First impressions are critical to your success in building business relationships, which just happens to be one of the primary functions of LinkedIn.
It is 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 are presented with lots of evidence to the contrary.
Factor in that you have only 7 seconds to make an impression—good or bad.
In this article, you will learn 10 LinkedIn mistakes that can make a poor impression on prospects, clients or your industry peers and how to avoid making them.
10 LinkedIn Mistakes That Will Make a Bad Impression
1. Boring or undescriptive headline
One of the gravest LinkedIn mistakes you can make is to create 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 is the first thing anyone will see when they find you in the search results or land on your profile.
Your headline will determine whether a viewer will choose to click on your profile or click away.
Your headline should also include keywords you would like to be found for. These could consist of your position or the services you offer. You can also include a client-focused statement that will 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, include only your name in the name field. Do NOT add personal information such as email addresses or phone numbers, and avoid using symbols, numbers or special characters.
In fact, doing any of that violates LinkedIn’s Terms of Service and can get your account restricted. It also makes it harder for others to find you, looks unprofessional and reduces your credibility.
There are 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, Instagram or any other social media platform. While it can be amusing to have a profile image featuring fun locations or your friends, family or pets, such a profile image is inappropriate on a professional platform such as 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. It is a mistake to leave it blank or use a cover photo that does not represent you professionally.
Capture the attention of your viewers by an image that is both professional and informative, adding to their understanding of who you are and what you do.
5. Blank summary or current experience
Your summary section is the perfect place for you to make a first great impression on the viewer. 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 their attention, they 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.
Learn more about how to write the perfect LinkedIn profile here.
6. No recommendations or skills
It is a huge LinkedIn mistake to not include social proof of your expertise in your profile. The platform makes is easy to showcase social proof in the form of recommendations and skills. Social proof is a great way to make a good impression.
When people are deciding with whom to do business, they are 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 have taken the time to write, in detail, about how your expertise helped them, are highly effective at boosting your reputation.
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. The 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 are 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 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 whom you help and how you help so the readers 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 the 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. This will leave a bad taste in their mouth and can sour their desire to build a relationship with you.
You can prevent this LinkedIn mistake by replying to the sender with a short message, letting them know you will get back to them shortly. It takes less than 15 minutes a day to maintain your LinkedIn network.
10. Don’t personalize
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 are sending a LinkedIn 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 – significantly increases 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, will not help you stand out. What’s worse, it could leave a poor impression on your new connection, which is 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 is more relevant, and they are 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 10 LinkedIn mistakes discussed in this article, can cost you potential business opportunities and even damage your credibility within the business community.
LinkedIn is a professional network and can be much less forgiving than Facebook or Twitter. Familiarize yourself with the LinkedIn etiquette, and act accordingly, especially if you use (or hope to use) LinkedIn for professional purposes.