First impressions are critical to your success in building business relationships, which just happens to be one of the primary functions of LinkedIn.
It's human nature to maintain our initial impressions of people, and we often find it extremely challenging to change our perceptions of them, even when we're presented with lots of evidence to the contrary.
Factor in, also, that you have only seven seconds to make an impression - good or bad.
In this post, we'll take a look at ten LinkedIn mistakes that can make a poor impression on prospects, clients or your industry peers, and how to avoid making them.
1. Boring or undescriptive headline
One of the gravest LinkedIn mistakes you can make is to use a boring or undescriptive LinkedIn headline. Your LinkedIn headline is the most critical part of your profile, because along with your name and profile photo, it's the first thing that anyone will see when they find you in the search results or land on your profile.
Your headline will essentially determine whether a viewer will choose to click on your profile, or move onto someone else.
Your headline should also include keywords you'd like to be found for, which could consist of your position or the services you offer. You can also include a client-focused statement that'll capture a viewer’s attention and entice them to click to learn more.
To ensure your headline creates a great first impression and helps you stand out, check out this guide on creating the perfect LinkedIn headline.
2. Something other than your name
To make a good first impression on LinkedIn, you should only list your name in the name field. Don't add personal information, like an email address or a phone number, and avoid using symbols, numbers or special characters here.
In fact, doing any of this violates LinkedIn’s Terms of Service and can get your account restricted. It'll also make it harder for others to find you, it looks unprofessional and it reduces your credibility.
There are, however, some exceptions. These include professional/academic abbreviations (e.g., Ph.D.), as well as former names, maiden names and nicknames, as these can make it easier for people to find you.
3. Unprofessional profile photo
LinkedIn is not Facebook. While it can be amusing to have a profile image featuring fun locations or your friends, family or pets, such a profile image is not appropriate on a professional platform like LinkedIn.
To create the best first impression, add a professional profile picture, where you are recognizable, professionally dressed, smiling and looking straight at the camera against a neutral background.
4. No cover image
Your cover photo is prime LinkedIn real estate, and it's a mistake to leave it blank or use a cover photo that doesn't represent you professionally.
Capture the attention of your profile visitors with an image that's both professional and informative, adding to their understanding of who you are and what it is you do.
5. Blank summary or current experience
Your summary section is the perfect place for you to make a first great impression, and leaving it blank will rob you of the opportunity to tell your readers about yourself, your expertise and your clientele.
When writing your summary, speak to your audience directly, be it your ideal clients, strategic partners or employers. The first sentences of your summary section need to pique the readers’ interest enough for them to want to click the "See more" link to read the rest of the section.
If you don’t grab attention fast, people will click away, and the opportunity to create a business relationship with them will be lost.
Your current experience should describe what you’re doing right now, in your current position or in your business.
A compelling current work experience section should:
- Describe the company you work for (or own),
- Share the most inspiring information about the company (such as a USP and mission or vision statement),
- Describe the products or services you offer, the benefits they provide, and the types of clients you serve.
6. No recommendations or skills
It's a huge LinkedIn mistake to not include social proof of your expertise in your profile. The platform makes it easy to showcase social proof, in the form of recommendations and skills, and this is a great way to make a good impression.
When people are deciding whom they want to do business with, they're often swayed by the decisions others have made, so the more recommendations you have, the better. Quality recommendations from current or past clients, colleagues and industry peers who've taken the time to write, in detail, about how your expertise helped them, can be highly effective in boosting your reputation.
You should aim to collect at least five recommendations from credible people who can genuinely vouch for you and your skill set.
7. No vanity URL
By default, LinkedIn will automatically create a URL for you. This URL will include your first name, dot, last name, forward slash, a series of numbers with a dash, and another string of numbers.
Using this random URL, rather than setting up a vanity URL with your name, is a mistake.
A LinkedIn vanity URL with your name makes it easier for people to find you, and looks much more professional. Plus, you want to secure your name before someone else does.
8. Profile is written like a resume
Unless you're a job seeker, your profile should not be written like a resume. This impersonal way of talking about yourself can turn off potential clients, partners and/or other people you’d like to connect with.
Write your profile in the first person, and speak directly to the people you want to connect with. Explain who you help, and how you help, so that your visitors can imagine the benefits of receiving your service or using your product.
9. Don’t reply or engage
Not replying, or taking too long to reply to messages, connection requests and other forms of engagement within your LinkedIn network is a huge mistake.
Nothing makes a person feel more insignificant than being ignored, and this can leave a bad taste in their mouth, and sour their desire to build a relationship with you.
You can prevent this LinkedIn mistake by replying to each sender with a short message, letting them know you'll get back to them shortly. It takes less than 15 minutes a day to maintain your LinkedIn network.
10. Don’t personalize
But it’s not enough to reply in a timely fashion, you also need to take the time to personalize every interaction you have on LinkedIn. Whether you're sending a connection request, or replying to a message, make sure you customize every communication you have.
Taking a couple of extra minutes to learn something about the person from their profile, and then using that information to tailor your communication with them, can significantly increase your chances of making a good impression on that person and developing your relationship with them further.
On the other hand, sending generic and thoughtless messages - as so many LinkedIn users do - won't help you stand out. What’s worse, it could leave a poor impression on your new connection, which can be hard to recover from.
The Power of Personalization
Why is personalization so powerful?
The psychology behind our need for personalized experiences is relatively easy to understand - primarily, it can be attributed to two key factors: a desire for control and information overload.
When you know you’re getting something tailored to your interests, you still perceive having some level of control over what you’re engaging with (even when you don’t). Personalization also can reduce our perception of information overload.
Ultimately people prefer personalized content because it's more relevant, and they'll be more inclined to engage with information they find relevant and interesting.
Avoid LinkedIn Mistakes that Damage Credibility
Everybody makes mistakes, but some errors, like the ten LinkedIn mistakes discussed in this post, can cost you potential business opportunities, and even damage your credibility.
LinkedIn is a professional network, and can be much less forgiving than Facebook or Twitter. Familiarize yourself with LinkedIn etiquette, and act accordingly, especially if you use (or hope to use) LinkedIn for professional purposes.
A version of this post was first published on the Top Dog Social Media blog.