10 Ways to Misbehave on LinkedIn

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How’s your professional brand? Polished? Cutting-edge? Or maybe a little rough around the edges?

Any one of those is fine – so long as it works for you. Not everybody has to keep up appearances online.

But a lot of us do. Most of us, in fact. We may not have to polish our personal brand to the extent an executive would, but we still need to behave in a way that doesn’t put people off. If we happen to be in sales or consulting, or if we might want a new job soon, the stakes get higher. The rules of play are more exacting.

As you know, it’s easy to post things online that could come back to bite you later on. Often, these sorts of posts don’t seem like a big deal at the time. Usually, they’re not. I’m not talking about the overt, fringe posts of frat party material or extreme ideas. I’m talking about stuff an otherwise sane person, in a moment of weakness (or in the desperation to make a sale or land a client), might be susceptible to.

So these are social faux pas – not transgressions against humanity. They’re just a bit too off-putting, or a bit too weird. You might even be forgiven for them on Facebook. But LinkedIn in is a different story.

1. Discuss politics.

‘Tis the season, but I beg you not to spread – or smear – political opinions on LinkedIn. Pretty much anywhere else on the web appears to be fair game (especially Twitter), but leave LinkedIn alone. Besides, I think we’re all going to need a safe zone during this election.

2. Post things that are too personal.

LinkedIn is not Facebook. That said, how many promising job opportunities have been blown by posting things on even Facebook that were… unprofessional?

This doesn’t mean you can’t ever share personal stuff. Things that might make the acceptable list for LinkedIn, if you share only one or two things like this a month, might be:

  • You attending a show or some other non-political event.

For example: Got tickets to Hamilton? You may take a selfie from your seat. Did you get to go to opening day for your favorite baseball team? That’s OK to share too.

  • A pretty view from a conference or some other place you traveled to.
  • A photo of your children. Only once a month, please. Extra credit if you can link it into work.
  • Some work-related holiday. Even if it’s silly. Like this:

3. Pick a fight with somebody.

It’s surprising how heated things can get, even for professional topics. I almost got into a throwdown with someone over email deliverability once. But we were both professionals, so we kept our cool.

You should keep your cool, too. And don’t do things that you know will rile other people up, either. That’s harder for some people than you might think. According to a survey from YouGov, over a quarter of people under 30 enjoy riling people up online.

Of course, there are far more subtle ways to pick a fight. You can leave a nasty comment. Or insinuate something. We’re all human, and so some things may occasionally get under your skin. But just walk away from the keyboard. Go look at those photos of your kids (or go see your kids in real life). Or go to a baseball game.

4. Complain about your company.

A recent issue of Harvard Business Review had a case study about how to handle an employee who had complained about his company on Facebook. It was his second offense of publicly casting his employer in a bad light. Some of the options raised in the case study included firing him, even though he was his company’s top salesperson.

I wonder if the experts might have responded differently if the negative post had been published on LinkedIn. It might have been taken even more seriously. On Facebook, there’s an assumption that what you post there is part of your personal life. On LinkedIn, it’s different. LinkedIn is specifically sanctioned as a professional environment. Anything you post there, you’re posting as a professional.

So when in doubt about whether it’s okay to post something less than positive about your company, don’t. Don’t risk your job. Don’t risk souring your relationship with your company or your coworkers. You’ll probably only make a bad situation worse.

What can you do? Post resources about how other companies have handled whatever situation it is that your company is struggling with. Be part of the solution. It’s human nature to resist and dismiss when we’re told we’re doing something wrong. So don’t ever trigger that response. Go with the positive – suggest solutions that “might work even better”. You just might get your way.

5. Send aggressive sales Inmails.

It’s not just the single best way to alienate your new contacts. It’s a way to get flagged, and possibly even banned from LinkedIn – if you take it far enough.

Instead, try to be useful. Typically, that starts with answering questions in LinkedIn groups, and then possibly – with a very light touch – liking and commenting on people’s updates. Commenting on the posts they publish on LinkedIn helps, too. You can also share their updates, or follow them on other platforms. If they’ve written a book, read it and leave a review. By the time you’ve done all that, they’ll definitely know who you are.

And by then, you’ll know them, too. You’ll know far more about how you can help them, and you’ll know how to talk to them about the things they care about.

I realize this is a tall order if you’ve got 300 contacts. So 80/20 it. Pick 30 people who could be valuable enough to be worth this much attention. Then go give it to them.

6. Use your LinkedIn contacts as an email list.

I hear this one a lot. Many otherwise intelligent, competent people seem to get confused about this. “After all,” they say, “I’m allowed to communicate with my contacts on LinkedIn – what difference does it make if I send them emails? Don’t I have a ready-made email list from my LinkedIn work?”

Sorry, but it’s not okay. Do not download your list of contacts from LinkedIn and use it as if it was an email list. It could get you marked as a spammer, and it might well get you in trouble with LinkedIn, too.

These people didn’t give you permission to access their inbox. They gave you permission to be connected to them on LinkedIn. Those are two different things.

7. Try to get a date.

Do not use LinkedIn for dating. Or even for flirting. Or even for expressing your admiration for someone’s looks. There are dozens – maybe hundreds of sites for this elsewhere on the Internet. Leave LinkedIn alone.

8. Say negative things about people.

This is similar to picking a fight or trashing your company, but it has a different flavor, so I’d include it here.

What I’m really thinking of here is private communications on LinkedIn (or anywhere else, for that matter). Often someone will reach out to you and ask your opinion of someone. If you’ve got something good to say, great – reply with enthusiasm. But if you don’t… avoid saying anything negative. Too often, these inquiries end up getting back to the person they’re about. That makes for awkward situations later on.

9. Make it all about you.

Symptoms of this are promoting only your own content or pitching only yourself.

If you need business ASAP, this rule can be really hard to follow. I get that. But social media marketing is never about the hard, fast sell. It’s about being friendly and helpful. The most helpful people on LinkedIn are the ones who do best.

So instead of making it all about you, flip it over: Make it all about them. In every post, every InMail, every connection request, every comment.

10. Spam groups with your content (especially if it’s some amazing opportunity to earn money online).

You won’t get very far with this in most groups. They’ll just ban you … sometimes after only two offenses.

A sister offense to this is to break the rules of a LinkedIn group. That can mean anything from posting in the wrong section to posting affiliate links.

For some groups, breaking the rules can be surprisingly easy to do. So play it safe: Actually read the rules (they’re labeled as “Group Rules” right under the “About this Group” paragraph) before you post anything.

Conclusion

Every social media platform is different. What works on Facebook won’t fly on LinkedIn. And because LinkedIn is so focused on the business community, anything you say or do there will be specifically tied to you as a professional.

Consider the party metaphor we’ve all heard about social media: Behave on social media the way you’d behave at a party. Usually that means don’t talk just about yourself. Well, think of LinkedIn as a work party, a networking event, or an industry conference party. Act like you’re there to meet some amazing, influential people. It just might be true.

What are your LinkedIn pet peeves?

Are there any behaviors you’d like to stop seeing on LinkedIn? Get them off your chest by leaving a comment.

LinkedIn has evolved into a powerful lead generation tool for many businesses. Its features, like Publisher and Groups, lend themselves well to connecting businesses with prospects. With so many great features, it can be quite challenging to figure out how to use the ones that best fit your needs. To help you navigate your way through LinkedIn, we’ve put together 10 things you should be doing today to make the most of LinkedIn. Download, 10 Things B2B Companies Should Be Doing on LinkedIn.

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