By Will Kintish, Business Networking Skills And LinkedIn Authority

Like everything we do in life there’s the right way and the other way. I am sharing with you how I think you can become more professional and get more from LinkedIn. These are the 7 regular errors I see people doing or not doing once they are registered on LinkedIn.

1. Sending a curt invitation

To start your LinkedIn online relationship you need to invite people to become part of your network. As with all new relationships the only way to do it is with courtesy, politeness and good manners.

When you use the default message Linkedin suggests “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”, I believe, ticks none of those boxes. It’s like attending an event and saying to someone “Hello” and leaving it at that.

‘Include a personal note (optional)’ says LinkedIn. It should read ‘We strongly recommend you send a personal note and unless you know the person very well remind them where you have previously met’.

2. Having an unprofessional or incomplete profile

Unless you’re called Richard Branson, Bill Gates or Nelson Mandela most of us outside our small network are unknown generally. With the internet I believe even the smallest business (1 person is the smallest!) can become global. But you have to be visible on the net. Today we all need to be visible; in fact strategy for success is visibility. Social networking and the Internet is here to stay and if you want to ‘keep up’ you really do need to tell the world who you are, what you do and what area of expertise you have.

Networking is building relationships and every relationship we have ever built is based on 3 key stages —know; like; trust. We can’t very easily get to like and trust people online but we can get to know them. That is where an attractive and professional profile comes in. Ensure yours is complete and accurate and make it interesting and appealing. No typos, bad grammar no real names without capital letters. It’s all about first impressions. Think of it more as a mini-autobiography rather than a CV or resume so people will want to know more about you.

3. Having bad ‘online’ manners

Whether you network online or offline you need to be polite, courteous and friendly. Linkedin offers you default messages which are generally short, sharp and unfriendly! Online and offline networking is precisely the same; it’s simply building relationships. By all means use your own standard messages (with some personal bits added) but don’t use the ones Linkedin give you.

When someone invites you to link in don’t just accept ; send them an instant message which should include a thank you. After all, they are opening their book of contacts for you. I invite my new level 1 contacts to join the Kintish Business Networking Group where I am able to then offer lots of freebies and much-reduced training. We have 2000+ in our group .and I encourage members to ‘network’ with each other and where I can broker an introduction I will do.

When you invite someone to link and they accept again thank them and maybe remind them what you do and how you help your existing clients.

When you get an invitation from someone you don’t instantly recognise send them a message asking how they know you and if they don’t why they want to connect.

4. Not asking for introductions correctly

For me, the key reason to be an enthusiast on LinkedIn is to ask my level 1 contacts to introduce me to their level 1 contacts (i.e. my level 2 contacts) with whom I wish to build a relationship. It would be a perfect world if every connected person actually knew their level 1 contacts but in a vast majority of cases they may have just met once or not at all. So if I ask my level 1 contact, Jack, to introduce me to his level 1 contact, Jill using the introduction system which LinkedIn offers there could be an embarrassment. Why? Because Jack for the sake of this example has never met Jill. The solution always is to email or call Jack to find out how well he knows Jill and if he does to ask him how he thinks the introduction should be made.

5. Not updating your Status box

We all have a simple opportunity to be visible with our network and it needn’t take more than a few moments a week. If you’re on facebook you will be telling your friends ‘What’s on your mind’. On LinkedIn you can do similar. The box is just below your name and title.

I suggest maybe 2 or 3 times a week you mention something work, business or career related and it may well be your level 1 contacts will read it on their home page when they log on to LinkedIn. Less is more, you’re writing simply to keep your name in front of your existing network

6. Not using the Group opportunities

There are 1.4m groups on Linkedin. If you have a target market or a special interest there will be one there for you. Join a relevant group but then get involved. Ask questions, proffer opinions and meet up with like-minded people. You can only send messages to your level 1 contacts or pay a premium to write to others. The way round this is to belong to a group so you can send messages free to fellow members.

7. Linking in with the wrong people

Below is a list of types of invitations I will accept or people I will invite:

- If I have met someone and I have no reason not to accept their invitation, then I will do so willingly. I sometimes meet someone who I don’t take to so tend to ignore their invitation. Unless something dramatic happens I cannot think of a good reason to ever accept

- Anyone I have ever met in my past who asks to connect will be welcomed

- If I have had delegates listen to me from conferences or training seminars who invite me in then I accept their invitation. That group is the majority of my connections who have experienced my ‘service’. I feel if I ask them to introduce me to one of their contacts they will generally be willing to broker the introduction.

- At the end of the day ‘Every man has his price’! If I get an invitation from someone I have yet to meet but they are a VIP or a serious future prospect I think it would be un-business like to refuse.

- If I am about to meet someone or had a phone call then I will either invite them or accept them.

Because of what I do I meet literally thousands of people and sometimes I get asked to link from people I may have met previously. I don’t accept or ignore I press the small ‘down arrow’ button against the Accept button and send them a message asking why they want to connect. If they say they had been in my audience x years previously then I will connect. If they say they want to discuss a new business relationship, again I will accept.

Other than those people why would I accept an invitation from a complete stranger? You are allowing them to look at your ‘little black book of contacts’ and showing the world you have some connection with them. You wouldn’t be associated with these people in real life so beware who you link in with.

The author of this article is Will Kintish, leading UK authority on effective and confident networking both offline and online. If you’d like Will to speak at your conference or training workshops, call him on 0161 773 3727. Visit www.kintish.co.uk and www.linkedintraining.co.uk for further free and valuable information on all aspects of networking.