You want to beef up your LinkedIn profile by connecting with influential people in your field and gaining recommendations, but you don't know where to start or whom to ask. Is it OK to connect with people you don't really know, or ask for recommendations from these people? Or is that just plain rude?
The answer isn’t simple. You’ll need to treat each individual social media network differently and make your decisions accordingly.
Each social media network gives users a different way to express themselves, and share and connect with others. As such, the way you use each of your social networks should differ from site to site. For example, my Facebook is a fairly private space where I connect with friends and family, and share what's going on in my life, but on Twitter, I interact with not just my friends, but total strangers as well as celebrities and other influencers, and don't discuss my personal life as much. (After all, there's only so much you can say in 140 characters, right?)
But while Twitter and Facebook are fairly easy to place, LinkedIn seems to be in that tricky area that many people just can't quite figure out. LinkedIn is almost like Twitter, Facebook and your résumé or CV all rolled up into one. Some people blindly request people in their industry like they might on Twitter, while others connect only with people they know personally, as they would on Facebook. But which one is the right approach for LinkedIn?
The truth is, it's neither. To put it into perspective, I follow Taylor Swift on Twitter, but if she were on LinkedIn, I would never send her a request. Why? Because let's face it: That would be weird. And on the other side of the spectrum, if the only people I ever connected with on LinkedIn were my mom, cousins and best friends from college, I'd never get anywhere in the networking sector. Adding connections is the only way to make your LinkedIn profile useful in your career. [Perfect Your LinkedIn Profile, and Get the Perfect Job ]
"Always be sure to [connect] with past co-workers, current co-workers, business associates, friends from college in similar fields, etc. Continuing to grow your network could potentially open doors for you down the road," said Chelsea Gladden, social media expert and co-founder of parenting blog Breezy Mama.
But is it OK to try to connect with people you don't know on LinkedIn? Absolutely — that is, if you choose the right people and do it the right way.
"If you are both photography bloggers, for example, perhaps [you should connect with the person]," Gladden said. "However, no one likes spam, so if you are a real estate agent blindly trying to connect with anyone and everyone, it may come off as offensive."
LinkedIn isn't about making as many connections as possible. Rather, it's about making many valuable connections, whether you've known them for years, met once at an event or are in the same industry. And you establish those valuable connections with strategy and tact.
If you're already familiar with LinkedIn, you probably recognize the standard request email: "I'd like to add you to my professional network." This message may work when you're requesting the co-worker you talk to every day or your friends from school, but it probably won't get a stranger to hit Accept. If you really want to connect with someone, make it personal.
"Reach out through LinkedIn, but personalize the note," Gladden said. "Never send the generic request. Taking the time to write a note demonstrates your connection and professionalism."
If you already have a decent number of LinkedIn connections and want to get in touch with someone you don't know, see if any of your current connections know them already. That way, you can ask them to introduce you so your request doesn't seem out of the blue. Gladden suggested reaching out to your connection with something along the lines of "We have connected in the past, and I saw that you know Jim Smith. I was wondering if you'd be comfortable connecting, as I have experience..."
Now that you understand how to make connections, there's the mystery of LinkedIn recommendations to address. Are they even important? How do you get them?
"It certainly can't hurt to have someone write glowing praise about you that lives forever in your profile!" Gladden said. "At the very least, it's nice to have an ego boost while putting yourself out there for a new job. That being said, hiring managers are generally inundated with applicants, and great recommendations are a great way to stand out."
While requesting influential people you may not know (or know very well) on LinkedIn is appropriate when done correctly, asking people you don't know to recommend you is always bad news.
Gladden noted that, if you've never worked with someone before and you ask them for a recommendation, you're basically asking them to lie.
Of course, lying will get you nowhere. If you want truthful (and actually useful) recommendations, reach out to people you've worked with and got along with well; they'll be more likely to write you a recommendation that will interest potential employers.
Originally published on Business News Daily.