Monday, February 13, 2012

Three Common Mistakes on LinkedIn and How to Fix Them

LinkedIn, because of its placement as the most populous professional networking site, can significantly boost your presence online, even if you don't have any other social presence. Maximing your LinkedIn presence is merely a matter of simple steps, and building a Business page is straightforward. From that point on, all that is required is participation and maintenance of your profile.

Because use of LinkedIn is so relatively simple, and because there are no moderating features, LinkedIn frequently has examples of behaviors that more sophisticated users of social platforms eschew. Here are three behaviors that can completely capsize you on LinkedIn and you may never know why.

This morning, I checked LinkedIn and ran into three very common mistakes right away in my inbox:

Request for Recommendation (From Someone You Don't Know)

I'm pretty generous with recommendations. If we've worked together directly and you've shown yourself to be professional (at the very least) I'll probably find something nice to write about you. Today I received an obvious generic email sent to all of the person's connections - asking for "glowing praise."

Well, you know, I don't know this person. We have never worked together. LinkedIn is a professional networking site, but despite their limited (and pointless) security against connecting with people you don't know, many folks there do connect with people they do not know. That is, in fact, the point of professional networking. However, if he feels that a mass mailing is the most appropriate way to gather recommendations, he's missing the point of "social media." The conclusion? I unconnected with him.

Do it Right: If you're looking for recommendations to bulk up your profile, be as authentic as possible. Don't spam your connections - take a moment to find people you've done business with, who you respect and who are likely to feel the same way about you. Those recommendations are much more likely to be meaningful.

Contentious Replies to Answers

You asked a question on LinkedIn Answers, but aren't getting the response you wanted. Instead of thanking people who are trying to help - or, at the minimum, saying nothing - you are replying by telling everyone how wrong or unhelpful they are.

Do It Right: LinkedIn makes editing impossible. so before you post a question, sit on it for a while and think how you can make it better. What clarifications will make the criteria more useful? Consider too, whether you're looking for validation of your already-decided opinion, or are looking for feedback that gives you a different perspective.  Lastly, consider if the "advice" you're looking for is really something you should be paying for. Many people use LinkedIn Answers to ask a question for which they should really be hiring a professional to do the work. Once you've decided your question can elicit useful answers - thank everyone. It took them time to answer. Even if you hate the answer, or don't find it useful, thank them for their time. Don't forget to assign Good and Best answers when you close the question. Those markers are the only form of reward on LinkedIn, it is critical that you assign them, so that people will want to answer your next question.

These first two mistakes fall under the category of self-delusion, mistakes made when people are using a tool and not really considering how it makes them look. This third mistake is often because of naivete or inexperience.

Joining a Group with Incomplete Profile or Credentials

I run a group on LinkedIn. Because it is a group focused on the Industry of a field of Entertainment, I receive a lot of requests to join that are wildly inappropriate. They usually boil down to one of three kinds of applications.

 - No Connections

 - No Experience in the Industry (Job hunting)

 - No Note to express *why* they would be a good candidate

Do It Right: Yes, you might want a job as a Marketer, but if the group rules state that the group is only for people who are members of a specific Marketing Association, and you are not, don't apply. It makes you look sloppy, at best. Spend time working on your profile, so you've got connections that make sense to the industry. If you genuinely think you'd be great for a group, but you're new on LinkedIn, don't yet have a job in that industry, but you know you can bring value to the group, write a note to the Group leader and explain that cogently. Avoid "I should be in this group, because I run a website devoted to that topic," unless the topic is technical. There are a million fan pages for everything in the universe, running a fan page doesn't make you a professional. Have a full, relevant profile, strong connections and the note will be the icing on the cake.

These mistakes are common - but they are also easy to fix. Don't let them hold you back on LinkedIn or anywhere else on line. Do it right - be professional, courteous and relevant and your reputation will be as solid on LinkedIn as it is everywhere else in your industry.

Connect with Erica on LinkedIn.
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