When we sign up for an online tool we agree to terms and condition provided in the User Agreement, but do we read them in detail if at all? In many situations we click Agree and move on. Once the tool is installed we proceed to use in the best way we know how without realising we could be doing the wrong thing.

Like the book, 50 Shades of Grey, there are reasons people do what they do. But on LinkedIn, as in life, the punishment in many cases might be too severe.” – Viveka von Rosen

I don’t necessarily read the all the fine print on sign up, but at some point I like to investigate the guidelines in order to do the right thing and mitigate any risks.

So what sort of things does the LinkedIn User Agreement cover? It has a section called ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ which makes it easy to read. Here are a few key points to take into account when using LinkedIn from this section, plus a few bonus tips:

LI Profile Mistakes keywordsandcharcters 5 Guidelines of LinkedIn and 50 Shades of Grey

LinkedIn Profile KeyInfo 1024x313 5 Guidelines of LinkedIn and 50 Shades of Grey

1. Use Your Real Name

Make it easy for people to find you by using the name you are known by, and don’t add extra info such as contact info and special characters.

The consequence can be being black listed from the search results.

User Agreement Reference 10.2.3
“Don’t undertake the following:   Create a Member profile for anyone other than a natural person;”


2. Don’t Hide behind a Mask

LI Profile mistakes   no photo1 5 Guidelines of LinkedIn and 50 Shades of Grey

Hiding behind a mask, a logo, cartoon or inappropriate photo can damage your brand, make it difficult to be recognized and hard to connect with.

If you haven’t added a photo yet, you are hiding behind the grey silhouette, which doesn’t help with the person recognizing you easily. We do judge a book by its cover and using a photo that is too casual, blurry, formal, glitzy or too much skin can make an impact on what the viewer thinks about you. Implied nudity, intentional or accidental, boozy shots and holiday shots will help the person form an impression of you, which may not be accurate.

Using a logo, cartoon or graphic in place of your photo breaches the user agreement and once again doesn’t help the viewer connect with you. Using a group photo may make it difficult to pick you, or may bring in people that are not relevant to your professional role and once again is a breach of the User Agreement. Pet photos are also not recommended unless you’re a vet, then having an animal in the shot could be beneficial.

User Agreement Reference 10.2.6
“Don’t undertake the following:  Upload a profile image that is not your likeness or a head-shot photo;”


3. Don’t Spam

Using LinkedIn to distribute your company news to your entire list of connections and using it as your email marketing database is in fact a breach of LinkedIn’s User Agreement.  Sending bulk messages to your connections that are not specifically for that person and are unsolicited is a no-no. Using the InMail feature in this way is also a no-no.

Just because you can send bulk messages (up to 50 at a time) doesn’t mean you should.  Use the feature to communicate with your team or a group of people involved in a decision.

User Agreement Reference 10.2.8.f.
“Upload, post, email, InMail, transmit or otherwise make available or initiate any content that:  Includes any unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, promotional materials, “junk mail,” “spam,” “chain letters,” “pyramid schemes,” or any other form of solicitation. This prohibition includes but is not limited to (a) using LinkedIn invitations to send messages to people who don’t know you or who are unlikely to recognize you as a known contact; (b) using LinkedIn to connect to people who don’t know you and then sending unsolicited promotional messages to those direct connections without their permission; and (c) sending messages to distribution lists, newsgroup aliases, or group aliases;”


4. Don’t Be a Clone of Your Other Self

LinkedIndoubleups 5 Guidelines of LinkedIn and 50 Shades of Grey

You can only have one Profile there fore don’t set up a Profile for different purposes or for different email addresses. It can be confusing when someone is searching for you and is a breach. Be sure not to accidentally set up a new Profile by accepting invites to connect via an email address that’s not listed on your Profile and never set up a Profile in a company name or event name. (There are Company Pages and Groups for that purpose)

 User Agreement Reference 10.2.7  
“Don’t undertake the following:  Use or attempt to use another’s account or create a false identity on LinkedIn;”


5. Don’t Hide behind your Ego

This isn’t a rule, just a bonus tip from something often seen on LinkedIn.  Be sure this word, consisting one a single letter, doesn’t lead every sentence – that word being ‘I’.

Writing your Profile from your ego’s perspective isn’t a good idea, unless you are the only person reading your Profile icon wink 5 Guidelines of LinkedIn and 50 Shades of Grey Remember the person you want to attract, your ideal client or connection and what their needs are.

Your Summary should be written in a way to connect with the reader. Think in the seat of your ideal client. What are their problems and how do you help them best? If you write from your seat, about your achievements and what you do, it can read like a bio, which your LinkedIn Summary isn’t, even more so if you write in third person. The Summary should be written from you, not about you. Let your personality shine through and end with a call to action.


Viveka von Rosen, author of LinkedIn Marketing: An Hour a Day has experienced some of the issues mentioned and the consequences from LinkedIn, and shares first hand the response from LinkedIn to such breaches in her blog.


The lesson here is to take time to discover the rules and etiquette of the platform, in this case LinkedIn. Some ‘rules’  come from the platform, others come from the users. Have an awareness of rules and outcomes, and do the right thing all round.

Are there any rules you may have inadvertently breached?



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