« 12. EQ skills: How to use LinkedIn »

Written by Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute. Author of "Business networking" (now out of print).

LinkedIn is a very important networking platform for career development and business enhancement. Yet so many use it badly. 

There are many social media platforms. LinkedIn is only one of them.

Yet LinkedIn is the premier platform for business and professional networking and career enhancement.

It is no longer just for consultants, recruitment agents or small business owners. Very senior people are now on LinkedIn, and in my LinkedIn contacts, for example, I have senior level people across all sectors.

How well do you use LinkedIn?

I have been on LinkedIn since 2007 and in 2012 was in the top 1% of most viewed profiles. I have made many important new connections, gained new business through it, and use it daily. I travel with it and keep in contact with people through it wherever I am.

In addition to my profile and contact list I run a significant group on LinkedIn: The Emotional Intelligence Institute: Australasia.

During my time on LinkedIn I have seen people do some silly things that leave a bad impression of them. I have seen people annoying others. I have seen people limiting their use of it and wasting their time on it. I also get lots and lots of questions from people when I speak on it too, and the questions show that people don't know what to do or don't understand it.

Therefore, I am going to cover five of the many important steps and tips on how to use LinkedIn effectively so you increase your chance of enhancing your contacts, career and business. Of course, I'll also invite you to connect with me and join my relevant group(s) - providing you follow my tips!

Here are some tips to help you know how to use LinkedIn effectively so you leave a brilliant impression.

How to use LinkedIn tip 1: Have a photograph.

LinkedIn is a form of business networking. It is important to understand that many of the rules of face-to-face networking also apply when networking on LinkedIn.

For example, if you were in a gathering you wouldn't put a bag over your head and go and introduce yourself to people, would you? This would mean no one could see your face! Imagine the reactions you'd get. You surely wouldn't expect to get a welcoming reaction. Why then would you invite people to connect with you on LinkedIn without having a photograph on your profile?

You are trying to do faceless networking and its not a good look. Have a photograph on your profile.

If you are worried about identity fraud and someone stealing your photo you still have many ways to include your photo. You could put a small one or a slightly fuzzy one, one with your pet or one with your hand to your mouth. A photo is essential if you want to do well in LinkedIn.

For me, my rule is simple; no photo, no connection. The group rules on both my groups stipulate, no photo, no membership.

If you're scared of sharing your photo or can't be bothered to upload one why are you on LinkedIn? Sorry to put it so bluntly but people without photos annoy people on LinkedIn.

How to use LinkedIn tip 2: Say "Yes".

Someone complained to me recently that she didn't like LinkedIn because she got invitations to connect from people who didn't know her. Not only did she not like them she refused them all.

When you go networking face-to-face do you refuse to talk to new people? No, of course not. Part of networking is to meet new people and to learn about them and build connections with them. LinkedIn is no different.

The idea is that you build new connections with people that you don't know. That's the point. What excites me about LinkedIn is the opportunity it gives all of us to make contact with and connect with people we would not have the chance to connect with in any other way. It is real networking and all done without needing to go to an actual event. (There is a proviso - See tip 3)

How to use LinkedIn tip 3: Say "No" to some.

You may get asked to connect by many people. You do not have to accept an invitation to connect. I refuse approximately 40% of all requests to connect.

LinkedIn is not just about numbers and the quantity of the connections. It is also about the relevance and quality of the connection, just as it is when doing face-to-face networking.

You choose which connections to accept; there is no obligation to accept anyone. Nor do you need to feel guilty for rejecting a request.

Just as when you go face-to-face networking you don't stay in contact with everyone you meet. You select who you will stay in contact with. It is an important part of your networking strategy. The same applies on LinkedIn.

I have included this tip because of the number of people who comment on this aspect to me during my LinkedIn speeches. Some are astonished that it is okay to reject an invitation. As in all of life the ability to say "No" is paramount.

How to use LinkedIn tip 4: Send a personal invitation.

Sadly, some of the LinkedIn apps encourage you to send impersonal invitations to connect. Don't do this.

If you were doing face-to-face networking you would always introduce yourself, say your name, something about yourself and personally greet people. Imagine going up to someone, putting your hand out and without saying anything else, saying, "I want to connect with you". It's funny! You wouldn't do it. Don't do the equivalent on LinkedIn either.

Instead, personalise your invitation to connect. Write for example:

  1. The person's name, e.g. "Hi Rachel".
  2. Say how you know me, e.g. "I came to your networking seminar".
  3. If you don't know me say why you'd like to connect, e.g. "I've just read your profile and I'm interested in emotional intelligence in schools".

When you make it personal and genuine I am almost guaranteed to accept a connection. Connection invitations that have no personal message I am also almost always guaranteed to reject.

How to use LinkedIn tip 5: It's about relationships not adverts.

I personally dislike "in your face" advertising from my LinkedIn connections in the early stages of our relationship.

Networking both face-to-face and on LinkedIn is about building relationships. If you have done nothing to build a relationship with me and the first thing you send me is an advert selling me something, I immediately will remove the connection. There is no discussion about it; you're gone. I don't let you know either.

Do not only send out promotional material. In fact, send possibly no promotional material.

In the same way if you join a LinkedIn group and your first offering to the group is to tell us all about your product or book you will be deleted from the group. Gone!

If on the other hand you have built a relationship with myself or the group members and we know you and have enjoyed your company and input, then of course let us know of your latest book launch or new product. It's all part of networking on LinkedIn.

However, remember it's relationship first, and promotion second. Build relationships. Provide quality advice. Share valuable information. These are all helpful ways of promoting your work.

PS: Please make sure you have your organisation's approval to be on LinkedIn. Some public sector agencies, in particular, are hesitant about using LinkedIn and may require you to follow specific policy guidelines.

Develop your business networking and emotional intelligence

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