Demystifying LinkedIn

A lot of people I speak to about LinkedIn, particularly those who don’t spend all of their time online or glued to their phone, tell me they feel a little uncomfortable when they first go onto the site.

Why is this?

From what I can tell, it’s because they don’t know the rules … and we like to know the rules. Deep down the majority of us like to fit in and we feel comfortable when we do. We can reveal bits about ourselves at our own pace … and that pace will differ between individuals.

What do you do on LinkedIn?

Is it rude not to accept an invitation? What happens when I press “that” button? Do they know if I disconnect from them? Do they really know when I look at their profile? Do I have to read all the motivational quotes on my homepage?

If we don’t know how we should act then that’s not so good and we don’t want to offend. So what we do is … nothing.

To help, I try to equate LinkedIn with something they are more comfortable with and so I use the analogy that LinkedIn is simply a big room … perhaps a big room containing a networking event if you like.

Most of us understand the rules of engagement there. We look for the people we want to talk to, we find a way to break the ice and we speak to them. Perhaps we take a peek at their name badge and us that to ask about them – hopefully, we then get the opportunity to tell them a little bit about ourselves. If there is interest in taking that conversation further, we exchange business cards and arrange a time to call or meet again to discuss in more depth.

Well … LinkedIn is very much the same. Follow those same steps on LinkedIn and you’re going to be in a better place than most … there’s nothing worse than thinking the height of LinkedIn etiquette is hiding behind a computer screen and firing off connection requests to all and sundry.

What should I talk about?

Well … sorry to sound like a scratched record (now there’s a phrase from my generation!) but what would you say to them face to face? What’s your preferred opening gambit … whatever it is, that would make a good personalised message in your invitation to connect.

Do put something though. Please.

I mean, when you walk up to someone in a room – do you just hand them a business card and walk off again, or do you introduce yourself and ask about them? Hopefully the latter. On LinkedIn make sure that you do the same and personalise every invitation you send out …. stand out right from the start, rather than limply offer the generic “I’d like to add you to my Professional network on LinkedIn” which still makes up 80% of the invitations that get sent.

Nobody likes a limp handshake.

And should I keep it business like? Well, it’s not really the place for sharing holiday pictures with a room full of strangers but equally there’s no need to be totally straight laced. Think of it as something that has as its main course something that is definitely business focused and yet with a potential side serving of social if you feel so inclined.

On LinkedIn of course, when we do introduce ourselves this is backed up by the huge amount of information on our profile, so we can dispense with a large amount of the preamble. We might continue the conversation and arrange to meet up again later to continue the discussions – the first steps in developing that business relationship. Do we need to stay in that room to do so, absolutely not … business is conducted everywhere … and the same is true of connections we make here on LinkedIn. Develop them on here of course but develop them elsewhere too.

So, in terms of a way of approaching LinkedIn, I’d really encourage you to consider the Big Room concept and when you go in there, do so with a purpose in mind and then give yourself the time to develop a rapport and engage with the people you find there … don’t just rush around handing out business cards and then moving on.

Unless you would in real life of course!

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