If you created a profile on LinkedIn, hoping that connections and opportunities would fall into your lap, you might be feeling a bit frustrated when it becomes clear that the platform needs some work. LinkedIn provides the opportunity to network, but it is up to you to leverage the potential. In the U.S., more than a quarter of adults — 28 percent — use LinkedIn daily, while only 13 percent will use Instagram daily. LinkedIn is the place to go to meet other professionals and form the connections to grow your personal brand, so here is how to make it work for you.
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional networking platform, with more than 467 million members in more than 200 countries and territories. Professionals and organizations can use the platform to brand themselves, uncovering new job and professional possibilities. Considering that only the top 2 percent of candidates will receive interviews, creating a strong, positive LinkedIn presence can be the difference between receiving a phone call and being overlooked.
The key to using this platform correctly, however, is understanding the etiquette that surrounds the platform and what will encourage your potential connections, as well as what will send people running from your profile. Social media listening tools can let you see how you perform, but as you build your presence, here is a quick list of seven steps to avoid if you want to have a successful LinkedIn profile.
#1: Do not send spam messages to your connections
Your LinkedIn profile is your professional persona online. It provides you with an opportunity to network with other users and get to know people in your industry. Spamming with people with excessive or meaningless messages will hurt your reputation and your ability to use the platform.
Isaiah Hankel detailed his trouble in getting people to pay attention to his messages during his early LinkedIn days. By sending out endless messages without offering value to the people he was trying to connect with, he ended up on numerous “ignore” lists. Remember that people are busy professionals; they are not there to be your personal job tutors. They want to see value from you in return.
#2: Do not treat LinkedIn like Facebook or Twitter
“LinkedIn is a professional site — it’s not a personal site like Facebook. That being said, make sure your LinkedIn profile picture portrays you in a professional manner. You probably won’t have the same profile image as you do on Facebook.” — Jamie Shanks Managing Partner at Sales for Life
LinkedIn was designed to be a professional networking platform. Facebook and Twitter are the places to go if you want to post goofy images or articles. People check their LinkedIn profiles to learn more about their industry and their connections. Failing to respect the more professional reputation and intentions of LinkedIn can hurt your reputation and hinder your ability to use the platform successfully.
#3: Do not blanket connect
The connections you form on LinkedIn are designed to be meaningful circles of other professionals with whom you can develop a more professional relationship. LinkedIn wants to you to have some kind of discernible link to the people you reach out to for a connection. If you request to connect with someone who does not know you, they can select an option indicating that they are unfamiliar with you. Too many of these indications can result in penalties from LinkedIn.
#4: Do not let your profile sit inactive, and do not always post the same thing when you do post
“Active participation on LinkedIn is the best way to say, ‘Look at me!’ without saying ‘Look at me!’” — Bobby Darnell, principal at Construction Market Consultants
When users engage on LinkedIn, they are interested in reading material that is useful and beneficial to them professionally. Neglecting your LinkedIn account will result in you largely becoming invisible and thus negating any benefits you might have otherwise experienced. Similarly, re-posting the same information will result in your profile being ignored.
#5: Do not send mass messages without deselecting, “Allow recipients to see each other’s names and addresses”
LinkedIn offers messaging options that allow you to reach out to multiple connections at a time. When you open a new message, however, you will quickly see that the box allowing recipients to see each other’s names and addresses is automatically selected. Leaving this box checked is the equivalent of sending an email to a large number of connections without using the BCC option. Since your various recipients do not know each other and do not realize that you are sending a mass message, this will be very unprofessional.
#6: Do not only self-promote; provide value outside of you
People who join social media platforms such as LinkedIn do not join because they want another channel to receive endless commercials and advertisements. Remember that in the digital age, gaining the valuable connection, job, or sale, is all about building connections. To build these relationships effectively, you will need to demonstrate value to your audience. Steer away from endless self promotion. Your primary focus should be on providing those connected to you with valuable information.
Jeff Haden — one of LinkedIn’s most-read influencers, for example, will comment on other people’s posts and engage with the broader community to promote content he feels is valuable.
#7: Do not post negative or rude comments in groups
Groups might be likened to networking events or water coolers, depending upon the type of group you choose. As a professional, however, you know that when you are in those types of social situations in person, you want to exhibit professional behavior at all times because you never know where you might meet your next connection. In groups, you want to follow the same rules of thumb. You want to maintain a professional demeanor, focus on engaging conversation, and provide value for those with whom you are interacting. Build relationships and use the groups to get to know others with similar interests or who are involved in related industries. Brands need to be careful with how they relate to the general public, whether it is in a group on LinkedIn or in public.
LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for when you want to brand yourself and get to know others in your industry. Using the platform correctly can be an enormous asset in uncovering new opportunities and making valuable connections. Keep these 7 “don’ts” in mind and see what the platform has in store for you.