One of the primary benefits of joining LinkedIn as a social network is its focus on career-related connections. This can take off some of the pressure that may exist on other platforms (e.g., Twitter, Facebook) to be witty, clever, or even somewhat controversial. You do, however, need to be professional as you make connections and build a profile that represents you online.
Over time, LinkedIn members have developed preferred ways to communicate with each other via the system’s features and functions. It’s a powerful resource – with potential for networking, career development, and job search success for online students and instructors alike – but as the platform has evolved, some techniques have become more effective than others.
How can you make the best of your LinkedIn account? Here are a few tips as you proceed with your next profile update:
- Don’t just send the default invitation to connect. “I’d like to add you to my professional network” is the standard text you’ll find when you decide to send an invitation to another LinkedIn user. Leaving this as-is doesn’t say much about who you are and why you want to connect. And it’s easy to add a sentence or two to personalize a message for each recipient. Public relations expert Sakita Holley provides six scenarios (e.g., former boss, prospective employer) and invitation examples.
- Don’t connect as a “friend” if you’re not a friend. Unless … this is the only way you have to make the connection and you can explain why you want to connect per item #1 above. Can you find an email address for the person online? Are you members of the same LinkedIn Groups? Social media consultant Jeff Bullas notes that connecting as a friend “is a major pet peeve for many professionals on LinkedIn.” Exhaust the other available options before selecting “friend” when you send out an invitation.
- Don’t describe yourself with overused or effusive terms. “Creative” and “motivated” are just two professional buzzwords recently identified by LinkedIn. Used on their own, they don’t really convey much about your qualifications and potential. Are they in your profile headline? Jeff Haden recommends an alternative approach: consider how you introduce yourself to someone you meet in person. Would you say: “I’m a passionate, innovative, dynamic provider of services”? Probably not. In a way, your LinkedIn profile is speaking for you – how are you being introduced?