I can not stress enough just how important LinkedIn is to your career.
Whether you are just starting out as a new graduate or have been working at senior management level for years, LinkedIn is your number one key to being recognised and promoted.
Friends and colleagues of mine often come to me to ask for help on finding the job they want. I always check their LinkedIn first of all. If that is not great, then nothing else matters until it is sorted.
A killer LinkedIn profile will make you visible and wanted by employers, agents and head-hunters. Not only that it will help you get paid more, even if you don’t change jobs. Believe me, your boss has almost certainly been on your LinkedIn profile, and plenty of others at your workplace have too.
So, where to start. There are other articles I have written here on how to update your linkedIn profile, so here I will focus on just a few of the things that people often do wrong.
Avoid these common mistakes and you are likely on the right path.
The 10 most common LinkedIn mistakes and how to avoid them
Mistake 1: Linked in is for business, not pleasure
LinkedIn is not Facebook. It is a serious networking tool that build your personal brand with relatively little effort. Keep it professional and keep it career oriented.
One of the most common LinkedIn mistakes I see is people treating LinkedIn as a fun social network for trivial updates.
There is nothing wrong with having your friends in your LinkedIn network, but before you add them think whether or not they can help your career. If not, keep your business and pleasure apart. LinkedIn is your window to the world, and you should never have anything on your profile that you would not want to share with your prospective new employer.
Mistake 2: A shell account on LinkedIn
The biggest mistake you can make with LinkedIn is to create your profile, connect to a small number of people you know and then do nothing else.
In common with other social networking sites, simply opening an account and ticking the boxes misses the really powerful business features. LinkedIn users need a clear objective and a plan otherwise its enormous potential will be lost and it reverts to being a way of keeping business contacts online.
You cannot expect to grow your business by sitting in your office all day; you have to get out there and attend lots of events, build relationships and become involved.
The same applies to LinkedIn. If you just set up a profile and wait for people to come to you very little will happen. You need to reach out to the LinkedIn community and become actively involved.
Mistake 3: No plan of Attack
A specific plan of action may be:
“I want to develop working relationships with 2 new Accountants in the London area every month”
After setting your goal develop a plan in writing that will get you there – like this:
- Dedicate 45mins per day for LinkedIn and mark it as a core networking activity
- Write a free guide that will help accountants in some way
- Create 3 advanced searches for accountants and work though the list each day
- Set up 4 phone conversations with new accountants each week
Mistake 4: An incomplete profile
Many profiles remain incomplete. Even on 95% your chances of rising to the top of LinkedIn searches are diminished. This is a common LinkedIn mistake.
Here is what you need to have a 100% complete profile.
- A current position
- Two past positions
- Profile summary
- A profile photo
- At least three recommendations
Mistake 5: Missing Profile Picture
Crucial – make sure you have a great professional looking picture of yourself. A common LinkedIn mistake is to avoid posting a photo because you can’t find a decent one. If you don’t have one invest a small amount in a professional photographer to take some for you. It will be worth it.
The small thumbnail to the right shows a good profile picture. Try and aim the look to your profession. If you work in an environment where you would normally wear a suit and tie then choose a profile picture dressed like that. If you work in new media then wearing a suit in your profile may give the wrong impression and a more casual look may be more appropriate.
A good idea is to have somebody take a picture of you early just before you leave for work, or in the office. That way you are fresh and dressed as you would be.
Mistake 6: Your Profile Details are not filled in
Your professional headline is what sits directly below your name on your profile. It follows you everywhere on LinkedIn and it is your first chance to get people to notice you, so make it compelling – remember that people only care about their own problems so ask yourself what problems do you solve?
Example of headline
Create some sentences that best describe what you do and how it helps others. This is your professional headline – your one chance to make people want to connect with you so make it compelling, inspiring and value driven. LinkedIn by default will add in your most recent job title which looks unimaginative and gives very little information about what you do, so be more creative.
When writing you headline make sure you cover the following 3 key areas:
- Description ► your job title
- Value ► what you actually offer
- Keywords► 1-3 descriptive keywords
Rewrite your summary in a draft format and keep it to around 250-300 words. Your headline might bring people in but it will only take you so far. This section needs to be rich and equally compelling, great summaries include:
- What you’re passionate about – people want to know what drives you
- Why you are doing what you are doing – again tell people who you really are
- The best examples of who you have helped this year – everyone helps people in some way or another
- You as a person – if you have children say you have and how great they are
The vast majority of the summaries on LinkedIn read like CVs with lots of factual information, which is a very common LinkedIn mistake and does little to inspire people. Remember when you are out face to face networking it’s all about you and how you help people – treat your LinkedIn summary in a similar way.
