Chances are, you probably have heard of the Seven Deadly Sins: indulging in too much Sloth, Pride, Greed, Lust, Envy, Wrath, or Gluttony is supposedly a sure-fire, one-way ticket to the Abyss. However, now we have a whole new horde of cardinal sins that can send your social media networking efforts straight to Hell: The LinkedIn Cardinal Sins. Worse, there are far more than just seven that people are perpetrating every day, from minor offenses of laziness to major mistakes that can actually get you banned.
Over the next few articles, I will dive into some of these pitfalls that are tripping up LinkedIn users every day. Let’s start with one of my favorites: Sloth.
Sloth does not refer to the slow-moving cute animal with a permanent grin. Instead, sloth is just basic laziness or dialing it in when we need to be stepping up our game. Look out for:
Clicking on buttons without thinking about it
From Endorsing people’s Skills to hitting the “Like” button on someone’s status update, LinkedIn tries to make it simple and easy to operate their website. It constantly suggests clicks for articles, Group discussions, Skills, or birthdays and work anniversaries. However, if you aren’t thinking about what you are doing, it’s not a strategic use of the site. Basically, mouse clicks are never as valuable as actual words. If you want people to remember you, you need to have written responses, whether in a message to a person or in a reply to a Group discussion.
2. Not writing custom invitations to potential connections
Probably the worst example of clicking on the mouse without thought is when you invite someone to connect with you, or the dreaded big blue “Connect” button. 95-99% of the invitations I receive on LinkedIn are the standard, boring generic greeting: “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” If you want people to connect with you, you need to tell them why.
It does take a little extra effort, but here’s the secret: don’t click the “Connect” button unless you are looking at the person’s profile. This takes you to a separate screen where you can change that greeting. If you aren’t sure about what to say, mention a Group or connection that you share in common. Commenting on a recent article or post they did also helps break the ice.
3. Not completing your profile
This is easily the worst example of sloth for LinkedIn. Your profile is your window to the world, where you build your reputation, try to attract recruiters, and give employers insight that goes beyond the simple resume. If the profile is incomplete, you are missing out on the opportunity to sell yourself to future recruiters and hiring managers.
Up to 90% of recruiters and HR departments use LinkedIn, either to source candidates directly or to compare their profile with the resume before contacting the applicant for an interview (source: LinkedIn, 2016). Ever had a recruiter or target company look at you and then NOT contact you further? Something didn’t align between the resume and profile, so they moved on to someone else.
Go complete your profile. Today. Before more opportunity passes you by.
4. Not customizing your headline
If you didn’t create a custom headline for your profile, the default is the title and company for your current employer. However, that is leaving valuable key word real estate wasted.
When people find you in a search, they are limited to the name, headline, location, and quick overview of the work history. A plain or “facts only” approach to the headline is not going to entice more views. Instead, use descriptive, key word rich branding statements. For example, an original headline may read:
Director of Sales for ABC Medical
A branded headline would be:
Director of Sales | VP of Sales | Helping physicians improve patient outcomes with innovative medical devices
Keep in mind your target audience to guide what message you want to convey.
5. Not putting relevant key words in your Skills section
People ask me all the time if the Skills and Endorsements are valuable. This is a mixed bag. They do provide a neat visual representation on the profile, but most people know that they are easily obtained – it takes no thought than one of your 1st Degree Connections clicking a box to endorse you. On the other hand, the Skills are valuable key words that LinkedIn will use in searches and recruiters utilize when candidates apply to jobs posted on LinkedIn.
Sometimes when you look at your Profile, new skills are shown at the very top of the screen, above your picture. These are Endorsements from your connections for Skills that are not on your Profile yet. You can choose to add these or not; they don’t automatically get added. One thing you will see is that sometimes these Skills don’t make sense or don’t reflect what you actually did in the past. This is the problem with these quick-add Skills. Your connections mean well, but LinkedIn showed them these options by random, which can in some cases include skills typical for your profession. For example, I have never done Conflict Resolution. But this is a common skill for HR professionals, which is a match for one of my past jobs. LinkedIn is trying to do me a “favor” by suggesting that skill to my connections, even though it doesn’t relate to my current work history.
Don’t blindly accept new Skills – only choose key words that are relevant for your target job, not just the jobs you did in the past.
6. Not joining Groups
To make an impact on LinkedIn, you must get involved in the Groups. Groups are formed by individual LinkedIn members and can be based on almost any premise. There are professional groups, associations, location-based, special interest, college alumni, and even fans of major sports teams. The whole point is for people to get together around a common theme and share their experience, thoughts, articles and blogs as online discussions. Plus, when you are connected through a Group, you usually can send a direct message to fellow group members, even if you just have a free account.
No matter what your networking goals or comfort level, you should always join at least two types of Groups:
- Large, local Groups
- Groups specific to your industry
You may choose others, based on your interests:
- Job hunting Groups
- Association Groups
- Technical user Groups for Drupal, WordPress, Oracle, etc.
- Special interest, such as a non-profit, cause, or political Group
- Just-for-fun: sports teams’ fans, Dr. Who (there are 40 Star Wars fan groups, by the way…)
In large, local Groups, you may not even be involved in the Discussions or daily activity. However, you want to join these Groups to have an instant connection with the thousands of current Group members. You specifically want local Groups to build a network that could translate into face-to-face meetings, which are more valuable than just a social networking presence.
For the Groups within your industry, these are valuable for a number of reasons. This is where you want to connect with others to expand your own knowledge or expertise. I like to read the incoming articles and posts to make sure that I am staying on top of the latest techniques, trends and technology for my niche.
Once the work of perfecting the profile and getting involved in Groups is completed, it is possible to streamline your activity on LinkedIn. It’s not necessary to spend 10-20 hours on LinkedIn to achieve great results. Many of the tasks are automated through email or app messages – just make it a habit to read those messages, pop into the site and take care of business.