social media how toAre you looking to grow your LinkedIn network?

Do you want to improve your chances of connecting with people via LinkedIn?

In this article, you’ll find six tips for successful networking that will help you avoid common mistakes that can damage your professional reputation on LinkedIn.

What’s Different About LinkedIn?

Unlike social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter that accommodate both personal and business uses, LinkedIn is a social network built strictly for business.

From the appearance of your profile to how you manage relationships, the people on LinkedIn expect professional behavior from you at all times.

As you build your network, it’s important to know what’s appropriate and what’s considered bad LinkedIn etiquette.

Here are six tips:

#1: Show People Your Business Side

You only get one chance to make a first impression, so make it count. If you use an unprofessional image for your profile photo, you may never get a chance to recover your reputation.

Your LinkedIn profile image should show you in your best professional light. Use a head shot with a clean background, a smile and a clear view of your eyes. Think of how you would present yourself at an event thronging with prospects and use an image that does the same, online.

professional profile image

Always use an appropriate profile image.

#2: Skip the Keyword-Stuffing

The first thing many people do when they receive your connection request is look at your profile. And if your profile is stuffed with repetitive or irrelevant keywords, there’s a pretty good chance that they won’t connect with you.

too many keywords

Too many keywords make your profile look suspect.

Yes, you must optimize your LinkedIn profile with relevant keywords so you’re found in search results, but there is a big difference between keyword-optimizing and keyword-stuffing.

Instead of using a large number of vaguely relevant words to show up in hundreds of search results, choose three or four top keywords you want to be associated with to make sure you show up in search results when people are looking for exactly what you offer.

be selective with keywords

Be smart and selective with the keywords you use in your profile.

#3: Personalize Each LinkedIn Connection Request You Send

The default connection request message can send the wrong signal to the person you want to form a relationship with. The generic message can imply either that you don’t have the time to send a personal request or that they aren’t important enough to warrant a personalized request.

default connection message

The default connection message can end a relationship before it starts.

Personalize each connection request with a reminder of how the person knows you or explain why they should connect with you, and you’ll find they’re far more likely to accept. The latter is especially important when you’re trying to connect with prospects you’ve never met.

personal connection note

A personalized connection message shows that you value the person you want to connect with.

As a side note, if you send one too many invites that induce people to click on Report Spam or I Don’t Know This Person, you will end up in LinkedIn Jail. This will mean you’re required to enter an email address for prospects in any future LinkedIn invites you send, which greatly reduces your ability to expand your network.

#4: Ask for Endorsements From People Who Know Your Work

A LinkedIn endorsement is a great way to show someone that you notice and value their skills and knowledge about the service they provide.

unprofessional skills endorsement

This is not the best approach in getting skills endorsements. Endorsements should be given freely.

Endorsements should be given freely and without an agenda, and should never be followed up with a message saying, “I just endorsed your skills, can you endorse mine now?”

Endorse the skills of the people you’re connected with to show others that you appreciate and admire their work, not to build your own endorsements.

linkedin endorsement

Show your appreciation of another's skills with a LinkedIn endorsement.

If a connection does reciprocate, take the opportunity to grow your relationship with a personal thank-you message.

#5: Treat Recommendations Like References

Unlike endorsements for skills, recommendations are a personal reference and reflect on both parties. If you accept a recommendation from someone with a poor reputation, it shows on your profile and links back to theirs. Their reputation can reflect poorly on you.

professional recommendation approach

Only request recommendations from people who can vouch for your work.

Never ask for or accept a recommendation from someone you don’t know, or give a recommendation to someone whose work you can’t personally vouch for.

#6: Protect Your Connections’ Contact Information

Nobody feels special when they get a message that was sent to a bunch of other people. Worse, your connections may be offended when you share their email addresses with recipients they aren’t connected to.

If you send messages to more than one person at a time, be sure to unselect the option that says, “Allow recipients to see each other’s names and email addresses.”

uncheck allow recipients to see

Always uncheck the "Allow recipients to see each other's names and email addresses" option.

If you forget to uncheck the box, rectify the situation quickly and honestly. Send a message to those same recipients (with the box unchecked) and explain that you made a mistake and that you won’t let it happen again.

honest apology example

An honest apology will show that you take responsibility for the mistake.

Over to You

If you’re ever in doubt as to what you should do on LinkedIn, think of it as a networking event. Think about how you would present yourself, what you would do or how you would act when interacting with a person at a live event.

If you wouldn’t do it in person, don’t do it on LinkedIn!

What do you think? What mistakes have you made or seen on LinkedIn? What suggestions can you offer on how to use LinkedIn professionally? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.

