10 personal branding mistakes to avoid on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a professional network. Does your profile reflect that? Take a look at these guidelines to be sure.

LinkedIn is a fantastic online networking platform for professionals.

Due to its sheer size, it has almost become the default global network for professionals to connect, engage and share ideas. It has more than 175 million registered users.

From day one, LinkedIn was set up expressly to provide an easy-to-use portal to exchange ideas and network with like-minded individuals. Its tone is more formal than Facebook or Twitter, which seems to escape some people.

For job seekers, it’s a brilliant place to showcase yourself and your personal brand. But if you break any of the following guidelines, you’re not doing your personal brand any favors.

1. Don’t use anything other than a professional-looking photo.

Use a photo that preferably only shows your head and shoulders. Remember, LinkedIn is a professional platform. You should reserve photos of you downing a beer or you in your bikini for other social platforms, like Facebook (maybe).

Some people don’t have photos at all. It makes me think they have something to hide. We live in a visual world and people want to see what you look like.

2. Don’t lie.

All your connections can view your profile, and if you lie, you will be found out. It will be very embarrassing, too. Look what happened to former Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson.

3. Don’t send invitations with LinkedIn’s default text.

It makes them think you couldn’t be bothered to write a personalized message. Why would they bother connecting with you? Give them a good reason, especially if they don’t know you.

Note: Currently, on smartphones, the iPad app, and some pages on the LinkedIn website (“people you may know”), LinkedIn sends the invite without giving you the opportunity to customize the message. LinkedIn needs to fix this, but in the meantime, avoid these when you send requests.

4. Don’t use the “friend” option.

Only do this when you are a friend of someone. It’s a major pet peeve for many professionals on LinkedIn, and they won’t want to connect with you.

5. Don’t forget to include all your external links.

These links include your major social media properties, like Twitter (or Facebook if you prefer), your blog, and your website. Be sure to name them.

Many people don’t even know you can do this. You can include up to three links under the “websites” heading. For example, I included Firebrand’s (my company) website, blog, and Facebook page.

There’s another section to include your Twitter address. Again, you can include up to three links here, and name them. I included Firebrand’s Twitter site and mine.

6. Don’t leave your LinkedIn profile incomplete.

This is important if you want people to find you. LinkedIn has a wizard that guides you through completing your profile, and tells you when it is 100 percent complete. Your summary, experience, skills and expertise, and headline are the most important.

Make sure they are keyword rich. Did you know all these sections-and more-are searchable? If you want people to find you, make the effort to optimize your profile.

7. Don’t be lazy when you share links and updates.

Customize your message for LinkedIn. Many people post the same message on multiple platforms—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+—instead of customizing their messages. It irritates people when they see @Twitter handles and #hashtags on LinkedIn status updates.

Having said that, many people don’t realize that if you click on the Twitter handle, the link will take you to the person’s Twitter page. And if you click on a hashtag, it will bring up search results for that keyword. Maybe it would irritate people less if they realized this.

Take an extra couple of minutes to customize. You’ll reap the benefits.

8. Don’t use LinkedIn groups to get linkbacks to your website or blog.

This will label you a spammer. A well-managed LinkedIn group is tightly monitored, and most will only allow discussions, questions and commentary. Many will allow you to link to other people’s blog posts, but not your own. It’s a bit strange if you ask me. Even if your post is totally relevant to the discussion, people perceive it as self-promotion.

9. Don’t spam your connections.

Don’t use LinkedIn as your email-marketing platform and spam people with news and events about your company. Most won’t be interested, and will remove you as a connection.

10. Don’t ask people who don’t know you to write recommendations for you.

It’s awkward for them, and you won’t get a recommendation you’ll want to publish, anyway. Remember, it’s not about the quantity of recommendations; it’s about the quality. And for the record, tit for tat, reciprocal recommendations look dodgy.

What about you?

How is your LinkedIn etiquette? Does it enhance your personal brand, or could it do with some polishing?

Carolyn Hyams is the global marketing director for Firebrand Talent Search. Follow her on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn. A version of this article originally appeared on JeffBullas.com.


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