“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” ― Thomas A. Edison
True, that may be inspiring, but it's terrible advice when it comes to crafting a LinkedIn profile aiming for optimum impact. First of all, you are not Thomas Edison. Second of all, LinkedIn is not the place for experimenting. You really can't afford to make 10,000 bad first impressions.
As Koka Sexton points out, LinkedIn has emerged as the number one professional connection tool and an integral component of a social selling platform. Sales reps have found that LinkedIn profile problems have wide-ranging negative effects on personal branding across all networks. In other words, getting your LinkedIn profile right is kind of a big deal.
The reason we are focusing on mistakes – the dark side of best practices – is because they could be holding you back when you're doing everything else right. If some of these “worst practices” hit a little too close to home, don't panic. You're not being picked on. The attempt is to try to help you increase your ability to sell yourself socially, boost your reputation and shine like the star that you can be.
Now, let's get started with reviewing the best of the worst:
Facepalm 1: My photo is horrible.
There are countless ways to get the photo wrong and you can be certain that some people have tried every one of them.
Spend just a few minutes surfing through profiles and you will see:
- Party photos
- Photos of dogs
- Glamor shots
- Old pictures
- Photos from so far away they could be anybody
- Photos so close they make you uncomfortable
The purpose of the LinkedIn photo is to present yourself as you would at a conference or a sales meeting. Give your professional contacts the visual support they need to consider you an energetic and reliable source of information.
Facepalm 2: I forgot to write a value-centered headline.
“Sales rep at X company” is about the most boring thing on Earth. It's right up there with the Terms of Service on all of your app updates. Go edit your profile right now. Directly beneath your name is a field called “Your professional headline.” You can click “Show examples,” which isn't extremely informative, or you can make a smart move and click “See what other users in your industry are using.” The good, the bad and the boring are all there for your education.
This 120-character field, which is shorter than a tweet, can define who you are in the minds of your colleagues and prospects. Undercover Recruiter lists some of the best LinkedIn headlines, such as:
- “No. 1 Publicity Expert on Google” – If you actually do rule the SERP for certain keywords, let the world know about it. Be alert because search results change all the time.
- “Livin' the dream!” – Not the most original catch phrase, but it is intriguing. If you're good at what you do, allow your connections to share in the excitement of it all.
- “Quite possibly the only person on LinkedIn who isn't a results-oriented player with excellent interpersonal skills.” – Differentiate yourself by showing you know the game. Don't get too clever, but make yourself unique and memorable.
Facepalm 3: I forgot I had a LinkedIn profile.
LinkedIn is great for lead generation, sales industry news and finding out who just changed jobs. While you are doing all that research, though, remember that people will be looking for you as well. Keep your profile active by engaging in conversations in your industry groups, following interesting people and posting content in your status updates.
Facepalm 4: I just scanned in my resume.
That was LinkedIn circa 2004. A lot has changed in the past decade. Your LinkedIn profile should be a place people like visiting. Make your profile into a customer magnet by describing your past projects in terms of how you solved real world problems. Perfect your elevator pitch in the summary. Ask clients and colleagues to write recommendations. Make it personal, add a welcome video and polish your call to action. Revisit your profile regularly and ask yourself, Would I want to buy something from me?
Facepalm 5: I don't enjoy “connecting.”
How many profiles have you seen with connections in the single digits? Hopefully not many. Even if you're in the two digit range, you're getting it wrong. Five hundred. That's the number you want to reach. Five hundred connections is like the entrance ticket to true social networking. Brian Howe summed up the power of 500:
“Having more than 500-plus connections will show your potential buyers (and employers) that you have put time into cultivating your social network. Personally, I have spoken to several employers that will not even look at a job applicant unless they have 500-plus connections. Buyers often share a similar mind state, as they are also assessing you.”
Don't think of 500 as a goal. It's the attitude that gets you to 500 or more connections that you will need. Social Selling using LinkedIn isn't a game of who can get the most connections, which is an amateur move. You want to genuinely build relationships. Make sure you're using the Tag feature to sort them into categories like customers, prospects and resources. There will certainly be overlap and new categories will suggest themselves as your connections grow. Just remember that the goal is to make plenty of connections and to make every one of them count.