September 18, 2014

15 LinkedIn Mistakes You Can Easily Avoid

linkedin mistakes

Are you a B2B professional who wants to make a standout impression with your expertise and build your personal brand?  Want to meet and engage with other quality professionals in your industry?  Want to stay up to date on interesting information shared by peers in your field?

Then LinkedIn is the professional party you should attend when it comes to your social media mix.

LinkedIn should be a central hub that you use for presenting yourself that tells your professional story.  Telling your story and demonstrating your skills and expertise by presenting them on Linkedin, is a way to get people interested in you in a way that’s also relevant to business.

According to an article on the Buffer App blog, one insight should seriously capture your attention when it comes to LinkedIn. “LinkedIn sends nearly four times more people to your homepage than Twitter and Facebook.”

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network and now a potent publishing hub, too. If you use it with all of the best practices in mind, then it can be a tremendous, consistent source of connections, information and results.  But if you blunder, it won’t be nearly as powerful for you.

These 15 LinkedIn mistakes can easily be avoided, so that you can get the most out of your commitment to LinkedIn.

Mistake #1: Having an Unfinished LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn offers a comprehensive array of content sections that all provide the opportunity to present your accomplishments, interests and current links to your sites.

If it is unfinished or skimpy, it can send a message about your brand credibility.  It may inadvertently send the message that you just don’t care, or worse, that you don’t follow through and finish things.

Even if you don’t need to use all of the content sections, be sure to finish the main sections to present a well rounded view of your post activity, background/summary, experience, skills and endorsements, education and additional info.

Mistake #2: Posting an Inappropriate Picture, or Worse, No Picture

The most noticeable thing people will see first is your picture.  You’ve heard the old adage about having only a few seconds to make a good first impression. Yes, that applies to LinkedIn profiles too.

An unprofessional or inappropriate picture is an immediate perception killer — and a connection killer. Remember, this is LinkedIn, a professional site.  Make sure your picture portrays the image you want to be aligned with.

Consider the following two stock images.  Imagine them being on a LinkedIn profile.  One person you might want to party with.  But which would you hire as a consultant or employee, and entrust your most important business concerns to?

linkedin mistakes

Mistake #3:  Connecting to People, Then Immediately Trying to Sell Them

“Grooooooan….”  That’s the sound of your brand-spanking-new contact regretting the decision to accept your connection request.

Don’t connect with people and then immediately send them a self-serving sales pitch. Be patient and engage to build your commonality. Get involved in their update activity and comment on their content, instead.  Build your way up to sales activity, after you have earned some trust and developed a relationship first.

Mistake #4: Using Inaccurate Career Information

Never lie or fabricate your career information in your experience section.  This shouldn’t need to be said, but unfortunately does.

According to a Wall Street Journal article,  inflated credentials are all too common.  Quoting information from Jenifer DeLoach, who supervises background checks for corporate clients at Kroll Inc., “about 20% of job seekers and rank-and-file employees undergoing background checks by their companies are found to have inflated their educational credentials. Those seeking jobs usually get turned down when discrepancies appear.”

If someone is interested in you and starts the discovery phase, the truth will come out.  Best to tell the whole truth about whatever you have done and accomplished. Celebrate what you have done, not what you wish you’d done.

Mistake #5:  Not Including Dates and Brief Job Descriptions in Your Experience

When you leave out dates and descriptions of your prior jobs it makes them seem like they didn’t really exist. Or worse, it may seem like you are trying to hide something. Accurate dates and a simple description of your real jobs and your contributions unfolds your career story and the skill sets you deliver.

Not much happening here:

linkedin mistakes

Mistake #6: Infrequent Status Updates

Woody Allen, the famous actor and film director, has been quoted as saying “80% of life is showing up.”

Consistently showing up is how people get to know us, in all our activities, whether out in the community, at the gym or school, church or chamber or enjoying our hobbies with others.

The more regular and consistent we are on LinkedIn, the more people will expect to see our activity and the more we can contribute to theirs. Too much time in-between activity updates interrupts relationship building. It makes it seem like you are not serious about being on LinkedIn. Be consistent even if it’s three times a week.

Mistake #7: Over Posting Daily

The flip side of infrequent status updates is “over posting” daily. Fast Company offers a ratio and a suggested frequency for updates on LinkedIn.

