This past week I presented a keynote address titled Personal Branding Using Social Media Tools. After the presentation, someoneiStock_000059004542Small asked me What are some of the biggest mistakes people are making on LinkedIn?

I made a few quick comments but promised I would get back to him with a more thoughtful list.

So, in the interest of helping you as well, I'm making this the topic of my weekly tip.

1. Punctuation and grammar mistakes in profile

I learned this the hard way when some people made comments about grammatical errors in my profile. I thought to myself: What is the big deal? But the more I thought about it (and the more my wife badgered me about it), I came to realize I didn't want anyone to think I wasn't caring and smart enough to have this right. After all, this was my online reputation on the line, and I want that to be as stellar as it can be.

I am not always perfect, but I am being much more diligent when it comes to grammar and punctuation. I suggest for some of the larger sections on your profile that you write them in Word, spell and grammar check, and cut and paste into your LinkedIn profile.

2. No photo or unprofessional photo

This is your professional identity. Why in the world wouldn't you want that picture to be the best, most recent, closeup face shot that has ever been taken of you? This may be the only image of you a person ever sees. LinkedIn's research says your profile will be viewed fourteen times more often if you have a photo.

Watch this helpful video (1:32), "LinkedIn Profile Picture Fails," from Careerealism for some examples of poor pictures. I hope yours is not one of them.

If you have no photo, let me leave you with two questions:

  • Do you want to be the little, blue, nubby head? Paper man's silhouette avatarI doubt it. I am quite certain you are more good looking than that.
  • If you are going through a LinkedIn search listing and you get to a person who does not have a photo, what do you do? Chances are you skip over him/her. I don't really think you want people doing that to you.

3. Conversations that should be taken offline

Some conversations are not appropriate to be taking place online. Don't forget--we still have the telephone, email, and, yes, even snail mail for those critical personal conversations or confidential business exchanges.

4. Not using the magic words "thank you" or "you're welcome"

Our mothers taught us this. Enough said.

For more on this, check out my article "In Life and LinkedIn, Saying Thank You Can Take You a Long Way."

5. Making unprofessional or "inside" comments to your connection when asking for an introduction to one of his/her connections

Remember--the person you want to get introduced to sees the comments you make to your connection who is agreeing to introduce you. Inappropriate comments to your close friend that can be read by people you don't know is not only the quickest way to not get the introduction, but it will also give these people a very poor first impression of you.

6. Using your Status Update to tweet

Don't share what you had for breakfast unless you own the restaurant, the details and photos of your latest trip unless you are a travel agent or photographer, or your pet's latest tricks unless you own the pet store. That is what Twitter is for.iStock_000023617648Small

LinkedIn has a very different set of rules and acceptable practices. It is really not appropriate to have twenty status updates each day on LinkedIn, especially when most of them are about what you ate for lunch or the color of your new shirt or tie. This is a business site, and we all need to do our parts to keep it that way. Otherwise it will just turn into Facebook, and then we may all retreat to our old worlds where social media didn't exist.

I suggest you follow the 6/3/1 rule. Read more about that in my article "LinkedIn Status Updates: The Rule Everyone Should Follow."

7. Using the Summary section in your profile as just a laundry list of keywords

That is not to say that your important keywords shouldn't be in your summary--they most definitely should be part of your summary. But your summary is meant to be that all-important cover letter to your viewers, and they need to hear and see you as a real person--not as just a list of words.

8. Only posting one job

Unless you have only had one job, it sure looks like you are trying to hide something from someone.

9. Not having your most important jobs in your headline

Your headline is a very important part of your profile because it travels with you wherever you go on LinkedIn. Do you really want your headline to say that you volunteer part time at an animal shelter instead of saying you are the president of your own company? Probably not.

You can decide what goes in your headline. However, if you don't generate your own entry, LinkedIn will default your entry to the most recent item in the Experience section of your profile. Don't let this happen to you. Be creative, and craft a headline that includes your most important position along with some additional marketing punch.Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 9.26.19 AM

For more help on this very important section of your profile, download my free worksheet The Definitive Worksheet to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile Headline in the free resources section of my website.

10. Not having a LinkedIn company page

This is like not having a company website. If I search for your company and you are not there, it must mean you are not open for business. Also, if you don't have a company page, then the individual profiles of the people who work for the company are not properly linked to the company page, thereby missing an important branding opportunity.  

Don't make these ten rookie mistakes because they WILL affect your professional brand.