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5 Things to Stop Doing on LinkedIn, Now
Effective networking is crucial to career growth. But so many people get even the basics wrong. Here's how you can learn from their mistakes.
It's often surprising to see how people use personal social media platforms like X (formerly known as Twitter), Instagram and Facebook to overshare about their lives, promote divisive political views and post pictures that make you question their judgment. However, people often forget that LinkedIn is primarily a professional/business network in which you are also representing your company and your professional reputation.
Most people do leverage the platform to further their careers or represent their organizations in a professional manner. However, I see so many people continue to use the platform in ways that are offensive, spammy or even risky for their careers.
Here are five things you should stop doing on LinkedIn today:
1. Posting Inflammatory Comments
If there is anywhere you should take your mom's advice of "if you have nothing nice to say, don't say it at all," it's on LinkedIn. I can't think of a worse place to be a troll, as doing so can have real consequences for your career.
If you disagree with something someone has written in a post or comment—and it's not attacking you, your company, or a cause you really care about—it's better to respond respectfully, or not at all.
I have had many strangers criticize me personally and make unfounded assumptions based on an article on LinkedIn that simply shared a perspective or experience. This type of thoughtless commenting doesn’t reflect well on the person who is doing it, especially since their company is associated with their profile. LinkedIn is also a global platform and posts are seen by people with very different cultural norms. What might be normal to say in one culture could be interpreted as very offensive by another (ie, "This is total rubbish!").
It’s easy to forget that what we post on LinkedIn can be permanent and may be seen by your current or future boss or colleagues. I know I would never hire anyone whose profile says they are looking for a job and whose comment activity shows they are picking fights all day long.
2. Connect & Sell
Everyone who’s been on LinkedIn has probably gotten a cold sales pitch via LinkedIn messenger—for example, a case where a person whom you’ve either recently connected with, or who is requesting to connect with you, sends a canned or automated marketing pitch about their business. A more common tactic these days is the bait and switch, where someone makes a note in the invitation about noticing your profile and wanting to be connected, etc, then makes a sales pitch minutes after the invitation is accepted.
This tactic really rubs most people the wrong way and immediately ruins your credibility. It is the professional equivalent of asking someone for their phone number at a bar before starting a conversation. I make a point of removing every person who does this from my connections list.
Instead of pitching right away, focus first on establishing a relationship or authentic rapport, or providing some value that the person actually needs. People can also see right through the AI bots that are commonly used today to try to get the other person to engage; they don’t feel genuine or personal.
3. Tagging Unrelated People in Your Posts for Exposure
Every time I see this, I feel like one of my teenage kids when they tell me me that something I’ve done is embarrassing or uncool.
Writing articles about influential people or posting a question for someone you know in a comment or post is a smart strategy for building awareness and dialogue. But some on LinkedIn try to gain visibility for their posts by tagging unrelated people who have big followings, often tagging 10 to 20 people at a time. This is similar to putting tons of hashtags at the end of your post and looks spammy.
Tagging people is not necessarily a bad idea, but make sure those people are clearly related to your content. If you’re tagging lots of people who have nothing to do with what you’re sharing, it might devalue your content and affect your credibility with other readers. You might also annoy that person, who can untag themselves (which is seen by others) and may even remove you as a connection, something I do frequently.
4. Talking Politics
There’s a time and place for political opinions—but unless politics is your career, it isn’t always a great idea for LinkedIn. And this isn’t just the case for inflammatory political opinions either—it’s impossible to know what political comments may be distasteful to others or rub them the wrong way, especially people in your own company.
If your organization is listed on your LinkedIn profile—as is the case for many—it’s vital to remember that you are seen as a member of that organization when you post. You never know if something you posted could cost you your job or a future one, with or without you knowing.
5. Asking Executive Team Members to Connect About Jobs (Not On Their Team)
When I was CEO of AP, and even now as chairman, people I don’t know personally often reach out via LinkedIn messenger to discuss a role at Acceleration Partners they are interested in. It can be smart to network into a job on LinkedIn, but you need to know your audience and be very careful about reaching out to the right person and with your approach, especially to the leadership team.
Asking a senior leader or CEO you don’t know, especially in a larger organization, to engage about a role not on their team before you do any research or without any context doesn’t demonstrate great emotional intelligence and may even ruffle some feathers on the recruiting team. It is different if you are reaching out to the hiring manager, an alumni of your university, etc or for example, applying for a role on the CFO’s team and try and connect with them to establish a rapport. However, come prepared having done your homework and don’t waste their time with basic questions.
Let’s be honest, a CEO is not going to jump on a call to talk with someone they don’t know about a role that they aren’t hiring for, so don’t make that your ask. If you’re reaching out to the CEO as an active candidate, the best thing you can do is to send a short note, say you are applying for a role and are excited about the opportunity, without making an ask. Often, I will forward these courtesy notes to my recruiting team.
LinkedIn is a great platform for business, but it’s far more effective when you use it correctly and don’t try to force things in an unnatural way. Stopping these five things will make you a better networker and help you build more positive professional relationships.
Let me know in the comments what others you would add to this list.