5 terrible LinkedIn habits—and why and how you should break them

You might be your organization’s ‘Yoda for Branding’ with the avatar to back it up, but your fellow professionals might not fancy that—if you even turn up in search results. Wise up.

LinkedIn is a prime platform for gaining professional insights and career advice and, of course, for networking.

As many good ways as there are to connect via LinkedIn, there are probably twice as many bad ones. Here are five common LinkedIn faux pas that the overly eager commit:

1. Thanking me for every post

Though many believe that thanking someone for every post makes them engaged, it actually makes you look like you have too much time on your hands.

If every time I post something I immediately get an automated message from you, it looks as though you didn’t read the post. There is no way this will make you look good.

If you’re a job seeker, it looks like you’re desperate for my approval and do not understand how social media works. If you’re a potential client or vendor, it says the same thing. The same goes for liking every one of my updates.

Instead, try adding value by adding a comment about specific parts of an article that resonated with you, or by doing what every author wants, sharing the content on your own timeline.

2. Having an icon or strange image for your picture

It’s great that you put up a picture and used online editing software to make it look nice, but you shouldn’t have a cartoon character or avatar on a professional network.

Those are not the images you want people to think of when you’re emailing about an open position or when you ask for an introduction to a hiring manager.

Because LinkedIn is a professional network, a simple head-and-shoulders shot of you facing the camera, smiling and generally looking competent is all you need. Plus, it helps people recognize you in real life.

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3. Connecting with top-linked folks

Most people know who’s who on LinkedIn. If you don’t, there are lots of percentage lists to help you out. LION and TopLinked are designations that say you are not discerning about your connections.

In the beginning, this seemed like a great way to “game” LinkedIn, but in today’s “less is more” climate, it isn’t doing you favors. I never connect with LIONs or TopLinked users if I can help it, because adding them to your network is opening yourself up to spam.

Avoid fake honorifics. Instead, focus on contributing advice and articles to groups where you can be an innovator, rather than a name collector.

4. Using a strange job title

Although you might enjoy your cute title—for instance, “Chief Marketing Brain”—no one on LinkedIn cares. Think about how you’re going to appear in search results if someone is looking for a marketing consultant or CMO. The problem with using a strange job title is that you won’t appear, which could hurt your prospects.

Now, if you’re the CEO of a rapidly growing agency that blows its competition out of the water, you can use whatever title you want. However, I personally won’t connect with you.

Recruiters and HR professionals alike are not fans of strange titles, so it could hurt your chances of getting a job. The real reason to use your actual title, though, is that LinkedIn runs off semantic and SEO search. So if someone is looking for a CMO and your title is chief marketing brain, you probably won’t not show up in their results.

5. Guilt-tripping your connections

This terrible email practice has spread to LinkedIn. If I didn’t ask you to reach out to me to sell something, don’t do it. I probably didn’t send a demo request nor join a particular group, so it’s inappropriate to act upset when I don’t respond to your cold InMail.

Subject lines such as “In case you missed it…” and “A few minutes of your time…” are a dead giveaway and ride the line of guilt-tripping.

LinkedIn was built to create professional and mutually beneficial connections. For the most part, it does that best when we create thoughtful relationships using the platform.

Think of LinkedIn as the online version of a professional mixer: Speak professionally, have useful conversations, and contribute consistently; then watch your online professional life flourish.

Maren Hogan is a seasoned marketer and community builder in the HR industry. She leads Red Branch Media, an agency offering marketing strategy and content development. Hogan has built successful online communities, deployed brand strategies in both the B2B and B2C sectors, and been a prolific contributor of thought leadership in the global recruitment and talent space. Maren Hogan is a seasoned marketer and community builder in HR and recruiting. A version of this article first appeared on BusinessCollective.

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