Perspective: LinkedIn Etiquette is Common Sense, Isn’t It?

The key word in “Social Networking” is “Social”.  I find that whenever I speak about anything with the word “Social” in it, it is automatically assumed that I am referring to “Social” media, when I am in fact referring to social situations, whether that means face-to-face or via the internet.

There is a major disconnect when it comes to appropriate etiquette on social media… even on a professional social platform such as LinkedIn.  We have found that it helps people understand the error of their ways when we equate the on-line situations to a face-to-face situation.  I thought sharing a few of these metaphors might be helpful and perhaps even influence the way we behave on social media from an etiquette standpoint.  It’s simply a matter of transferring our face-to-face social etiquette to our on-line social etiquette.

Scenario #1: The Most Boring Sentence You Can Read on LinkedIn

LinkedIn: You know what I’m referring to… “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”  It only takes a few moments to write 2 lines confirming why you are interested in making a professional connection on LinkedIn.  Show a little love!  

F2F (Face-to-Face): Would you walk up to a random person on the street and out of the blue say, “I’d like to add you to my professional network in LinkedIn?”  It’s never happened to me at a networking event, on the street, or anywhere else.  So why do people feel as though it is appropriate on LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional social network?

Scenario #2: Not Feeling Special…

Last year, LinkedIn took away the ability to BCC in mass messaging… both a blessing and a curse.  For those of us that used it appropriately and with social etiquette, it has made some functionality a little more daunting.  For the people using the bcc function in order to spam their network, it was a blessing… or so we thought.

LinkedIn: Even though the bcc option is no longer available, people continue to send mass messages, only now we know that we are not special.  The biggest issue is when people start responding (whether positive or negative), and it fills your inbox with comments from people you don’t know.  Who needs more white noise?

Not F2F but you get it: This is the equivalent of those email blasts that automatically get filed into your spam folder… or your promotions tab… there is a reason for that.

If it’s that important to you, then take the time to send your message to each person individually.  Make it personal. Add value to your relationships.

Scenario #3: Someone Walks into the Front Door of Your Business

F2F: What do you do when someone walks into the front door of your business?  Do you simply stare at them and wait for them to speak?  I certainly hope not.  Most places of business take the following course of action: greet them, thank them, and ask them what brought them in or how you can help them. It seems like common sense, doesn’t it?

What actions did they take to walk before they landed on your doorstep?  They most likely googled you, MapQuested directions to locate you, vetted you either through other people in their network or via social media boards, then took the time to show up and walk through your door.  I would hope that you would have a better response then to not respond at all!

LinkedIn: This is how you should view “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” on LinkedIn.  Most of the time, people don’t just land on your profile by accident.  There was a process leading up to it.  Something like this perhaps: they googled you, then searched for you on LinkedIn to locate you, maybe had a conversation with your common connections or check out your recommendations on your profile and other social sites… does this sound familiar (hint – look at the previous paragraph)?

What would social etiquette dictate at this time?  You guessed it – greet them, thank them, ask them what brought them in or how you can help them. It seems like common sense, doesn’t it?

Scenario #4: You’re at a Dinner Party

LinkedIn is a 24/7 networking opportunity.  It’s a 24/7 dinner party with colleagues.  The potential in engaging others in conversation is unlimited.

F2F: When you are seated at a table during said dinner party, do you simply stare at the people around you that are currently engaged in conversation?  Or do you nod your head in agreement, interject comments and add to the conversation where appropriate, and pull others into the conversations as well?

LinkedIn: The dinner party is equivalent to status updates on your home page, in groups, and via your Publisher. Remember that LinkedIn is a 24/7 dinner party with colleagues.  When your network posts content and updates on LinkedIn, it is with the intention of engaging their network in conversations that matter to them.  This is one way to open up the lines of communication, provide thought leadership, stay top of mind, and listen to your perspective as well.

Many professionals are uncomfortable with the whole ‘like, comment, share’ aspect, but I think it’s more of an issue of not knowing than not caring.

F2F: So think of ‘like, comment, share’ like this:

If Mary is sitting across from John at a dinner party engaging in conversation, and Steve overhears the conversation then nods his head in agreement to what Mary is saying, that is a like.

If Steve then adds to the conversation with his point of view or with a question, that is a comment.

If Steve then turns to his right and askes Jane if she heard what Mary just said, that is a share.

Scenario #5: Everyone’s Pitching and Nobody’s Catching

F2F: You walk into a networking event; there are dozens to hundreds of professionals in the room.  Your first thought is to walk up to random people that you don’t know, haven’t met, and have no idea whether it even makes sense to try to develop a relationship with, and then it happens.  You pitch your product or service. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!  So many professionals feel that this is an appropriate way to network, and to gain new business, but I don’t know too many folks that show a great deal of success with this strategy. Let me ask you this… do you attend networking events in the hopes of being sold a handful of services or products?  No. You don’t.  You rely on your network of trusted advisors, or you do your research on-line.

LinkedIn: Bad Scenario #1: Someone has reached out to connect with you on LinkedIn.  You don’t know them, but you’ve checked them out, and for one reason or another you decide they would be a good connection for you.  Then it happens.  The very next day you receive a message asking you to buy something.  They don’t know you, they don’t know what you need, and they don’t know if it even makes sense to contact you, but they do it anyway.  Listen folks – a cold call is a cold call, whether it’s over the phone or via social media.  If you haven’t heard yet, this is the era of influencing… not selling.  Buyers are tired of over eager sales people that are in it for themselves.  Nobody wants to be “sold to” or “closed”.  People want to be able to learn from you and be guided along the sales process.

Bad Scenario #2:  Even worse – the “cold call” InMail pitching you services or products.  At least in scenario #1, there was an effort to gain a connection, even though it was a sole-less digital connection.  That connection provided them permission to message you.  Unfortunately, the message was a cold call!  But in scenario #2, there is total disregard for permission or acceptance.  It’s arrogant and it’s stealing time from the person receiving it.  It’s totally inappropriate!

Social etiquette is social etiquette, regardless of on-line or F2F, it is all social etiquette.  There are respectful ways to approach people, and there are disrespectful ways.  While it may not be your intention to offend anyone, you may be creating more of a disconnect through your actions.  It all goes back to that old adage of treating people the way you would like to be treated.  Don’t change the way you behave in social situations on social media just because it’s easier, or faster, or because you are not standing right in front of the person.  Enhance your social media presence by bringing your level of respect and professionalism to your on-line community.  If you can show people how valuable you are on-line by transferring your F2F presence to your digital presence, you may find that things become a little bit easier on the professional front.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.  Did this change the way you look at social media, especially from a professional point of view?  Do you have any other scenarios that you can share?  Is there anything you are uncertain of that we can help clear up?

When you are ready to implement an actual social selling process, contact Bobbie at All About Leverage for more information. It’s all about the process!


  • Be the first to give to your new business relationships
  • Always pay it forward
  • Network with purpose.

About Bobbie

Bobbie specializes in helping executives as well as sales & marketing teams maximize client acquisition through the intersection of face-to-face networking combined with social selling techniques. Her customized programs and processes not only help in building the right network of prospects, clients, referral partners, and centers of influence, but also provide techniques to become thought leaders in their industry and stay top of mind with their targets.

Leave a Reply