If you ever have to question whether or not you should accept a connection request on LinkedIn, proceed like you’re dipping fruit in a chocolate fondue while wearing all white. In my attempt to give a questionable member a chance, I was reminded to follow my gut when accepting requests.

The warning signs continued upon accepting his invitation. After I sent an email to welcome him to my network, as I do with all my connections, his response was this: “Your posts are amazing! You are a special person with a lovely light about you.” Oookay, a little intense, but innocent enough and not grounds to remove him from my network yet. Then he started digging through my old articles and writing long comments, referring back to his business. This seemed less innocent as we were in the same industry.

My final straw was when he decided to comment on a LinkedIn makeover presentation on my profile. His “feedback” was more like a soliloquy that slammed my professional advice. I can take constructive criticism, but attempting to publicly dismantle my work crossed the line. Minutes after going to town on my presentation (because clearly he had a lot of time on his hands), he sent an email noting typos in my past articles and asking if I was from another country because of my use of punctuation.

Who died and anointed him LinkedIn’s official grammar king?

At this point I realized I let a troll in my network, so I blocked him from accessing my LinkedIn profile. That should have been the end, but nope; it wasn’t. After finding out I blocked him, he targeted me through my business website via my consultation form and sent this lovely message:

“Your advice is wrong at times, and does not serve candidates with SEO and
ATS concerns. You have no business experience; your punctuation is
uncertainly set somewhere on the pond. Use American rules consistently in
the States.Your writing is sing-song, drawn out and very tweenish at times. If you
had a problem with my remarks, the best plan would have been to accept
their truth and correct your bad advice. I did not get here by being
defensive…”

I can’t say for certain, but I THINK he was offended. (I’m also still trying to figure out what “sing-song” means and wondering how my punctuation ended up in a pond.)

I’ll spare the rest of the message, since I don’t want to feed his ego. But this experience reminded me how often professionals are subjected to trolls on LinkedIn. It can be a huge turn off when it comes to social networking. After all, who wants to deal with that nonsense? Well, you don’t have to. Here are some tips to help you protect your network, and sanity, as you build your personal brand.

1. Don’t feed the trolls. Trolls thrive on being nasty and getting a reaction from others. This is the very reason why they shouldn’t be acknowledged. They crave attention and say terrible things to others for kicks and giggles. Savvy social media marketing expert John White said it best when comes to dealing with trolls: “Don’t feed the trolls and they will go elsewhere. There is nothing worse for a troll than being starved….aka ignored.”

2. Carefully screen requests before accepting. It’s important to be selective when it comes to accepting invitations to connect. Of course it’s great to say you have a huge following, but you also want to make sure your connections are like-minded professionals—not trolls, moles, or haters. In the article, “Big Hat, No Cattle,” Sarah Elkins and Deb Helfrich outline great advice about accepting connection requests and building a quality network—definitely worth checking out.

If you’re on the fence about accepting someone’s request after reviewing their profile, take a look at their recent LinkedIn activity. What you find will help you decide if this is the type of person you want in your network. Here are the steps to view a member’s recent activity via your desktop:

1. Go to his/her profile.
2. Click the down-arrow next to the “Send [person’s name] InMail” button (the button may say “Send a Free message,” depending on account settings).
3. Select “View Recent Activity” from the drop-down menu.

Just as a side note: This tip will not work if the person has elected some privacy settings for their activity feed or they have not been active over the last two weeks.

3. Kick the trolls out. Consider your LinkedIn network your personal backyard. It’s ultimately up to you to uphold the rules and maintain a positive environment for networking. You may not always know who the trolls will be, but you can minimize the impact if they sneak in. Unprofessional behavior that crosses the line (whatever that may be for you) is unacceptable. Here are the steps to remove a connection from your network via your desktop:

1. Go to his/her profile.
2. Click the down-arrow next to the “Send Message” or “Endorse” button (this may vary per profile).
3. Select “Remove Connection” from the drop-down menu.
4. Click the “Remove” button.

You can also block a connection from being able to access your account by following the steps above and selecting “Block/report” from the drop-down menu.

4. Remember that trolls are cowards. There’s something about being behind the computer that makes some people more bold and assertive than they would ever be in real life. The same people that can say the cruelest things online wouldn’t dare utter those same words in person. Not every comment has to be a love fest, but it’s important to have respectful exchanges even when you disagree. People with good intentions understand that being disruptive and putting others down is a form of bullying, and it’s wrong.

As you become more active on LinkedIn, you’ll encounter trolls at some point. But don’t let it stop you from sharing your thoughts or writing your own articles. The more you build your personal brand, the more you will attract trolls who will try to tear you down. It can knock you off your feet at first, but don’t let it keep you down. Consider it a badge of honor that you must be on the right track.

Photo courtesy of Flickr: Babbletrish

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Marietta Gentles Crawford
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Marietta Gentles Crawford

Writer + Personal Brand Strategist, Founder at MGC Ink
Marietta Gentles Crawford is a writer, personal brand strategist, and author of "From Nine to Thrive: A Guide to Building Your Personal Brand and Elevating Your Career." With over ten years' experience climbing through top corporate and government brands as a writer and trainer, her passion is inspiring professionals to dare mediocrity.
Marietta Gentles Crawford
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