It’s always worth reminding ourselves that LinkedIn is a way to foster your relationships with other living, breathing human beings – with all their uniqueness, their sensitivities and their social expectations. If you want to relate well with valuable contacts and clients, you need to treat them with the kind of respect, consideration and social grace that you yourself would expect as a client or potential client.
Earlier this month Liz Ryan wrote an excellent piece about the ” several jarring ways in which LinkedIn makes clear that its product folks don’t understand how real people operate.” She picks out five particular examples of how this otherwise excellent online business networking tool doesn’t quite grasp what Ryan calls “the soft and squishy side of online networking and collaboration.”
It’s worth being careful, therefore, about how you use the many tools and functions that LinkedIn provides. Before you press that invitation button, request that recommendation, or publish that comment, think to yourself:
- Would I say it, or do it, like this if I were talking with someone in person, or on the phone?
- How would I feel if someone spoke to me or treated me this way?
- Is there a better way of doing this that this particular person would prefer?
Along these lines, for example, it’s worth thinking about who you accept as connections if you haven’t met them, and how you ask for a connection with people you haven’t met. Kristen Burnham has written about when to accept or reject connections, and offers some tips on which connections to accept and what to do when you yourself approach someone you don’t know.
For professionals, LinkedIn is a great technical aid for growing your business, but at the end of the day that business growth will depend on having solid, long-lasting relationships with flesh-and-blood human beings.