Over the last two years I’ve written often about the tips and strategies to more effectively utilize LinkedIn. It’s just as important to consider the mistakes that people make on LinkedIn that will affect their success. Many of these mistakes are often errors of omission. Today I’m going to discuss seven mistakes and then I’m going to show you how you can correct them.
Let's get started.
1. Bad Photo Choice
One of the first things most people do when they visit a profile is look at the photo. Its natural to want to see the person behind the profile. People connect to people and a photo helps improve your visitors perception.
One of the worst mistakes is to not include a photo. What does it say about you as a business professional if you don’t understand the importance of the profile photo?
Another mistake I see is that someone decides to include the family in their photo. That’s fine on Facebook but on a professionally based network it misses the point. Add to this photos with effects or simply unclear. If someone can’t see your face or recognize you there is a problem.
Finally avoid including a logo or product shot. The same advice goes for cartoon photos. Its a professional site. You’re a professional. Your photo should support your brand.
Spend $25 $75 to $200 with a local photographer and get a professional quality headshot. If you choose to take your own photo make sure you have proper lighting. (note: Teryl Jackson a friend, connection and photographer in Atlanta would like to clarify that a good headshot will run from $75 to $200 and is well worth it.)
2. Lack of Detailing Your Profile
Your profile isn’t meant to replace your resume but it should tell your visitors who you are. There are some key areas that not only allow you to tell your story but provide an opportunity to add keywords naturally into your profile.
The first opportunity is your summary. I like to start my profile off with my elevator speech. This short sentence has been refined to capture attention when presented in face to face networking. There’s no reason it shouldn’t work the same on your profile. The rest of your summary should answer the questions of “Who you are”, “How you help people”, and “How they can help you”.
One area of missed opportunity is failing to add in your previous employment. First people want to know the path you travelled from college to your current position. Not including this introduces questions into your profile visitors perception. There’s also the lost opportunity to include keywords into your job descriptions.
There are also some other areas to add information to such as specialties (great place for keywords), Interests, Awards, and don’t forget to include your phone number and your personal contact information (phone number and address if relevant).
You never know how someone will find you
Include as many previous employers that are relevant to your development as a business professional. It’s OK to skip that college job delivering Pizzas. Also be sure that when you write the job descriptions to write them from the perspective of how that job contributed to making you better at what you do today.
3. Ignoring Applications
When you look at the number of applications on Facebook (1,000’s) verses the number on LinkedIn (13) you might think that applications just aren’t that important. That would be a bad analysis. While few in number, the applications available are a key to sharing what it is that you do with your fellow LinkedIn members. They provide the opportunity to take your profile from two dimensional to three dimensional.
The basic LinkedIn profile is simply a lot of text. Sure you can tell people all of the relevant information about yourself, but I always recall my freshman English teacher imploring me to “Show, don’t tell”. Applications give you the opportunity to show what it is that you do.
Applications give you the ability to post a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation (Slideshare or Google Presentations), add a video (Slideshare or Google Presentations), feed in your blog (WordPress and BlogLink), add PDF files or Word documents (Boxnet), announce and RSVP Events, conduct Polls, share the books you’re reading (Amazon), and the just released Twitter application.
Just about any way you want to communicate a message or information on LinkedIn is available. Your profile visitors can engage with your profile in print, video, even audio (add your podcast to a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation.
Start going through your resources to see what information will help you show others what it is that you do and how you can help them. If you don’t have a blog WordPress makes it simple to create one. It’s simple to create a presentation to share, just be sure to make it interesting by including more than just bullet points. Load up those brochures, white papers, and one-pagers.
Finally, add a video to your profile. If you don’t have the tools to record yourself in a professional manner (think lighting and sound), go to http://www.jingproject.com and download this free software. It will allow you to record a 5 minute screen capture as a video. The hardest part is figuring out what to record.
4. Not Securing Recommendations
When I visit at a profile one of the first things I look for is recommendations. There’s no reason why anyone shouldn’t be able to build up to 10 recommendations if they’re good at what they do.
The reason most people fail to get any recommendations is that they sit back and wait for someone to take the initiative. You have to remember that only 24% of the people on LinkedIn are regular users (spend at least 5 hours a week interacting), so the majority of your connections are still trying to figure it out.
These irregular users probably haven’t thought about recommending someone else because they’re still trying to understand LinkedIn.
