A friend recently told me about a situation that really upset him. He received a LinkedIn contact invitation from a business acquaintance. My friend accepted and wrote a nice note saying, "Good to hear from you. Let's get together for coffee and catch up." There was no response. "What happened to common courtesy?" my friend asked. "Was this guy really interested in networking with me or was he just trying to see how many connections he could rack up on LinkedIn?" • Manners seem to have taken a back seat since we've been communicating online. What happened to picking up the phone or even emailing? And, some of us think that nurturing business relationships through personal contact isn't worth the effort. Hint: It is. So here are a few gentle reminders. For this column I've focused on LinkedIn.
• LinkedIn is designed to help businesspeople network, share information and perhaps do business with one another.
• Your profile is your "face" on LinkedIn. Present yourself truthfully. Be professional. Represent yourself as a responsible business person who has legitimate qualifications and a track record; demonstrate that you can be trusted.
• LinkedIn isn't a competition. You won't win the jackpot if you have more contacts than anyone else. Connect only with people you know or want to know. You can introduce yourself and ideally set up a phone or face-to-face meeting or arrange a meeting through a mutually known third party.
• If someone sends you an email or message on LinkedIn, answer it. What good is having contacts if you don't follow up and nurture the relationships?
• LinkedIn is a conduit for win-win situations. If you want something from your LinkedIn contact what can you offer them in return?
• Groups are great, but don't misuse them. Pay attention to discussions, join if you have something to share that is beneficial to the group, and don't dominate all the conversations.
• Post only links, articles or information that will benefit your LinkedIn readers.
• Never endorse people you haven't worked with or whose work you are not familiar with.
Marie Stempinski is the founder and president of Strategic Communication in St. Petersburg. She specializes in public relations, content marketing, business development and employee motivation. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her website, howtomotivateemployees.org.