You know who I’m talking about. That guy. LinkedIn is a powerful tool for growing and maintaining your network. Here’s how to ensure you use the tool and don’t become one.

Do – Connect with people you know

LinkedIn is a great way to meet new contacts, but first you need to connect with people you know. What do I mean by connect? Well it’s not just a matter of sending them a LinkedIn request. You need to connect. Getting LinkedIn is the first step of building an online relationship. But you need to nurture, assist, keep up with and maintain the relationship by interacting. How? Well congratulating someone on a new position or promotion, sharing relevant content you find online that might be of interest to them, commenting on status updates, starting and engaging in conversations within groups are all great ways.

Don’t – Send random or generic invitations

“I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Ever get one of these? How did it make you feel?  Either a) you have no clue who the person is and it feels like spam or b) you know the person well and are disappointed that they didn’t take the timer to personalize the message or c) you know them a little and this doesn’t make you want to get to know them better.

Take the time to personalize your requests. Remember, the person on the other end of the message has to make a decision to accept or reject the request. You need to tell them why it’s worthwhile to connect with you!

Do – Share important details and insightful content

The whole purpose of LinkedIn is to grow your personal network and sharing is an important part of that. You want people to know that you are open for business, competent, trustworthy and willing to help. This requires a certain degree of classy yet boarding on shameless self-promotion. How you do it, makes all the difference.

Demonstrating your expertise by writing and sharing useful information is far better than simply bragging about your accomplishments. Would you rather buy from a salesman who explains what he can do for you and how he’s helped others like you in his profile summary, or one who brags about his 280% over achievement of quota and how he’s made President’s club for the past 10 years in a row. Both might be highly capable of assisting you, but which one would you rather do business with?

Don’t – Warm spam

Linking in with me is not permission to spam me. So please don’t. Make your communications relevant, timely and actionable and I’ll be interested. Blast me a ton of junk and I’ll regret ever accepting your generic invitation to add me to your personal network.

Do – Put yourself out there

If you want to stand out then you have to put yourself out there. Posting other people’s content can make you a helpful resource but posting your own makes you a thought leader. You have a ton of expertise so share it. Telling ain’t selling so show your network what you can do for them and they will respond.

Don’t – Over expose yourself

While consistency is important, don’t over do it. If you’re spending all your time on LinkedIn posting, engaging and answering questions your boss and your customers are going to start wondering when you have time to do your job. There’s also nothing worse than a feed hogger. You know… when you log on to LinkedIn and 27 out of 30 status updates are from the same guy? He’s a feed hogger. Spreading out your LinkedIn love is the way to go. Always keep them wanting more

Do – Be professional in the way you communicate

Spelling and grammar count. With everything you post to LinkedIn you are demonstrating how you communicate and how you carry yourself professionally. It’s no different than standing up in front of a thousand people at a conference and speaking. You have to think about what you’re going to say, say it with charm, elegance and refinement and keep in mind that everyone you know, work with, work for or want to work for is watching. No pressure though…

Don’t – Think LinkedIn is Facebook

No NSFW (not safe for work) pictures. No awesome football play recaps. No icky personal relationship details. No vaguebooking. No gossip. No “that’s what she said”. No song lyrics (I’m not a fan of inspirational quotes either). No third person updates, we know it’s you. No publicizing private moments. No DrinkedIn updates. No jokes. No urban legends or chain letters. No politics (office, federal, provincial or municipal). No pyramid schemes. No pictures of pets (unless you’re a vet). No updates on how sick you are. No bite by bite reporting of what you ate for lunch.

Save it all for where all that stuff belongs: Facebook.

Do – Ask for what you have earned

If you’ve done a great job for a customer, helped a colleague or really made a difference for another person in some way, it’s ok to ask for a referral or recommendation on or off of LinkedIn.

Don’t – Be a taker

Repeatedly pestering for a referral, recommendation or endorsement when you barely know someone, have never really worked with them or haven’t spoken to them in 10 years is not going to produce the greatest results. If you want someone to introduce you to one of  thier contacts, to recommend or endorse you start by giving not by asking.  But if you must… how about a thank-you note or at the very least return the favour?

Got any other do’s and don’ts to ensure you’re not that guy? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!