LinkedIn can be a valuable tool for connecting and marketing, if used properly. Miss out on some crucial aspects, though, and it can be ineffective and even annoying. Here are a few faux pas to avoid.
1. Using An Unprofessional Photo
Remember, LinkedIn isn’t Facebook – it isn’t the place for cute photos of your children or dog, lovely as they are. And it also isn’t the appropriate time to use a creative “selfie” or holiday snap. Consider LinkedIn as the online version of networking events you attend; the place to put forth your best, professional image and make a great impression. When you use an unprofessional photo for your profile image – or, just as bad, no photo at all – you give the impression that you can’t be bothered or that you don’t take your career seriously. This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make on LinkedIn, as a photo will draw the eye immediately. The wrong one will only result in your being overlooked by potential clients, recruiters or employers.
2. Not Customising Your URL
It’s a simple thing to do, but so many people overlook it – customising the tail of your LinkedIn URL with your name, instead of leaving that random string of characters generated automatically by the site. Neglecting to do this once again gives the impression that you’re not taking your online networking efforts seriously. It also looks messy should you want to share your LinkedIn URL on your CV or business cards. For the 30 seconds you’ll spend on it, updating your address to http://uk.linkedin.com/janedoe rather than http://uk.linkedin.com/fgh5hf&1 is worthwhile.
3. Neglecting/Overdoing Your Job Description And Summary
There are, unfortunately, several different ways to trip up in this area. Success on LinkedIn is largely about the initial impression, and a job description that isn’t eye-catching for the right reasons can detract from your progress with the social media site. It’s all about finding a balance – crafting a title that is accurate and descriptive without going over the top. Avoid generic terms like “sales analyst” but at the same time, don’t get too carried away with descriptions like “Open Networker, Blogger, Social Media Guru, Inspirational Marketer and Business Leader,” especially when accompanied by characters such as stars and curved lines in an attempt to stand out. The former is boring, the latter too over the top.
The same is true with your job description – sell yourself in an authentic manner by expressing your real voice and personality. Avoid standard corporate jargon and think of it this way – if you met someone at the pub or a networking event and they asked what you did, how would you explain it to them? Would you call yourself a “salesperson” or would you tell them you worked in sales and marketing for “X” company? Would you list five or six different vague titles you’ve created for yourself, or be more succinct?
4. Describing Yourself As A “Ninja” Or Similar
Again, this is unnecessary and unprofessional. If you really know what you’re doing, you won’t have to resort to calling yourself a “guru”, “Jedi” or “maven” in order to get attention. And if you are well qualified but still think this is okay, it’s time to revamp your LinkedIn profile. Silly nicknames for job titles get old fast, and if you want to be taken seriously as a leader in your industry, it’s better to stick to a safe, accurate and descriptive line. This is especially true for relatively new careers, such as social media marketers. Social media hasn’t been significant for long enough to allow anyone the status of “guru”, especially if they were in a different career only last year, suddenly found themselves redundant and reemerged as a Facebook expert. So many industries and professions are constantly changing and developing that very few can convincingly lay claim to such a lofty title.
5. Using A Personal Email Address
You might enjoy your personal email handle of firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, but it’s unlikely your prospective clients or employer will. Take a moment and create a separate, generic email address for yourself to use exclusively for business and networking. Again, this all comes down to crafting a professional image for yourself – and that email address you thought was clever back in secondary school probably isn’t cutting it anymore. Don’t risk being passed over because of something small and easily rectified – your friends and family can email their favourite firstname.lastname@example.org anytime, but you’ll avoid embarrassment with your potential boss if you stick to something like your given and surnames in an address exclusively used for job applications and LinkedIn.
6. Treating LinkedIn Like Facebook
Besides filling your profile out completely with quality, professional content, one of the best things you can do to help keep LinkedIn an effective community of professionals is to vet carefully what you post on it. It’s not the place for funny memes, flame wars and spreading useless information to get attention. Have fun and connect with friends and family on Facebook, but always treat LinkedIn like the digital version of the office or a networking meeting and consider that the content you put forth should be suitably business-related.
7. Automating And Abandoning It
People can tell when you automate every one of your social media posts, and they don’t care for it. The “set it and forget it” attitude to social media is unauthentic, ineffective and more likely to get you ignored than gain you attention. If you want to generate a LinkedIn account that’s full of rich, valuable content and make real connections with people, you need to interact and engage. There is no way around it – respond to others’ posts and comments on yours, share useful information and be real with people. The result will be a network of useful, high quality and relevant connections.
Though lately there has been annoyance with the way LinkedIn is being used, for these reasons and more, there is no doubt it has potential to be an essential tool for those who “do it right.” The best way to combat LinkedIn abusers is to adopt best practices for your profile and usage and encourage others to do the same.