I am a highly passionate, creative & hardworking banking professional who loves to help companies connect their business strategy to their technology spend and simplify the end to end flow of trades and transactions……
Adding in your company website is essential and we assume that you have all done this. Google rates very highly links from LinkedIn so this will increase you Google ranking and also give new connections a chance to view your website.
What is often missed here is the opportunity to add in two more websites. If you have two other company websites then great if not then you still have a number of ways you can add value
Add in your Facebook or YouTube pages or any other social media that you may be using to promote you and your business.
Pick out two useful free / factual websites that will provide good information around what you do and add them. This will give extra value to people who view your profile and also give you a reason to send people to your profile.
When you add in your websites select the other “option” and add in a description of the site in the field.
The section should contain a summary that covers all of your services and products, very much like a list of keywords for your website. Don’t leave anything out and be as descriptive as possible. If you do Public Speaking then add it in here also as people will find you when searching for speakers.
Don’t reinvent the wheel!
Use Google to find the top ranked websites of your competitors when you find the top sites do a “Right Click” on your mouse and select “view source” this will open up a second window showing to code of the homepage – at the top you will see their Keywords. Use this as a guide to create your keywords. A common mistake on LinkedIn is to leave this blank.
LinkedIn offer a number of applications to enhance your profile. Out of the 19 that are currently available the following add the most value:
Events – great for marketing your own events, also finding ones in your market and checking out who will be attending
SlideShare Presentations – great for displaying a quick summary of the value you can offer and also recently you can now upload videos. The maximum upload limit is 100MB so keep your video down to 60-90 secs
Box.net Files – this is a really great application that is rarely used on LinkedIn profiles. If you have free material which you offer then use this application to get it up on your profile and add real value to those who connect with you
Reading List by Amazon – this is also very useful as it can help with your credibility with others, because they can see what you are interested it and that you are reading good books.
Mistake 7: Your Profile doesn’t have any Recommendations
These are critical to the overall success of your LinkedIn strategy. In today’s business economy it’s not enough to say you are a great accountant or sales trainer, you need to show evidence to support this. Social Media is one of the most powerful ways to provide this and it has even been given its own term, known as “Social Proof”.
Think about it when you view other profiles that have just a handful of recommendations, what is your impression of them? You might think OK – but OK is not OK. Profiles with 35-40 detailed recommendations really stand out and that is what you need to aim for. Who would you rather do business with, someone with 1 recommendation or someone with 38!
Need more recommendations? Then make some yourself. The first rule of networking in general is – give first, receive second
Giving a recommendation is one of the biggest compliments someone can receive. Do not wait for someone to ask you for a recommendation take the initiative and write a compelling recommendation for a fellow connection and watch them come back tenfold!
Mistake 8: Using the standard generic messages for invitations
As a general rule always personalise your messages when you connect with people and request recommendations. I’m not a big fan of that standard message that LinkedIn provides, which gives no information at all
“I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”
You are much more likely to get a better response if you add in the reason why you wish to connect, for example
Networking Follow up message
It was a pleasure to meet with you at the BBA Breakfast event yesterday morning, I would like to add you to my professional network and look forward to helping you with your business over the next few months
Adding in a new contact message – may look like this
I noticed that we are both members of the business marketing group and I also noticed on your profile that you work with Solicitors. I also work with them and wondered if we could help each other by sharing our contacts as our businesses do not compete with each other. I would like to add you to my network and contact you for an initial discussion
Think about how you can add value to the people you want to connect with.
The same applies when you ask for recommendations. Be specific – by asking to be recommended for the work you did 6 months ago when you helped the company out of a difficult situation with their accounts will yield you a much richer and more descriptive recommendation than just saying
“I’m sending this to ask you for a brief recommendation of my work that I can include in my LinkedIn profile. If you have any questions, let me know.
Mistake 9: Not enough contacts
Connections lead to opportunities and opportunities lead to the need for more connections – in short the bigger your network the more people you can reach and the greater the likelihood that it will create your next big opportunity.
