Use social networks wisely and the rewards are great. Get it wrong and at best, you end up looking like a stalker having viewed your colleague's profile one too many times. I have noticed that peers in other industries are far more active on LinkedIn and forge real life networks through what can appear to be an artificial, virtual popularity contest.

I recently attended our department drinks and got talking to a few senior members of the team about the perils of social networks.

As interesting as our conversation about Tinder was, I will perhaps leave that discussion for a different forum and focus on LinkedIn tips for now.

Although in no way prescriptive, below are some useful pointers for you to navigate through the minefield that has become professional social networking.

Small caveat, the following only apply to "Basic" account holders and not those with "Premium" subscriptions.

Anonymous due diligence

For those wishing to carry out stealthy stalking, or rather, due diligence on potential clients or contacts, the anonymous setting is a godsend. This enables you to look at someone's profile without the other being notified of who viewed them. The disadvantage is that in turn you will not be able to see who has viewed your profile.

If your curiosity outweighs this downside, this is how to change your settings:

  • Cast your cursor over the small profile picture of you in the top right hand corner, which will reveal a list of options;
  • Click on "Manage" by "Privacy and Settings";
  • Click on "Select what others see when you've viewed their profile", which is the fourth option under "Profile"; and
  • Select "You will be totally anonymous" and finally, "Save Changes". 

Keep your connections close and your enemies away from your connections

If you do not wish to share your connections:

  • Cast your cursor over the small profile picture of you in the top right hand corner and click on "Manage" by "Privacy and Settings";
  • Click on "Select who can see your connections" which is the sixth option under "Profile"; and
  • Select "Only you" and "Save changes".

Remember: those who endorse you and any shared connections will still be visible. It is also useful to remember that if you disconnect someone, they will not be notified unless they try to access your profile and only public information is visible.

Your personal brand

A corporate buzzword often thrown around, but LinkedIn is useful for some good PR. If you or someone in your department writes a blog, click on "Share an update" on your home page and simply paste the link. This feature is your online voice to share your expertise and interests with your connections and help you build a positive reputation within your industry.

Attention to detail  

It may sound patronising but spelling or grammatical errors must be remedied as soon as possible, particularly on the "Summary" section of your profile and any updates you post.

You may not want your entire network being notified just because you edited a typo on your profile. Turn off this alert by going onto your profile and selecting "No" under "Notify your network" along the right hand column. Your connections will not be alerted to any profile changes that you make but this will not affect other updates that others receive when you, for example, share an article or like someone else's shared content.

The right amount of presence

Do nothing with your profile and you appear inactive. Post too many updates and you risk being "hidden" by others on their newsfeed. Once or twice a week appears to be the optimal amount to post an update. It is worth remembering that your "likes" will show up on newsfeeds too, which is an easy way to endorse a colleague's blog or achievement but remember, everything in moderation.

No game playing

General consensus is to accept people as soon as possible. This is not the time to play games familiar to those in the early stages of courtship. Send a personal, follow up message thanking them for the request and, if appropriate, inviting them to meet up.

Less is more

Be picky with connections. Work out your objectives on LinkedIn, whether it is keeping up with your industry or connecting with clients. It is acceptable to reject an invite if you do not know that person and do not wish to. Conversely, if you keep adding people you do not know and they mark you as spam, you risk LinkedIn freezing your account. Avoid this virtual naughty step by only sending out genuine invites.

Reorder your profile

The default setting is that your most recently attended university appears on your profile at the top of your page. You can change this by reordering the institutions you have listed under "Education" by casting your cursor over the left side of each entry until the box becomes shaded in grey. You can then drag and reorder each entry to control what people see first.

This is useful if connecting with alumni from university, especially for lawyers as listing the law school you attended may not help to distinguish you from others.   

Hopefully you will find the above useful as you navigate the pitfalls of mixing business with social networking.