I’ve been a LinkedIn member for a long time now. As a matter of fact, I got an email last week from LinkedIn announcing their just passing 100 million members, and thanking me for being one of not only the first 1 million members, but actually placing being one of the first 685,000 members; not so bad, right? At first I wasn’t sure what to think of LinkedIn, but as time went along, I started to realize that as a business vehicle it’s fairly essential to be listed on the site and participating in some fashion. I’ve met a few people locally through there as well; that never stinks.

Having said that, as the site has grown I have to say that there are a number of people who don’t get it. I mean, it’s not all that hard to use, yet I see some things that just make me absolutely cringe. Since I figure it’s what I do, I’m going to offer 5 effective ways to use LinkedIn.

1. If you’re inviting someone to accept you as a connection, please write something special other than the standard message given to you by LinkedIn. This is a pet peeve of mine, and it seems to be a pet peeve of man local Syracuse folks based on what I’m reading on Twitter. It takes no time at all to write something a bit more personal, especially when you don’t know the person you’re asking to join, and then if it’s someone you know it’s even more special.

2. If you’re inviting someone to be a connection, don’t list them as someone who has worked with your business or at your business if they never did. This one is common for me, and its irksome. That’s because LinkedIn then believes you actually worked for that company and it starts sending you messages any time someone else from that company signs onto their service. And there’s nothing you can do about it; trust me on this one.

3. Join a group and write something. This was one of the changes LinkedIn made back in 2008 and it was a good one. Their groups are either business related or education related, and they give you a chance to show that you have some knowledge in your field. This is one place where lurking won’t do you any good because no one will know you’re there; why waste your time like that?

4. Every once in awhile, pop in a business update of some kind. I try to get there at least once a week to write something short and sweet that’s happened in my business, though sometimes it’s a couple of weeks. You do this because when LinkedIn sends out its weekly email, your name and what you’ve done might pop up in someone’s inbox, or they may be compelled to follow the link in the email to see what other people they’re connected to have done during the week. People like working with successful people.

5. If you ask for recommendations, only do it for people you know well and who know your work. I get requests all the time from people I barely know or may have met but never worked with. I ignore every single one of them, which of course means I delete them from my inbox, and I never respond to those people at all. Every once in awhile, if I’ve never met them in person, I’ll drop them from my contacts list. That kind of thing is unethical in my opinion, and if you’re unethical and I don’t really know you, how might you treat me when we do get to know each other?

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