If you want to build a worthwhile business network, then you’ll have to make use of LinkedIn at some stage or other.

Whatever concerns you might have about the online networking platform, there can be little doubt that LinkedIn has become the best free business networking tool available today. So you should definitely use it. There is lots of advice about what you should do on the network to make the most of your connections, but scant advice on the pitfalls you should try to avoid. So, here is Bfor B’s advice on the matter.

Don’t try to connect with every contact you know or think you should know.

Networking works best when you’re selective about who you choose to connect with, and who you choose to reject. So it’s important not to try to link up with every name on your contacts list. Some may be useful to you; but some certainly won’t. Before you take the plunge and ask for a connection, find out information about the contact. If they are the right fit ask for the connection, but remember you will have to be prepared to explain to them why they should accept you.

Don’t assume you’re always right – listen to others too.

If you get involved in group discussions be prepared to listen: don’t assume you know it all, because there will always be someone who knows more and who can give a different perspective. Their views are just as valid as yours.

Don’t be self-indulgent.

Nobody likes self-indulgence or self-promotion. If you bring a special gift to the table your network connections will soon notice it. If someone adds something of worth to group discussions be prepared to acknowledge its value and praise them for their foresight.

Don’t neglect your profile.

LinkedIn networking isn’t simply a matter of creating a profile and then sitting back and waiting for the connections to come to you. You have to go out and work for these. So make sure you keep your profile up to date and active, and try to add fresh content – even if that’s only once a week or so. Even if you only post an update once a week, keep it alive.

Don’t link to sites with broken links, or to sites that have content which could damage your reputation; little more needs to be said about that. Choose your connections well, and make sure you only link to content which will enhance or re-affirm your reputation.

Don’t spam.

Nobody likes spam. In fact it is the bane of everyone’s inbox. So don’t add to this irritation. If you try this tactic you will only be blocked by your fellow connections, and word will soon spread throughout the business network. Show respect for your fellow connections, and get your message out in a positive and useful way.

Don’t use buzzwords or meaningless management speak.

Nobody wants blue sky thinking, nor are they particularly keen on pushing the envelope, should the need arise. What they want to do is build connections with like-minded individuals who share their business goals and aspirations. Keep language simple and make sure what you say actually means something.

Don’t skimp on your profile detail.

How can you expect to connect with other business people who share your commitment and drive, if they don’t really know enough about you, how you think and what makes you tick? Make sure your profile description adequately describes you, your business and what you stand for.

Don’t look on LinkedIn networking as just another chore that has to be dealt with.

LinkedIn is the best business networking tool available these days and it’s free, so it needs to be treated with respect. You will only get out as much as you put in, so approach it with enthusiasm and be committed. If you put in the effort to find the right connections you’ll hopefully be able to go on and establish worthwhile long-term relationships.