LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool, but like all tools, it’s only as good as the person who wields it. Used well, LinkedIn can help you find a new job, hire fresh talent, or just strengthen your professional connections. But, in order to fully maximize the experience, you need a strong profile and a clear goal. You also need to avoid a few common LinkedIn mistakes that most users don’t even realize they’re making.
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1. Not having a goal in mind.
“The biggest mistake people make is not having a goal for LinkedIn, which can be used in different ways,” said Heidi Murphy, a social media specialist and founder of Thumbprint, a digital marketing company. “It can be used to find a job. It can be used to make sure your colleagues and your network are updated on your professional experience and what you’re doing. Having a defined goal is very important to fully utilize the site’s potential.”
2. Contacting a second-degree connection rather than asking for an introduction.
Once your profile is up and running, you might feel tempted to look through your first-degree connections’ contacts a little. Maybe you’d like to reach out to one of the people you find there for a job or even just to build a professional connection. Rather than contacting them directly and stating that “we both know so-and-so,” why not ask for an introduction? LinkedIn is about professional networking, so you shouldn’t hesitate to utilize it that way. Blindly messaging someone without an introduction is probably not the best idea.
3. Being less than professional.
LinkedIn is for professional social networking. Therefore, your profile and your posts should not be about your personal life. Others will find it distracting and disruptive, and it could even cost you a few of your connections.
“Everyone is really, really, busy, and LinkedIn is a business tool,” Murphy said when I asked her to tell me about some particularly dire mistakes she’s seen people make on LinkedIn. “One of the most horrifying mistakes is when people are social. People don’t want to be distracted, they only want value-added information coming at them. You want to position yourself on LinkedIn as a trusted advisor, in whatever area your brand calls for, so adding value is so important. When people post social things about their kids or little games, it’s really distracting. Some people might even block you. Instead, you want to be seen as someone who can be trusted to add value.”
4. Picturing it all wrong.
The picture that you choose for LinkedIn should be professional, but it should also be warm and inviting. You want to be seen as someone who is approachable, and also someone who loves their job. Dress professionally, (please, please, no sunglasses or hats) and be sure you look relaxed and comfortable in your photo. There shouldn’t be anyone in the photo but you, and it should be fairly recent. Your picture is one of the first things people see when they look at your profile; be sure it sets the right tone.
5. Not honing your LinkedIn headline.
The headline (the little bar just under your name where you list your title) is very important. This is the main way in which people can find you on the site; so, it’s essential that what you do is clearly defined here.
“It’s important to define what you do in your profile headline very clearly,” Murphy told me. “So, getting back to your goal, if you’re looking for a job, for SEO purposes, it’s really important that you put exactly what you’re looking for in your title.”
Once your profile is up and running, be sure to use it. Joining groups, posting updates, and interacting with your connections is an important part of the process too. As with so many things in life, you’ll get out of LinkedIn what you put into it. So, be professional, be clear, and be approachable. And, before you know it, you’ll start to reap the rewards.
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