If you look at the top influencer on LinkedIn, Richard Branson’s profile, you can see he publishes articles weekly and posts short updates 2-3 times a day. That is a very good formula. But don’t feel you must update even that often.

linkedin mistakes

Mistake #8: Asking for Recommendations From People You Barely Know

“We have Joe in common as a friend on LinkedIn, would you mind introducing me to Jack.” If you need an introduction, look at the people that LinkedIn shows you have in common and reach out to someone you actually know and are connected to.  I sometimes reach out to people that way to invite them to be a guest on my podcast or blog.

However, that’s very different from sending a request to someone you met once at a  networking event, asking that person to recommend your services.  How would that person know enough about your services?

Here’s an example I received not long ago:

“Hi friends,
Word of mouth is the best advertising, so I’m gathering feedback from clients I’ve served as a Mortgage Lending Consultant/Bilingual English/Spanish 25 yrs Experience in Mtg. Industry.”

But the thing is, this person never served me in the mortgage industry. I did not know enough to write a recommendation and say anything intelligent, even if I were so inclined — and I was not.  I now remember this person very well, but not for a good reason.

Mistake #9:  Sending Direct Spammy Stuff

Never send unsolicited, promotional direct messages through LinkedIn to people you don’t really have an active relationship with to get them to opt in, try or promote something for you. Period. Spam is pretty clear and we know it when we get it, so don’t send it to others.

Have you gotten these from people?

LinkedIn mistakes

Mistake #10: Posting Overly Negative Comments

Never post negative, emotionally-controversial or shocking comments for the sake of it on LinkedIn or in groups.

Having a differing opinion or a contrarian view, stated professionally, is welcomed.  That encourages discussion and exchange of different points of view.  But it’s best to follow the rule of thumb to stay away from religion, politics and sexuality topics.

Take for example, politics. With a country that is evenly divided politically, you’ll probably alienate 50% of your connections (not to mention bore or annoy your non-U.S. connections). What’s the business benefit of that?

Mistake # 11: Being Too Self Serving in Groups

Joining groups on LinkedIn is an opportunity to become a part of the conversation and share valuable knowledge, not a free-for-all to pitch and sell your business.

Start and follow conversations.  Add value.  But don’t use LinkedIn groups to get off-topic to promote self serving interests.  You can still, in subtle ways, demonstrate your expertise and value — this group question and its participation (1223 comments) is a great example of the right way to participate in groups:

linkedin mistakes

Mistake #12: Not Including Links to Your Key Sites on Your Profile

LinkedIn is a great landing hub where all your important links and information should be organized and posted.  Sure, people could search all around the Web to find your website, your blog, your Twitter handle, and so on.  But why make them?

Take advantage of this feature.  Here’s one done well:

linkedin mistakes

Mistake #13: Not Personalizing Your LinkedIn Profile URL

LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to personalize your LinkedIn URL to include your name, instead of gibberish numbers.

Take the time to do this as it’s more user friendly, and much easier to be found with your name.

This is one of the easiest LinkedIn mistakes to avoid.  Simply click on “edit profile.”  Then click the edit link by your LinkedIn profile URL. Then customize it to your name.

Mistake #14: Using LinkedIn Like Facebook or Instagram

LinkedIn is NOT Facebook or Instagram. It features professional business content.  Articles are used to educate and inform.  Professional background information about business people helps facilitate networking.

LinkedIn is not the kind of laid-back social sphere of Facebook and Instagram, where people let down their hair.  Maybe you wish LinkedIn were like that, but if it were, its reputation as a source of reliable and credible business information and professional networking would be diluted.

Images are best used to enhance the text, to reinforce business messages.  You can still have fun images — just make sure they relate to updates, as these tasteful examples demonstrate:

linkedin mistakes

Mistake #15: Not Personalizing Your Connection Requests or Personal Messages

Take the time to research your potential connections and personalize a message to them, so they know you took the time to get to know them. Include something specific that you could only know because you did research the person. It will be appreciated.  Here’s an example of how to do that, by stating your connection request this way:

“I enjoyed reading your article “The 5 Game-Changing Benefits of Networking” and I would like to connect with you on LinkedIn.”

Here’s another example of a personal message, this time a little more in-depth on the customization:

“Thanks so much for sharing my article. I’m looking forward to meeting in June or sooner. I hope if possible to be on your show again as Amber mentioned to me. Congratulations on your book, that’s truly exciting. We’ll be on the lookout and share it.”

