I’ve been running a number of social media workshops for my clients – and picking up stories of people running into trouble with LinkedIn because they didn’t know the rules before using it!

So to spare your business similar embarrassments, here are five things you should check out in your business.

  1.  DON’T let your sales team use LinkedIn without training

LinkedIn can seem like manna from heaven to a salesman. I’ve now heard of three companies where someone in their sales team has been banned because they used it without really understanding the rules.

They see dozens of possible connections and send out invitations – saying they have done business with them. The recipients then reject their invitation and tell LinkedIn that they don’t know them. And after a few of these, LinkedIn bans them.

Before they are allowed back on, they have to confirm they won’t approach anyone else they don’t know. And include a person’s email address before they can send an invitation.

  1.  DON’T ask a supplier to recommend you

I’ve now had three clients asking me to recommend them. While flattering, LinkedIn only lets you recommend:

  • A colleague from the same company
  • Business partner – someone you have worked with but not as a client or colleague
  • Service provider – someone you hired to provide a service
  • Student – fellow student or teacher
  1.  DON’T let employees write profiles without guidelines

This one is tricky. LinkedIn is about individuals – however they want to portray themselves to the outside world. But if they are going to talk about their present job, do you want them to represent your company or organisation in some way?

There is no right or wrong about this, but each business probably wants to discuss some principles and agree guidelines. Unless you make these a requirement of an employee’s job, you may have to accept that you can recommend but not enforce how an individual writes their profile.

Why does this matter?

Before I hold a social media workshop, I do an audit of all employees’ LinkedIn profiles. I find there are always at least a handful of people who are ‘early adopters’ and set up their individual LinkedIn profiles before the company gets to grips with what they want to do with LinkedIn.

Without guidance, this leaves a mish-mash of information and styles in the summary and personal profile sections. One company had these three:

  • Personal profile: A hard-working and self-motivated professional. Effective communicator and drives sales through an organisation
  • Summary: I am a qualified xxxxxxxx and xxxxxxxxxxx practitioner. I am predominantly involved with xxxxxxxxx
  • Summary: Experience working within the xxxxxxxxx sectors, delivering tailored xxxxxxxx. Working with a range of corporate clients on xxxxxxxxxx

None of these mentioned the company they worked for or what it did. And some of the profiles read as if the employee was looking for a job! When I raised this point, the employee was horrified: “I’ve only just joined this company, it’s fantastic working here. I want people to know about the business I work for”. They had just not thought through what that meant in terms of what they wrote in their profile – they had purely answered the LinkedIn questions and ‘filled in the boxes’.

  1.  DON’T accept an invitation from someone you don’t know

You could debate this – and I have. But certainly for most businesses working in the B2B market (business to business), your network is part of your reputation.

Nick Bramley gives as a rule of thumb – and I would agree – that you should only link with someone you:

  • Would do business with
  • Would have a drink with after a meeting
  • Would recommend to a trusted client
  1.  DON’T bombard contacts with invitations to events

This is something we’ve spotted less experienced, enthusiastic marketing professionals doing! Struggling to get people to an event, they discover the ‘Promotion of your Event using LinkedIn’ – and again, think this is the answer to all their problems.

They send out information to all their contacts, regardless of relevance.

Instead of which they needed to think who would get something out of the event and send messages on the following lines – personalised. If this is worth doing, it’s worth tailoring:

  • Bob, I know you mentioned your team were struggling with understanding the new legislation on xxx. Thought this event might be useful – please feel free to pass on details
  • Jenny, wondered if any of your colleagues might find this event helpful – and of course do feel free to come along if it sounds interesting to you!

Have you come across other LinkedIn horrors that would help others to learn about this powerful marketing tool?