also possible to control what your public LinkedIn profile displays.

Here are 14 rules to help you remain professional on LinkedIn.

1. Avoid using the default connect request.

When sending a connection request, personalize it by letting people know who you are, how they met you, and why you want to connect. Be careful sending connect requests from the LinkedIn mobile app because it typically doesn’t allow you to include a customized message. This can also happen on the website on the “People You May Know Page.” For these, click the person’s photo or name instead of “Connect.”

2. Skip clicking “I don’t know” or “spam” for connection requests.

Not even when you’re contacted by someone you don’t know. Either ignore it or click “Ignore.” Clicking “I don’t know” or “spam” can hurt the person’s account. It’s better to leave it alone.

3. Limit status updates to one or two a day.

This prevents you from dominating someone’s LinkedIn news stream. People want to see updates from a variety of people, not the same person repeatedly.

4. Share useful news.

When posting news, think business news or information of value. Personal news doesn’t go over well on a professional network like LinkedIn.

5. Post appropriate photos and graphics.

Posting photos, images and graphics can increase engagement. Just remember to keep it professional. While there’s nothing wrong with cute cats making mischief, these cutesy photos aren’t appreciated on LinkedIn as they are on Facebook or Instagram.

6. Skip the hashtags.

LinkedIn doesn’t convert hashtags into clickable links. Because of this, it looks like you’re reposting a Tweet.

7. Write recommendations when it’s appropriate.

If someone recommends you, it is polite to recommend them back. However, don’t do it unless you are comfortable having other people view your recommendation on that person’s profile.

8. Respond to endorsements as you see fit.

You do not need to endorse people back if they endorse you. Instead, you can send a quick thank you message.

9. Shun asking for endorsements.

And especially don’t endorse someone and then send a message saying you endorsed them and ask them to endorse back. A better way to get endorsements is to endorse others as appropriate. Many will return the favor.

online networking etiquette10. Ask for recommendations from people who can recommend you.

Don’t ask for recommendations from strangers or casual acquaintances. The people you ask should be familiar with some aspect of your work.

You’re more likely to get a good recommendation if you draft one for them, and let them edit. You can bring out the aspects of your work you most want them to mention, and quote stats if you have them. Just say “I was hoping you would be comfortable saying something like this…”

11. Ignore recommendations and endorsements from strangers.

If people you don’t know ask for recommendations or endorsements, you don’t need to get back to them. Just ignore their request.

12. Manage your recommendations and endorsements.

Remember, you can choose which recommendations and endorsements appear on your public profile. If you accept an endorsement or recommendation, you don’t have to show it.

13. Disconnect from people who make you uncomfortable.

If someone spams you repeatedly, hits on you, or sends other inappropriate messages, disconnect from them. If their message is particularly abusive or illegal, report them. Don’t feel pressured to respond to an off-topic request. For example, someone said I was perfect for a job for which I had no experience.

14. Provide value in LinkedIn Groups.

Unless a LinkedIn Group says it’s OK to post self-serving content, don’t do it. Focus on providing responses that add value. People are more likely to contact you when they see you share your expertise and do it in a positive way.

Ensure your posts are always positive, even those that express disagreement. It’s fine to disagree, but not when it comes across as critical or negative.

Focus on building relationships and providing value with the people you want to connect. It will pay off.

What LinkedIn etiquette would you add or change? Or have an experience to share? Share it in the comments.

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