Whether you're an avid social media user or a more casual browser, it's likely that you've come across a status or two that made you roll your eyes. Or maybe you've read a post that left you wondering, "What were they thinking?" If there's one platform where you should be especially mindful of your behavior, it's LinkedIn.
When it comes to branding yourself, remember that little things affect people's perceptions of you. When I was researching my new book Getting to Like, I discovered plenty of professionals who diminish their personal brand with these seemingly minor mistakes. For example, if you display your name in all lowercase, or, you have typos in a key part of your LinkedIn profile, it's going to detract from your presentation. Likewise, if you're simply trying too hard to be witty or whimsical, that can hurt, too.
Of course, what may turn some people off may be attractive to others, and it's impossible to make everyone like you. Still, there are some things that experts generally recommend you stay away from, such as:
1. Don't collect connections just for the sake of it.
LinkedIn connections are not Pokemon--you don't have to catch them all. However, if you see someone interesting in your network and you want to connect with them, the best strategy is to join a group they're in, introduce yourself, and contribute to the discussion--as we mentioned earlier. Once you have established a presence in the group, you can invite them to connect with you. Make sure to explain why you'd like to connect so you don't come across as spammy or generic. We are much more likely to connect with someone if they mention something that is relevant to our interests rather than the default "I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn."
If you have a connection in common you can also them to make an introduction, but make sure that you know the mutual acquaintance well enough that it doesn't feel like an imposition. Leave them an out by making it easy to decline just in case they don't feel comfortable introducing you.
2. Don't flirt.
This isn't Tinder. Flirting with coworkers in an office environment is inappropriate, and the same rule applies on LinkedIn. But while this might seem like common sense, it actually doesn't go without saying. Unfortunately. Somebody might look so compelling and attractive in their profile that you want to send a flirtatious message. But that wouldn't be appropriate in a workplace environment or an in-person networking event, so keep communications professional, not personal.
Online harassment is a huge issue, and one that should be taken seriously. It doesn't matter how eye-catching someone's profile pic is: if they want a date, they'll post their profile on a dating site. Behavior that would get you in trouble with HR is just as unacceptable here.
3. Don't lose focus.
If you're feeling the urge to share a funny meme with your colleague, make sure you post it to the right place. It's acceptable to joke around every now and then on Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms. Bonus points if you can be both funny AND tie it back to a relevant topic. However, be respectful of your co-workers. If you take it too far, regardless of the social platform (but especially on LinkedIn), it could still impact your reputation.
4. Don't underestimate the importance of your photo.
Your photo is your opportunity to make a good first impression--it's what will catch someone's attention. Even an impressive resume will be passed over if your profile picture is unprofessional or inappropriate. We came across someone with whom we have mutual connections doing Jell-O shots in their profile pic. Yes, really. We're pretty certain that's not the type of thing that fosters goodwill among prospective employers.
While we all have a life outside of work, we want to be taken seriously by current and prospective clients and colleagues. A party animal profile photo conveys the wrong message for most audiences.
5. Don't indiscriminately engage in "keyword stuffing".
"Don't add keywords indiscriminately just to show up in more searches," advises noted career expert Alyssa Gelbard. "If you're in accounting and use marketing terms, but your profile doesn't back it up, you've just wasted someone's time, and they'll automatically ignore you." Indeed, personal branding is all about representing yourself as well as possible, and keyword stuffing actually accomplishes the exact opposite.
Want more on how to build your brand using LinkedIn and other digital platforms? Check out Getting to Like, my latest book (with co-author Ali B. Zagat), where we cover everything from analytics to content development to public speaking, and much more.