Biggest mistakesI was at a speaking engagement about creating our personal brands and asked the participants how many had a Linked In profile. About 50% raised their hands. I asked how many felt really good about their Linked In profile. About 3 people kept their hand up.  If you’re in business, the people you want to connect with are checking you out on Linked In. Here are the ten biggest mistakes many of us make on Linked In.  Do any of these apply to you?

Ten Biggest Mistakes on Linked In

I sat down with social media strategist and Linked In expert Diane Crompton to understand what are the biggest mistakes she has seen people make. Use this as a check-list to make sure you’re leveraging Linked In like a pro.

Assume Linked In is only for job seekers – People assume “if I’m not currently searching for a job, I don’t need to have a Linked In profile”. I often meet leaders who find themselves out of a job and they scramble to create a Linked in profile and create a network. It takes a few months to do this. Some are concerned their colleagues will think they’re looking for a job. There are lots of reasons to be on Linked In other than for a job search (see below).

Be Unclear about your Linked In goals – Get clear about your goals on Linked In.  They should frame the amount of time and effort you put into Linked In.  A strong Linked In profile can help you in lots of ways: recruit members for your team by letting your network know you’re looking for talent, connect others and build your influence as a connector, build your professional brand by sharing relevant articles, keep up with people in your professional network and build it. Start with the end in mind!

Have an amateur photo – A picture speaks a thousand words. Your photo should not be from ten years ago, one you put on your profile, or something a prospective employer will look at and immediately want to check out your FBI record.  What do you want your picture to convey about you to your professional network?

Be unclear in your message – Your Linked In summary should be clear about what you stand for.  What’s your personal brand? How do you stand out and create value for others? How would you like to be known? What’s the sense of leadership purpose that drives you? These are the key questions your profile should answer. I recommend my executive coaching clients take several assessments including the Strengthsfinder 2.0 and Standout. They are helpful in articulating your personal brand.

Be Impersonal – My recommendation is to write your profile in first person. It makes you more friendly and approachable (unless you belong to the mafia and want to make sure you’re not appearing friendly and approachable). Here’s President Obama’s profile. Even the President is friendly and approachable. Let them see the real person behind the profile. Here’s Bill Gates’ profile. It shares his interests: “Voracious reader, avid traveler”. It should pass the “if I were stuck in an elevator with this person, would I survive that?” test.

Be hesitant about recommendations – A lot of us have mindsets that prevent us from asking for recommendations and favors.  Think of it this way. If you have trouble tooting your own horn (and we do know that it’s important for others to know how you add value), let someone else toot your horn for you. If someone has done a great job, be generous in giving out recommendations too. It’s positive Linked In karma.

Ignore keywords – If we want to be found on Linked In we need to use the right keywords in our Headline, Summary, Skills and Expertise, and Professional Experience. Recruiters are now exclusively doing their searches on Linked In.  If you have a business and want to be found by potential customers, make sure you use the right keywords for your expertise or business.

Sell firstMany people make the mistake of connecting to sell immediately. In my opinion that doesn’t work. If I don’t really know you, why would I buy from you? What’s in it for me? Instead my recommendation is to adopt a “slow burn” approach by building rapport, helping others first, and consistently sharing good content. The huge benefit of online channels is access. I’ve connected with people on Linked In where we have common interests and we have built these into mutually productive connections offline.     

Send invites to people you don’t know – We all get invites from people we haven’t met and don’t know. Linked-In discourages that but it happens. If you do send an invite to someone you don’t know, be courteous and let them know why you’d like to connect with them. Explain what’s in it for them or areas of common interest. At the least feed their ego: “I’m a big fan of your work, Mr. Gates!”

Forget to make updates – Keep your profile updated.  Our professional brand changes and our objectives may change over time as well.

For more than just the basics on Linked In, check out Diane Crompton’s site. She’s your friendly neighborhood social media strategist who helped me with the do’s and don’ts on Linked In and can help you take your Linked In profile to the next level.

If this resonated for you, please comment, subscribe and share with others.

Henna Inam - Professional Photo - ColorThis article was written by Henna Inam, executive coach, speaker, and consultant.  She works with women to help them realize their potential to be authentic, transformational leaders. They create organizations that drive breakthroughs in innovation, growth, and engagement. Her corporate clients include Coca Cola, UPS, Nestle, J&J, and others who know female leadership talent is good for business. To accelerate your own growth connect with her here. Connect on Twitter @hennainam