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  • Thank you Melonie for sharing an excellent article here with us. For successful LinkedIn marketing, these tips and etiquettes are pretty essential to build impressive and credible relationship with potential clients. Last tip is pretty new for me, which I did not know before. Thanks once again for your invaluable thoughts.

  • Peter D. Mallett

    Good information. It sure would be good if we could all convince LinkedIn to not have that share box checked by default. That is an option that should be chosen not one that is a default in my opinion.

  • Melonie Dodaro

    I completely agree with you Peter!

  • Melonie Dodaro

    My pleasure Navneet, glad you found the article helpful.

  • Great tips! I’ve gotten lazy with #3 and this is a good reminder of the importance of personalization. -Andy

  • Melonie Dodaro

    Oh yes Andy, ALWAYS personalize!

  • I’m curious, is it normal practice to add people you don’t know to your Linkedin network? I’d understand if you add people you had an engagement with previously (whether online or offline). But recently, I find that I’m getting more and more requests from marketers trying to connect through Linkedin without any prior touch point.

  • Melonie Dodaro

    Yes it happens all the time Zach. I always tell people that if you want to connect with someone you don’t know be sure to tell them WHY you want to connect. They are much more likely to accept that way.

  • @meloniedodaro:disqus I always recommend the same thing to people I train on using LinkedIn.

    Asking to be introduced is also helpful.

  • @meloniedodaro:disqus, what are your throughs on personalizing if it is someone you work closely with?

  • Just when I thought I had figured out everything about LinkedIn! For some reason, personalizing my connection requests totally slipped my mind. Won’t let that happen again! Great post!

  • Ayesha Saini

    I disagree with asking for recommendations, in turn of giving one # 5. This clearly seeks favoritism, and doesn’t not reflect on true skills.

  • Regarding #3, I always personalize but I found that LinkedIn does not always let you do that. You can only personalize if you go to the persons profile and click connect from there. It doesn’t let you personalize when you click the connect button
    – in the ‘People you may know’ list
    – your smart phone app (Windows Phone, don’t know of any other).

  • Cruz

    I love the article. At a company in currently as, their strategy for LinkedIn has been nothing more than adding as many people as possible and spamming the same message. Its always a “look at this” “look how we have made that”. At other companies, social media is social not a free page to spam ads.

    I’ll reference your article in hopes of changing their current state of mind. Thank you!

  • Mike O’Neil

    Melonie always does a really great job at these. Thanks Melonie!

    With such a fight for attention on LinkedIn now, your picture has become more important again. It isn’t that you have one, but that your picture STANDS OUT.

    A great off-center smile like Melonie, a nifty fuzzy background by Debbie White, a bold black background by Ken. They all spring from the page.

    A headshot picture in a suit from a photography studio isn’t “it” anymore. STYLE points count double now.

    That’s my 2 cents. My the way – LinkedIn didn’t like my Andy Warhol picture. It was simply “gone’ one day.

  • Melonie Dodaro

    That’s a great 2 cents Mike, thanks for adding that. And you are absolutely right!

  • Melonie Dodaro

    Thanks Cruz, spamming is not cool 😉

  • Melonie Dodaro

    Yes exactly John-Pierre, you always want to go to their profile and hit the connect button to ensure you have the opportunity to add a personal note!

  • Melonie Dodaro

    Awesome Ericka, you don’t want to end up in LinkedIn jail 😉

  • Tom Larsen

    On #3, you can click on common connections, tell Joe Smith you are going to mention his name to Melonie Dodaro and then tell Melonie, “I see we are connected to Joe Smith and he said it was OK to reach out to you.

  • Doug Champigny

    These should all be common sense for business people, just as their equivalents are in the offline business community – but unfortunately, they’re not. Thanks for another great post, @meloniedodaro:disqus!

  • Michael Lasch

    I think these are great tips to remind people while your online you still need to communicate with people as though your talking face to face.

  • AmandahBlackwell

    The biggest mistake I see is not personalizing each LinkedIn connection request you send. My suggestion is to take the time to read a person’s profile and website. Learn something about him or her and incorporate the information within your LinkedIn connection request. Also, if you don’t know the person, state “why” you want to connect. Do you have a mutual friend or business colleague? Are volunteers at a particular organization? Do you belong to the same association? You get the picture.

    Note: The tricky part about connecting with people you don’t know on LinkedIn is selecting a category: Colleague, Friend, etc. If you choose Other, you’ll need the person’s email address. You may have to put on your “investigator’s hat” to find it.

  • I don’t think it is a bad idea to ask for recommendations, but I would make sure that the person you ask is a true evangelist for you or your brand.

    I don’t think people are normally inclined to give out written recommendations, unless you ask them.
    Whenever, I have asked, the person is usually takes it as a compliment that you think highly enough of them to ask for a recommendation.

