Don’t Be a LinkedIn “Don’t”

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Every now and then, I’ll be networking on LinkedIn when I’m suddenly reminded of the “Fashion Don’t” page at the back of Glamour Magazine. You know, the one where the poor, unsuspecting victim is walking around committing some fashion faux pas with a little black box covering her eyes to conceal her identity. And just like that woman wearing acid-washed jeans, a horrible perm or shorts that don’t cover as much as they should, these LinkedIn users are standing out from the pack… and not in a good way.

DON’T choose an inappropriate profile picture.

This should go without saying, but it’s still a surprisingly common mistake. It still amazes me that people only get one profile picture (unlike Facebook) yet they choose one that is hurting their professional brand more than helping it. Every day, I see cartoon characters, plunging cleavages, baby pictures, vacation pix, dog photos, group shots, braggy pictures flashing material items, advertisements / logos, full body shots from 50 feet away, and – the worst in my opinion? – those overly posed Glamour Shot photos where the person is pretending to talk on the phone or thinking pensively with their thumb and forefinger on their chin. (All that’s missing is the feather boa and the cowboy hat!)  : )

Do: Choose a professional headshot that represents you as a competent business professional. Smile or don’t smile… just do what feels natural. Crop it appropriately so that we can see your face. Keep it simple and don’t overthink it.

DON’T be a keyword-stuffer.

Do a LinkedIn search for “social media,” “sales,” “marketing” or “business” and see who shows up at the top of the search results. It’s those people who use the same term 7,359 times on their profile, out of context and usually in one big run-on sentence repeating the same term over and over. They list 84 jobs, all with that keyword in it, even though they may have only had 3 jobs in real life. They have dozens of organizations, projects, and interests that say nothing but the same keyword dozens of times. Their middle name (literally!) is Sales. Yuck. What’s the point of turning up at the top of the search results if you immediately turn off your audience the second they read your profile?

Do: Choose a variety of keywords for your profile, but embed them into meaningful sentences and in the proper context. Be SEO-aware, but tell us how HOW and WHERE you gained that experience so we can appreciate your accomplishments, see a clear picture and find you to be a credible expert in your field.

DON’T be a spammy spam-blaster.

These people spam their network indiscriminately, blast the same blog post to all 50 of their groups (relevant or not), post jobs in group discussion boards, send messages addressed to “Dear 1st-level connection” (really??), automatically add you to their email newsletter, nag you time and again to like their Facebook page and/or endorse all 50 of their skills. These people are ruining the LinkedIn experience for everyone else. Please stop.

Do: Engage with your network on a one-on-one basis. Build relationships. Be targeted. Be specific. Introduce yourself and get to know someone before trying to sell them something. Only contact candidates who actually fit the job requirements. Customize your messages / invitations for each specific recipient. Sure, it takes longer and requires you to put some thought into it, but isn’t that method bound to yield better results anyway? The machine gun approach isn’t a social media best practice and you’re just turning everyone off in the process.

DON’T just take, take, take.

Buy my product! Find someone to fill my job! Endorse me! Introduce me! Answer my questions! Do my research for me! Help me, me, me! So many folks just take and take and never give back to their LinkedIn network. These people are omni-present, but not in a good way. You always see their activities on LinkedIn, but it’s always self-serving and never helping other people.

Do: Give to get back. Help your network and they will be much more willing and able to help you. Pass along introductions. Share someone else’s update with your network. Respond to inbox messages. Recommend someone who’s impressed you. Answer a question or two in your groups. Say thank you for the help you receive. If you help others and pay it forward once in a while, it not only comes back to benefit you in the long run, I dare say that you’ll actually enjoy your time on LinkedIn infinitely more!

I’m sure I could keep going, but will stop here for now. Take a moment and think about your own networking practices. Are you committing any of these missteps? Perhaps something similar but equally unappealing? No one’s perfect and we’re all learning as we go, but don’t forget that your online activities are a reflection of you as a business professional and it all ultimately affects your personal brand. A good rule of thumb? If you wouldn’t do it in real life, don’t do it on LinkedIn. Pretty simple, really.  : )

What’s your story?