Come to the LinkedIn party looking your best and believing in yourself – and have a great time.  If you conduct yourself authentically yet professionally, LinkedIn can be a great experience.

For More Tips on Avoiding LinkedIn Mistakes:

Elements of an Optimized and Useful LinkedIn Profile

35 LinkedIn Tools for Business

How Small Businesses Can Leverage Linkedin

LinkedIn Photo via Shutterstock, Beer Hat Photo via Shutterstock, Businessman Photo via Shutterstock

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Deborah Shane


Deborah Shane Deborah Shane is a staff writer for Small Business Trends covering marketing, branding and social media topics. She is a Top 100 Small Business Champion, career transition consultant, personal branding strategist and social media specialist. Deborah hosts her Top 100 Small Business Podcast weekly. Her book #trusthewhy Fundamentals, Values and Humor Get You Through Anything and award winning "Career Transition: Make the Shift" (2011) are available through all major book sellers.

37 Reactions

  1. Lots of good stuff in here. I feel like you could write a post with examples of good & bad for each one.

  2. Thanks Robert. Well we just might take you up on that! Great idea.

  3. I think I’m only guilty of one of these: the very last one.

    I can relate to receiving connection requests and then being plugged something days or weeks after. Happens to me on Facebook sometimes.

    • Ebele, that is impressive! Best to be brief but responsive. Just answering as much as one can is encouraging to people who reach out. Got to qualify too. Please connect with me on LI!

      • I said I think. Might be guilty of one or two more! But that’s the one that definitely stuck out for me that I definitely do not do.

        Will connect with you and nip that last one in the bud in the process too. :)

      • Ha, it’s hard to be perfect with this everyday. These are some of the best practices that can make our experience work it the best. Progress not perfection. Yes, do connect with me on LI.

  4. Great post Deborah! I am a huge fan of LinkedIn. It helped me land my current job. I simply went to a marketing discussion group and posted that I am a recent graduate with some experience in the field, looking for new opportunities. Someone contacted me and now I am in my dream position!

    So my one piece of advice would be, really do make the most of LinkedIn. It may sound cheesy, but it is an amazing platform that allows you to connect with like-minded people and discover new opportunities, industry insights, events in your area and a lot more!

    • Didi, congrats, thanks for sharing that experience as it relates to our article and it’s NOT cheesy at all. It gives people hope and shows it’s impact when used right! This is a great example of “Come to the LinkedIn party looking your best and believing in yourself – and have a great time”.

  5. As a novice on LinkedIn, this article was very informative.

  6. Great post Deborah! I tweeted it!

  7. As for #3, they don’t really have to sell outright. But it is insane when people are talking to you when they are just waiting for that perfect moment to make that pitch. You can somehow detect that it is coming.

    • Aira, This unfortunately happens all the time people, where people think that it’s perfectly okay to connect and then send someone a sales pitch. Most time you don’t see it coming because it is bad etiquette. They just don’t understand that building a relationship is the only bridge to a sale!

  8. Hi,
    Great points. I would add another which is kind of the flip-side of #8. Don’t give endorsements to people you really don’t know anything about, in efforts to “troll” for reciprocal endorsements. I will only endorse people I have actually done business with and won’t post bogus endorsements on my profile (no matter how flattering they may be)

    • Agreed Dan. We earn endorsements and should know who and why we are endorsing! I know people do it all the time but seems ridiculous to endorse people you don’t really know. Thanks.

  9. Great list. I have one to add. A HUGE pet peeve of mine is people who write their LinkedIn profile in the 3rd person. 3rd-person is fine for a bio on your company website, but social media profiles should all be written in the 1st person.

  10. That’s a great one and a big yes. Tell your career story. Thank you

  11. This is really Good useful tips Shane!
    Also it’s very important to have relevant endorsement, unbiased profile descriptions too :)

  12. Very useful tips for me, as I’m still lacking some important issues. I could find scope to develop my Ln-actions and profile. Thanks for this check list.

  13. Thanks for the great post. I’ve learned a lot. In some ways, I can now be aware on the Linkedin Protocol that is being implemented and more importantly, being far beyond on possible account restriction. Thanks again Deborah Shane!

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