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!