July 13, 2010

Eight mistakes to avoid on LinkedIn

It’s been a while since I wrote about LinkedIn, and the more I use the platform, the more I realize its powerful potential. But also, I get exposed to so many poor practices sometimes I LOL (only if no one is around… OK, I threw in the acronym to see if you were paying attention).

So I thought it was high time for another LinkedIn blog, this time on practices to avoid.

Incomplete information. Regardless of what kind of work you do or what type of career you have, LinkedIn is offering you a free search engine friendly web portal, a resume, a place to show the world what you do and what you’re capable of doing. So why not use it to its fullest capability? The fields that get the most attention are:

- Headline: fill it in as much as you can – the field is much longer than you’d expect.

- Summary and specialties: why do so many people have short summaries? Fill up the area as much as you can with an easily readable format (nobody wants to read a long paragraph – use spaces and bullets).

- Links: not just your company link, but also if you’ve been mentioned in an article, if you have written white papers, or if you have a profile on a company website. Make sure to name them properly by using the “other” option.

- Experience: highlight accomplishments as you would in a resume.

You can always check my profile for some guidelines, although I’d be the first to admit it’s not 100% perfect. And don’t forget about good formatting and especially keywords.

Hiding your profile. I don’t get why people do this. I guess if you’re the CEO of GM, you don’t want your info exposed, but if you’re the CEO of GM you’re probably not reading this blog, so for the rest of you, expose the profile as much as you can. If there’s info you don’t want exposed, just remove it from the profile.

Poor grammar & typos. This is so easy to fix and so many people still have problems with it. Drop all the content into a Microsoft Word to catch the spelling and grammar errors. If you're really bad at writing, there are now professional LinkedIn profile writers who can do this for a fee.

Impersonal connection requests. This is like walking into a bar and immediately asking for people’s phone numbers. If you’re interested in a connection, you should start it with a conversation, even a short one. There’s a “note” section in the connection request. Use it.

Recommendations. There are so many wrong ways to get recommendations it deserves its own blog, but I’ll make it short. Recommendations should come from people who know you or have worked with you AND have something nice to say. Not brain surgery, right? So why is it so many people get it wrong? Here is a list of the wrong ways to get them:

- Recommendations from strangers: this is not a joke, I recently saw a recommendation that said something like “I don’t know Mr. xxx but I’m sure he’d be good at whatever he does.” Oh, that’s really impressive.

- Recommendations from people who either don’t know you well or haven’t worked with you: I talk to a guy once, and the next thing you know I’m getting a recommendation request. Really? Needless to say I ignored it, but if this guy had waited a few weeks, he might have received a good recommendation from me.

- Not checking the recommendation for accuracy: LinkedIn allows you to ask for revisions before you accept the recommendation. Just about all of my recommendations either had typos, grammatical errors, or factual errors in them. Make sure it’s clean and crisp, otherwise it reflects negatively on you too.

Not building a network. Having a good profile is kind of useless on its own. The point is to build a network you can regularly tap into. I wish LinkedIn was around back 20 years ago – I’ve lost so many good college and business contacts along the way. Build the network and stay in touch.

Over-promotion. I cut people a lot of slack but some people overdo the self promotion, the service promotion, etc. Remember there’s a “hide” button on the feeds, and if people get sick of your promotions, they’ll hide all your actions from their feed, or worse yet, they’ll remove you from their connection list.

Unprofessional behavior. Does this need any explanations? With new LinkedIn features, even people beyond your network can see your comments on status updates, groups, etc. Keep it professional.

I can already think of 10-12 other things I can add to the list, but this should do it. Make sure to use all the features LinkedIn offers including the great applications and the groups.

If you have any funny (or not so funny) stories about mistakes people make on LinkedIn, I’d love to hear from you. Put them in the comment section.


  1. Great tips, Kat!

    I lol'd at the recommendation from a stranger. I haven't seen any quite that bad, but it reminded me of a funny bit from Benjamin Franklin on Recommendations, in which he writes a letter of recommendation for someone he hasn't met.

    Also, I wrote a post a couple of years ago called 9 Ways to Get Linked Out on LinkedIn. A couple of items were the same, but some were different...and you asked for other mistakes, so... there you go (and I've seen all of them actually made).

  2. Spot on as always Kit.

    Using Linked-In reminds me of a 7th grade dance sometimes. You have the bold ones that try and take over the dance floor (ie the blantant self-promoters), the shy ones that hang around the periphery, and everyone in bewteen.

    You see this most frequently in group discussions, which could provide good fodder for a followup to this blog.... ;>)

  3. Kat,
    Great points !!
    Thank you for sharing.
    You and Scott have hit the nail on the head. As we all have banged our own thumbs a few times.

    LinkedIn is a most powerful tool and totally ignored or abandoned in most toolboxes across the world.

    With today’s economy and paralysis of the analysis mentality out there? It behooves us all to get everyone of our tools out and review them, to oil and sharpen them back to usefulness. But most of all, to hone our personal and professional talents in using them to a proficiency that allows us to move forward in our networking missions.

    Thanks for the reminder of that !!


  4. Just read this post and it's terrific. Thanks Kat- I will share this with many of my clients. Great information!