LinkedIn is not Facebook. With your professional network more is better.
The ability to see and be seen though the LinkedIn network is directly proportional to the number of connections you have
The big mistake with LinkedIn is connecting with just the people you know – you need to expand your network of contacts, and here are some great ways
Following up from Network events
Get into the habit of connecting with the people you meet when out networking face to face and preferably very soon after the event, take their business card and send them a personal invite to connect message.
The advance searching feature can be used to target certain contacts and ideal prospects
Target your ideal prospects with a combination of the following filters. Geographic (2 digit post codes) Specific Industry Codes (SIC) Size of Business, (By turnover, number of staff and fleet size) Key Decision Makers (CEO, Sales Director, Marketing Director, IT Director, Senior Management)
LinkedIn then provides you with a list of the contacts that match the criteria; LinkedIn is very clever in how it presents this list to you. The more relevant they are to the search and your profile the higher they appear on the list
Contacts with 2nd next to their name mean that a contact in your network is directly connected to them, the 3rd means that someone in your network in connected to them though a member of their network.
What this means is that you can look at their profiles, identify the best contacts for your needs, then ask the contact in your network for an introduction – fantastic way to get to key decision makers in your market and grow your network of contacts.
If there is no one in your network that is connected to a potential contact then you can try to connect with them directly. This can be a little risky as officially LinkedIn only allows you to connect with people you already know in some way.
In our experience as long as you write a personal message with value and reason to connect you will be ok. You may have come across the term (LION) next to the names of certain contacts. (LION) means LinkedIn Open Networker – this is an open statement declaring that they will happily connect with anyone.
The value of connecting with anyone is open to discussion, our advice is to concentrate on finding people that you can help and are of value. There are also various websites where you can download huge lists of LinkedIn open contacts that will give you a huge network over night – again the value of doing this yet to be proven.
Using the Add Connections option
The add connections option is a very useful way to increase your network. It allows you to import your Outlook contacts and Apple Mail. You can also upload a contacts file from a spreadsheet, which gives lot more options to import contacts from various sources.
Once the contacts have been uploaded LinkedIn sends a generic invitation out which is non invasive and accepted by most. There are also various other options to find people within the Add connections feature.
The most important action when growing your network is consistency, by committing to spending 25mins per day looking for new contacts you will be past the 500 mark in just a few months.
Common LinkedIn Mistake 10: Not doing anything with your Contacts
Now you have committed to growing your network of contacts massively you need to actually do something with them otherwise it will be a waste of time and effort. Our advice is to give as much value to your network of contacts as you can, remembering the golden rule of networking, give first, Receive second. Ask yourself, “What ways can I be more giving on LinkedIn?”
One very effective way to give value is to view all of your contacts and find the top 5 that are or will be of most value to you. Use the information that LinkedIn gives you on their profiles, look to see who they are connected with etc. When you have your 5 key contacts plan a strategy for developing your business relationships with them.
One very successful method if you are a service based business is to offer 2 free hours of your services as a thank you for all they have done for you. After you have given them your time don’t ask for anything back apart from a good LinkedIn recommendation.
Provide them with quality introductions. Go out of your way to recommend that they get in touch with key contacts that you have
Build the know, like and trust rule of networking in general by staying connected with them. Send updates once a week, send them a personal message. Give them value – send them quality people you know in your network that will help them, post updates that promote their websites.
Don’t SPAM them, not ever! Save that for your less important contacts (If I now get lots of SPAM, yes I will take it personally!)
This may seem like a lot of work and giving, but what you are doing here is creating the “boomerang effect” most people have a hard time receiving and not giving back. It is human nature, they will feel they owe you in return and will soon realise you are worth helping more often.
For the rest of your contacts similar rules apply. Try to add value to them as much as you can but always give priority to your Key Contacts first, you can seldom do both.
“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all” Dale Carnegie
Ok I’m not going to lecture you here! Just remember that LinkedIn is no different from face to face networking, which is about building life-long contacts that you can draw upon and contribute to for assistance. It’s all about building solid relationships, which takes time and cannot be rushed.
It takes time to build your LinkedIn network. It is important to persist patiently and not be concerned with what others are doing.
Build your LinkedIn and I guarantee it will pay you back many times over.
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I hope you found this introductory guide useful. Please post any questions or comments below and we will get back to you via the site.