In March of 2012, the professional networking site LinkedIn reported a membership of over 161 million professionals, networking across the world and across every imaginable industry sector. The power of LinkedIn to help people find others in their industry and to build networks of colleagues, suppliers and partners is undoubtedly huge, but many people are still getting to grips with it as a tool and a community.
It’s all too easy to confuse LinkedIn with Facebook and to apply the same behaviours to both sites. LinkedIn is a completely different proposition to Facebook and so many people find themselves making basic mistakes that should be avoided in a professional networking environment.
These three behaviours may be common-place on Facebook but on LinkedIn, they could leave existing and prospective professional colleagues with entirely the wrong idea.
1. Avoid getting your profile photo wrong.
A big part of the Facebook phenomenon is the ability to share photos with friends and family. While LinkedIn doesn’t have this functionality to the same degree, every profile can have a photograph. LinkedIn profiles are about people, so it makes sense that the picture should be of the person the profile belongs to. It’s also vital to remain professional. You never know who will be looking at your profile. It could be colleagues, customers or potential employers, so there are a few rules you should bear in mind when selecting your picture.
Firstly, keep away from the funnies. Joke pictures or pictures of you on a night out don’t give a professional impression to others. Secondly, don’t use a company logo. People want to see the person when they look at your profile, so use a picture of yourself. Make sure your face and head are clearly visible and that you’re smiling. LinkedIn profile pictures are small, so make sure people can still see your face clearly when the photo is shrunk. Watch out for what else might be in the picture. Don’t show yourself holding a wine or beer glass and watch for items in the background or reflections that could look bad to customers or employers.
It’s debatable whether you should have other people in the picture with you. Having your kids or your partner in the picture might be a nice touch but is it professional enough? If you’re not sure, keep it to you alone.
2. Avoid using language that is overly casual or could be taken to be offensive.
LinkedIn is probably one of the few networking sites where people will actually read what you write, but remember it’s not a social networking site. It’s a professional network. Mistaking it for Facebook and being overly casual can give a bad impression to anyone who doesn’t know you well enough. Keep your text brief, but formal enough that people will be left with a good impression.
Even though LinkedIn is a site for forming and maintaining your network, it also becomes a shop window for you as a person. Don’t write anything you wouldn’t be happy for a customer or prospective employer to read.
3. Don’t use a personal profile for a company.
LinkedIn is a personal professional networking site. Profiles are intended for people, so keep them for people. If you want to have your company on the site, create a company page and show the company as your employer. There are many advantages to this approach that make it pointless to use a personal profile for a company. Company pages allow you to gather followers for your company, tell other people about products and services, or even to recruit using LinkedIn.
Remembering that LinkedIn is a personal professional networking site should help you make the right decisions as you expand your profile and use the site. Bear in mind that the profile is about you, not about your employer. It’s your shop window on the world and you are in control of everything that you show to others.
Keep the informal, funny and personal stuff for Facebook and you can show your mature professional side on LinkedIn to your advantage. Click here for ten tips for optimise your LinkedIn profile.