Don’t get too personal with information on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a popular online networking site for professionals and other workers.

Have you ever received a request to connect on LinkedIn from someone you didn’t know or couldn’t remember?

A few weeks ago, Josh Turner encountered this situation. The online request to connect came from a businessman on the opposite coast of the United States. It came with a short introduction that ended with “Let’s go Blues!,” a reference to Turner’s favorite hockey team in St. Louis that he had mentioned in his profile. “It was a personal connection. ... That’s building rapport.”

LinkedIn is known for being the professional social network where members expect you to keep buttoned-down behavior and network online as you would at a business event. With more than 200 million registered users, the site facilitates interaction as a way to boost your stature, gain a potential customer or rub elbows with a future boss.

But unlike most other social networking sites, LinkedIn is all about business — and you need to take special care that you act accordingly. As in any workplace, the right amount of personal information sharing could be the foot in the door, say experts. The wrong amount could slam it closed.

“Anyone in business needs a professional online presence,” said Vanessa McGovern, vice president of business development for the Global Institute for Travel Entrepreneurs and a consultant to business owners on how to use LinkedIn.

But they also should heed LinkedIn etiquette or risk sending the wrong messages.

One of the biggest mistakes, McGovern said, is getting too personal — or not personal enough.

Sending a request to connect blindly equates to cold-calling and likely will lead nowhere. Instead, it should come with a personal note, an explanation of who you are, where you met or how the connection can benefit both parties, McGovern explained.

Your profile should get a little personal, too, she said. “Talk about yourself in the first person and add a personal flair — your goals, your passion — make yourself seem human.”

But keep your LinkedIn posts, invitations, comments and photos professional, McGovern said.

If you had a hard day at the office or your child just won an award, you may want to share it with your personal network elsewhere, but not on LinkedIn.

“This is not Facebook. Only share what you would share at a professional networking event,” she says.

Another etiquette pitfall on LinkedIn is the hit-and-run: making a connection and not following up.

Turner, the Blues hockey fan, calls himself a business-to-business marketing expert specializing in LinkedIn. He operates LinkedSelling.com and says there are a handful of ways to use the professional social network to turn yourself into a valuable top-of-mind contact. “It’s about follow-up. You should be posting status updates, bits of information about projects you are working on, (that can create) ways for your contacts to see your name and content on regular basis,” Turner said.