Networking on LinkedIn is like doing the Electric Slide. Everyone thinks they know how to do it, but not everyone is doing it right (sorry to those who always throw off the person beside you because you’re directionally challenged).
There’s something about the way people “network” on LinkedIn that is either a reflection of our society becoming more socially awkward or a reflection of our society becoming more “me” oriented—or probably both.
Regardless of your reason for wanting to build connections, it should be a dance where everyone is on the same page and moving (or grooving) in the same direction. Anything else is just a semblance of what it was originally meant to be used for.
Don’t be that person everyone frowns at because you didn’t take the right steps to genuinely connect on LinkedIn. Here are some networking mistakes to avoid.
1. Sending generic connection requests
Would you walk up to a complete stranger and ask for inside access to their activities, personal information, and contacts? (I will proceed, assuming your answer is, “Of course not!”)
Just because you’re networking online doesn’t mean social etiquette should be thrown out the window. It’s still important to establish some type of rapport with anyone you send a LinkedIn invitation to, even if it’s brief.
It could be as simple as this:
I came across your profile, and I see that we share the same industry and interests. It’s always a pleasure to connect with like-minded professionals on LinkedIn. I’d love the opportunity to learn more about what you do and exchange helpful information.
Do you see the difference a personalized message can make? It helps to show your intention and separates you from others who are just trying to connect with everyone to grow their numbers.
If there is someone you don’t know but have similar interests, or mutual friends, that you would like to network with, take the time to personalize the request instead of sending the generic invitation message.
2. Accepting everyone’s invitation to connect
Speaking of numbers. Not everyone deserves to be a part of your professional network.
You may get requests from people that you don’t know. Sometimes you have mutual connections; sometimes none at all. There’s no hard-and-fast rule for who you should connect with, but keep this in mind: Quality over quantity.
While having 10k+ connections seem impressive, you also want quality connections who are your target audience and will actually engage with your content.
Also, when you accept an invitation to connect from a questionable networker, you open up access to others in your network (unless you have elected to have that information private to only you). This means someone can potentially reach out to one of your connections and they may accept the request thinking you have vouched for that person.
When you receive an invitation to connect, take the time to look at the person’s profile and see if it’s someone you want to network with. Does the person have a complete professional profile? Do you share similar interests or groups?
If yes, go for it. After all, that’s what networking is about. The key is not to accept anyone you would not want to network with in-person or bring to an event with you.
3. Getting too personal
Not everything about your personal life is everyone’s business. Here’s the thing about LinkedIn: There is more freedom to show your personal brand, but you should be mindful of how much personal information you share since it could be held negatively against you.
It’s not to say that you should hide your personal life or beliefs, but this is still a social platform used for business. You don’t want any biases attached to you because of information that you disclosed that has nothing to do with your passion and brand. This is especially important if you are actively looking for new clients or a job.
4. Asking for favors without keeping in touch
One of the things I talk about often is nurturing relationships. I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep in touch with key connections (former colleagues, clients, business connections, etc.). Even if you’re not looking for business or a favor right now, you can alleviate the awkwardness of asking for help by keeping in touch.
These don’t have to be daily or even weekly interactions, but enough where the other person would not hesitate to think about you if you ask for help or a referral. Sure, if you have a strong personal brand, you probably will have people that would help you regardless, but you never want the relationship to be one-sided.
Ultimately, part of building a strong personal brand is being able to tap into your network for help or information as needed. Just remember it’s important to give back to your network as well.