  • WOW Melonie, great writeup and great content. Your example emails absolutely kill it. THANKYOU! – Heath

  • LinkedIn really is a great platform for building professional connections, as we all know, and utilizing all of its features is key in creating a profile that attracts the right connections. Thanks for sharing these tips Melonie – they’re all great!

  • Ahhh…finally a great article on using LinkedIn! Thank you for taking time to put this together. I will be sharing this for so that others may benefit from it. Thanks again!

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  • Melonie – there I was skimming along nodding my head happily when – uh-oh! I didn’t know about the Recipients seeing each others names! ;o/ THAT is one mistake I’ll never make again thanks to you, so thank you :0) Anyone I’ve done this to, I apologize.

  • Melonie Dodaro

    Glad you were able to get a nugget from the article Marie.

  • Melonie Dodaro

    Thank you Jeremiah!

  • Melonie Dodaro

    My pleasure!

  • Melonie Dodaro

    Thanks Heath, glad you found it helpful.

  • Melonie Dodaro

    I absolutely agree 100%.

  • Melonie Dodaro

    Exactly Michael.

  • Melonie Dodaro

    Yeah exactly Doug. My #1 hiring criteria is common-sense and surprisingly many don’t have it!

  • Melonie Dodaro

    Sure you can, any commonality you can create is helpful and builds more rapport.

  • zaddleinternetmarketing

    Hi Melonie – great list – I would add one more – ensure you are utilising the feature to add video, pictures or presentations to your Linkedin profile. This can give people a great visual overview of what you “do” – especially if you are looking to get “picked” for a certain service you provide. At the moment on my LinkedIn profile I have one video and four pictures showing part of what I do. I have also uploaded presentations (although I might go back and re do these on Slideshare – they are currently on Prezi)

  • Melonie Dodaro

    Yes that’s a great addition. I always talk about that when I’m delivering LinkedIn presentations and webinars!

  • Melonie Dodaro

    If it is someone you know very well it’s not as important as they won’t be clicking “Report Spam” or “I don’t know”.

  • Ako James

    Melonie thanks for this interesting article,I found it so helpful and it has increased my zeal for linkedin.will share this in my group.thanks again

  • You are awesome Melonie !! Thanks for sharing valuable article.

  • great .Thanks .

  • Walter

    Hi Melonie,if I land in Linkedin’s jail,not being able to send invitations to new prospect,how can it be undone?

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  • severino

    This article teached me more than any seminar. Reading it I remembered how I process my live contacts and now I am thinking how to do they better, live and on Linkedin for the

  • Great post, Melonie! It never hurts to remind ourselves that LinkedIn is a business network first and foremost. If only everyone followed your etiquette tips here, it would be a much better place! Thank you.

  • Melonie Dodaro

    Thanks Ross.

  • Melonie Dodaro

    That’s great, I’m so glad you found it helpful.

  • Melonie Dodaro

    Great question Walter! You send LinkedIn a support ticket and ask to have the restriction lifted. Good luck!

  • Melonie Dodaro

    Thanks Nitish, you’re awesome too!

  • Melonie Dodaro

    You are most welcome Ako!

  • No problem! Have a great day.

  • Walter

    Thanks Melonie,would do exactly that. I feel restricted now.

  • Melonie, thanks for the great article. I think the two biggest mistakes people make is that they don’t have a profile picture nor do they have basic info about their background or experience. -AJ

  • Karen Adoo

    Thank you Melonie, I found this information very insightful and helpful especially #4. Endorsements from people who hardly know you or the work you do are of very little worth;hardly of any value. I believe that it’s very important to genuinely give endorsements without expecting any in return.

  • Nicholas Joseph Lim

    Thank you Melonie for these very useful tips you have high lighted in your article. I will definitely apply them regularly on LinkedIn and make them known among my friends. Much obliged.

  • David Robins

    I have asked for a recommendation and the person asked me what to write. I sent him the focus I was looking for and he wrote it from that direction. Another gave me a great comment on a class eval and I asked if he could copy it to LinkedIn. He was more than happy to do that.

  • Rachelle Williams

    Does that really exists ? @meloniedodaro:disqus

  • Thanks-Melonie the tips that you mention above give me some idea on how to personalize my LinkedIn Account. Continue posting:)

  • Miriam T

    Thanks for very informative post. Some new things here which explains things that have happened with my Premium Account.
    I am an active networker and have apparently ended up in LinkedIn jail, mainly due to limitations on mobile app. As you describe, I am now restricted to using non-personalized connection options, if I don’t know persons email.
    It seems to me to be self-perpetuating process. Option to personalized should pop up as default with all modes of connecting offered.
    I would very much like to go back to personalized messages.
    How do I earn my way out of jail?
    Thanks, any help appreciated.