So, what’s the worst LinkedIn sin you’ve seen? I’m sure we all have a story or two… Do tell!

Portrait Of Tired Young Business Woman With Laptop Computer At The Office by Bigstock.com

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Comments

  1. Nice article Stacy but you know there are about 20 more items like this you could list and you probably have them all in a draft document somewhere. LinkedIn is a fantastic tool but I think there are a couple of key precepts that people need to think about as a foundation for using it:
    1. It is not FaceBook…certainly we all have overlap between our work lives and social lives but use your head and know how and when to keep space between the two. (reference your #1 above)
    2. Networking is a two way street…if you want help, you need to give help. I have dropped people from my LinkedIn network that don’t understand that. On the other hand, I do everything I can to help people in my network or tell them why I can’t (or won’t). (reference your #4)
    3. LinkedIn is a living, interactive resume and as such should be as accurate as any resume you would send to a potential employer. In the last few years here in Silicon Valley we have seen some significant falls from grace by people either consciously lying on their resumes or just some relatively small accuracy oversight. Everybody has some hyperbole on their CV but anything you post on LI should be able to be documented just as your resume can be.

    Again, LinkedIn is a great tool but if the number of people who misuse it grows too big, it will reduce the utility for all of us.

    Thanks, JIM

    Jim Brennan |
    Reply
  2. Stacy:

    I have only recently discovered your articles and am thoroughly enjoying them. Although I am doing some career coaching and recruiting at the moment while seeking my next Marketing leadership role, I like to take a pulse of what others who are going to assist job seekers. Although in many ways, we are preaching the same principles, I always find one or more tips that are great “kernels,” and I make it a point to internalize them as well as pass them on.

    I also head up a monthly pro bono job seeker group in San Diego and have a LinkedIn group that is dedicated to helping job seekers, so I can absolutely attest to the pay-it-forward comment you made. In that regard, given that you do so much for others, please do not hesitate for an instant to let me know what I can do to support you personally or professionally.

    As for LinkedIn missteps, someone wrote to me recently and said that they thought I was a person worth knowing and they wanted my opinion on their resume as well as how to go about gaining more contacts and customers. As you well know, a conversation on improving a resume is in and of itself time consuming, let alone investing time to help someone lay out a lead acquisition strategy. Their approach was one-sided and a bit presumptuous. I offered to help make introductions and provided information about networking groups, but this person never followed up.

    Two weeks ago, I had someone send me a request for an introduction, and they erroneously asked me to introduce them to themselves. I recognize that the “Request and Introduction” function is a bit confusing, it’s important to understand how to use the technology so that you come across as a competent professional.

    Reply
  3. We are so on the same page, Stacy!
    Last week I also wrote an article about it.
    I honestly think everyone should have certain knowledge of the social media they intend to use and build their profile accordingly, as well as interact and share relevant content- I really do not need to know the progress of someone’s pregnancy…
    Good read!

    Reply
  4. Stacey,

    Great article and excellent advice. I actually went back through my own profile and even though I, thankfully, was not doing the ‘dont’s’ but changed a few items I felt too wordy and left very little for a follow-up interview.

    Thank you again for an article all should read.

    Regards,
    David Argabright

    David Argabright |
    Reply
  5. @Stacy: Long time follower (on twitter), first time commenter (on your blog), love the content. ;)

    @Jo Lynn: I always do that too on an piece pointing out faux pas!

    @Jim: If this was an exhaustive list, no one would read it. ;) This is a good, represenative sampling of don’ts and do’s.

    My one question – or point that I might want to discuss – would be the keyword issue. With a resume, yes, I don’t want a laundry list. For each job I have a real accounting of accomplishments in human-readable format with #, $ & %. Under that, I add a block under a heading “Keywords for LinkedIn Search” then go for the laundry list, including misspelled versions of my name, just to make sure I come up in a relevant search. I’d welcome your counsel on that.

    Stacy, thanks for the piece and your continued efforts to evangelize about LinkedIn!

    Reply
  6. I believe this is wrong, just like ibm and steve jobs in the 70s, I mean, rules? who like rules these days?…

    Diego Gil |
    Reply

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