Over the past few years, our clients have gone from, “What is LinkedIn, and why should I be there?” to “I know I should use LinkedIn for business development. Can you help me get started?”
As a result, we have spent a great deal of time educating clients on best practices for filling out their LinkedIn profiles, making connections, engaging in groups and uncovering and maximizing sales opportunities.
During these group and one-on-one sessions, we revealed a few of the most common concerns and questions executives have about LinkedIn:
1. Can I keep my contacts private?
Business is about relationships, and we hear from a lot of executives who worry that a competitor will look at their contacts to try to poach clients or employees.
Unfortunately, LinkedIn’s options on contact privacy are all or nothing. Contacts can either be visible to only you or to all of your connections. LinkedIn also caveats that “people will always be able to see shared connections.”
While there may be some cases where a professional would need to hide his network, we generally advise against it. One of the main benefits of LinkedIn is the ability to tap into second-degree connections and look for ways to facilitate mutually beneficial introductions.
2. Do I have to connect with everyone who asks ?
No. You can ignore requests from the bum you knew in college who is unemployed, or from people you don’t know or simply don’t want to know.
Your network is your public rolodex. Your connections should be people you personally know and/or have done business with, and who you might be able to refer to others.
Don’t worry: If you ignore someone, he won’t receive an email that says you denied his request.
3. What type of content should I share on LinkedIn ?
I love this question because so many executives spend time perfecting their profiles, and then effectively hide them by not regularly participating on LinkedIn.
Share your company’s news, thought leadership and blog posts. Say when you’ll attend a relevant industry or regional event.
But don’t make it all about you. Link to that fascinating article you read in WIRED about what the ideal hospital should look like in 2020, a professional tip or a piece of news that will be relevant to your network.
4. What’s the difference between an endorsement and a recommendation?
As LinkedIn says, an endorsement is an easy way for your connections to validate your skills and expertise. (It’s similar to a Facebook like).
A recommendation is a more detailed written statement from a connection that you can request directly through LinkedIn.
They are both excellent credibility builders, and savvy LinkedIn users have plenty of both. The best way to get is to give, but make sure you can independently verify the endorsements and recommendations you give.
5. When should I connect with new contacts?
Growing your network is an ongoing process. Generally, connecting soon after an in-person meeting is a good time, but there are plenty of exceptions. Even if you haven’t met face-to-face yet, it is perfectly acceptable to request a connection if you regularly work virtually with someone, a mutual contact makes an introduction via LinkedIn or you have a meeting scheduled and want to learn more about the person’s background.
Remember, it’s important to keep your network up to date. And, of course, personalize your connection requests.
Did we cover your top LinkedIn questions? What other questions do you hear regularly?
Keri Toomey is an account supervisor at Bliss Integrated Communication. A version of this article originally appeared on the Bliss blog.