Get proactive about generating recommendations. Whenever I start working with a new prospect one of the first things that I do is connect to them. Then once I’ve finished serving them, or moved to a point where I’m delivering results, I send them a recommendation request.
I keep the request simple and reference the work I did for them and then state “I’m using LinkedIn to build my online brand. If you feel the work that I did on your behalf exceeded your expectations I would appreciate your taking a moment to write a brief recommendation”.
There are some people that feel that you should not do this, but based on the response, and the recommendations, I’ve received from clients I don’t see a downside to sending the request.
I prefer client recommendations but if your position doesn’t involve clients then you’ll have to impress your fellow coworkers and business colleagues.
5. Fail to Join Enough Relevant Groups
There was a time on LinkedIn when you could belong to as many groups as you would like. These days there is a imposed limit of 50 groups, yet many people have not yet joined any groups. Failing to do so severely limits your LinkedIn reach.
Currently I have 4,500 direct connections on LinkedIn so at any moment I could reach 4,500 people. In the 50 groups that I belong to there are over 1.3 million people. These are people that I can communicate directly to or through using discussion posts and news articles.
Groups are also a great place to engage in conversations and cultivate new relationships. The key is to find as many groups as possible that are relevant to your business.
Go to the groups directory and search for relevant groups. These might be groups that are alumni, industry, location, networking, topical, etc. Be sure to think about the groups your prospects would belong to and join these. Then you simply need to start engaging fellow group members through discussions and news articles.
6. Overlooking Answers
One of the keys in social media/networking is to seek out opportunities to share or provide value to others. LinkedIn Answers is the perfect vehicle to do so. Each day thousands of new questions are asked by fellow members looking for help. You simply need to find the questions that surround your industry or specialty and share your knowledge.
There are several benefits to answering questions. First you’re building good will with the person who asked the question and potentially everyone else that reads your answer. Second you have the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise.
Your answers are also Linked to your profile which is then viewable by profile visitors. Let’s say you’re a health insurance broker that only sells in Georgia but you answer a question from someone in Louisiana. The person that asked the question will never be your client but at least you were able to help someone (Good Karma). But since your answer is Linked to your profile, anyone in your local area can see your answer and it can impact their perception of you.
Go to LinkedIn Answers and search for questions related to what you do for a living. Then start answering questions. Be sure to include a link back to your site or blog in your answer. I find that when I answer a question traffic to my blog increases.
Most categories also have a RSS feed. You can set up a RSS reader that will display the latest questions asked in the category. Using the Google RSS reader I simply check for new questions every morning and answer away.
Just be sure to provide quality answers. Everything you do or say on LinkedIn either adds to or subtracts from your brand.
7. Selling Directly
I’m sure that on LinkedIn someone is having success posting direct sales messages or sending messages to their connections. That being said you are more likely to do harm to your brand over time. People are not looking to be sold to directly on LinkedIn.
That doesn’t mean that there are no opportunities to sell using LinkedIn, its just that you’ll find more success communicating your messages indirectly. The one exception is with the status. It will be interesting to see if this changes with the new Twitter integration.
Take advantage of the opportunities to communicate your message indirectly. One simple way to do this is to change your title to a tagline. My title might be “Blogger” but “Helping folks use LinkedIn more effectively with tips and strategies at the Social Media Sonar blog”. The title tells people what I am, the tag line tells them how I can help them. Plus that tag line is visible in a mini profile when I answer questions, post discussions, or add news articles.
Starting conversation using the discussion boards is a great way to interact with fellow group members. Adding news articles allows you to share value through the content. Over time people will get to know you. If they like your content they’ll begin to like you...and check out your profile. Share value consistently over time and people will begin to develop trust.
We discussed Answers above and its another communication opportunity. These are only some of the options available to communicate indirectly. you can also use your applications including polls and events.
Many of the mistakes I’ve detailed are simply errors of omission. They can be corrected by simply taking some extra time to build your content. Your first goal on LinkedIn is to get people to visit your profile. Then once they’re at your profile page you want to ensure that they understand what it is that you do and how you can help them.
The worst thing that can happen is that they leave your profile with questions and move on to the next profile.
What are some mistakes I missed?
Sean Nelson is the author of the Social Media Sonar blog and has written three LinkedIn eBooks including one of the first books detailing how to strategically use LinkedIn to grow your business. "LinkedIn MArketing Secret Formula". He is a Partner inSONARconnects.