  • Alicia

    Great article. Thank you

  • One of my biggest pet peeves is when people send an invite to connect without any background on how they found me. We may be part of five similar groups, but I just don’t know it. Nothing is creepier or less genuine than a generic invite to connect.

    I think LinkedIn should delete the default message and force users to start the conversation off right!

  • David

    Great article, Melonie. Thank you! Question – does having too many connections have any negative consequences? Thanx!

  • Excellent post, Melonie. One question… what value do endorsements have if the endorsers have never experienced the endorsees’ skills? I feel badly when I don’t reciprocate, but It would devalue the purpose if I I randomly check off people’s skills. Besides, it speaks to my credibility. What are your thoughts?

  • Cindy Billington

    I would love to see LinkedIn require people to write a special connection request as opposed to having the current default. I will certainly share this blog with my students and clients. Thank you!

  • Melonie Dodaro

    That would be a wonderful update if LinkedIn added that Cindy.

  • Melonie Dodaro

    I agree Elaine, I don’t think you should ever endorse or recommend someone you can’t personally vouch for.

  • Melonie Dodaro

    Hi David, no having too many questions doesn’t pose any negative consequences, that being said you should consider quality over quantity.

  • Melonie Dodaro

    I completely agree with you Sarah!

  • Melonie Dodaro

    Thank you Alicia.

  • Melonie Dodaro

    That’s great Julie!

  • Melonie Dodaro

    Glad you found it helpful Nicholas.

  • Melonie Dodaro

    I totally agree Karen!

  • Melonie Dodaro


  • tlmaurer

    Excellent list, Melonie. Thanks for sharing these tips with us. I especially like tip #3 on your list. It is amazing how many people send invitations without stating why they want to connect or why you should want to accept their invitation. That falls under basic manners, no matter how you look at it. The 2nd part of this issue is those that don’t bother to respond when you take the time to send a personalized note back to them. WHY are they even interested in connecting if they don’t intend to communicate with you?

  • Melonie Dodaro

    Send a support message to LinkedIn asking if they will kindly lift the restriction.

  • Melonie Dodaro

    I agree, I wrote an entire article about LinkedIn etiquette and this is a big one!

  • Guerry Thode

    Melonie, great article that I shared with my job-search group. I also agree with you and Peter that the share box should be unchecked as the default.

  • Margo R. W. Winter

    Nice, Melonie! Another tip I’d add is to join groups that the person with whom you’d like to connect has joined. Participate in conversations within that group and become a true community member. You can ask to connect to fellow group member. However, you’re much more likely to get a positive response if you’ve established yourself as a contributing citizen. Love that the Golden Rule also works in social media!

  • sonja

    I have had two spam messages from new contacts this week. They were both trying to sell me something. The message was clearly one that was sent to many people. Do you suggest marking as spam, disconnecting with those people or something else?

  • Syed Baseer

    Great Work ! Melonie; I have find the Exactly very useful message from this ; and i would definitely make my profile on this grounds……..:) thanks Once Again….

  • King

    I concur with all of the comments below. This is a great article and provides some great tips that could be applied immediately. Personalizing your connection request is something that i practice and highly recommend. Love your email examples you provided.

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  • Melonie – thanks for an informative article. I find myself in a confusing situation with using Linkedin. I own a ecommerce business which hosts two websites with different product lines. I recently updated my profile adding a new working experience as a liaison consultant. How does one brand oneself when engaged in varied enterprises?

  • Lakshay Kalra

    Thankyou 🙂 Brilliant Article ! Really helpful

  • Travis Hall

    thanks for letting me know these information. i am a newbie to linkedin and not familiar with it yet. so i have joined there 2 months ago, but still have only 1 connection. But i have confidence now, since seeing these tips. thanks again.

  • Melonie, #6 about protecting your contacts information was extremely helpful. As with many social media networks they “default privacy settings” to be loosy goosey and typically is a more sensitive topic for professionals connecting online. Also personalizing your messaging when connecting is a must.

  • Nikhil

    I’ am active on LinkedIn from past 2 months and I have 800 connections till now. I found it adding value to the knowledge I know about LinkedIn. Thank you.

  • Very helpful insight. I have to do more on #3 and #6. Asking for recommendation is sure a real profile booster. Thanks for sharing @meloniedodaro:disqus

  • Laxmi kant panda seo

    Thank you for sharing this article with mi .It is very help for me for successful LinkedIn marketing and ranking my LinkedIn profile

  • Connie Johnson

    I am new to LinkedIn and have made several mistakes that I though was right. I was glad to get this information to allow me to try to undo some of my errors. I am sorry if I offended any one and will do better!

  • Good post Melonie