1. Inviting a complete stranger to connect.
Whilst I'm not a fan of LinkedIn's mantra "only connect with people you know well" it is even worse to invite people with whom you have had no contact. This is the equivalent of going to a networking event and walking around the room shoving your business cards into people's hands without even saying hello or introducing who you are! The key to successfully growing a network is to always engage in some manner before connecting.
2. Failing to personalise an invitation to connect.
There is nothing worse than receiving an invitation to connect (even from someone you know) that reads "I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn". Everyone knows that this is the default message and therefore the person sending it has not bothered to give it any thought or consideration. A personalised message takes literally seconds to write and to not do so is just plain lazy!
3. Profile picture.
It is shocking to see how many people use inappropriate photographs for what is a professional networking site. Your picture is effectively your personal brand logo and is a critical part of your LinkedIn profile, It is almost certainly the first thing people notice and therefore creates that all-important first impression. Your photo should be an up-to-date close-up headshot, period. We do not need to see your partner, kids, pets or a slice of the face of the person next to you who you have attempted to crop out! Do not wear a hat or sunglasses and make sure the quality is clear. Avoid using ridiculous avatars or cartoons, they lack credibility and LinkedIn may suspend your account as this breaches the user agreement . The worst mistake of all however is to not have a profile picture at all, this will result in less profile views and more importantly it significantly damages your authenticity.
4. Anonymous visibility.
This is one privacy setting that everyone should change from the default. You can either be fully visible, largely anonymous (the default setting) or completely anonymous. The default setting makes no sense because you either want people to see that you have viewed their profile or you don't, tempting their curiosity with a loose description such as "someone in the X function of the Y industry" is pointless! Deciding to be completely anonymous is also a strange decision, this is a networking environment so choosing this setting is effectively the same as going to an off-line event wearing a hoodie and mask! I can accept that there may be a rare occasion where it is clearly commercially unwise to reveal that you have viewed someone's profile, in which case you can change your settings prior to viewing the profile and then change them back to fully visible again afterwards.
5. Direct selling.
Whilst it could be said that everyone is selling something on LinkedIn (even if it's just themselves for that next career move), that doesn't mean that this is a place to directly sell. There is nothing worse than accepting an invitation from somebody only to find that this is swiftly followed by numerous direct messages selling you the latest thing! This may be irritating for the recipient but it is far worse for the sender who is damaging their personal reputation as well as the company they work for and their chances of succeeding to sell anything this way are remote at best.
6. Inappropriate contact having not read somebody's profile.
This is similar to the above but may not involve selling as such, receiving a direct message informing me about something that is not relevant to what I do or where I am based merely proves that the sender is blindly sending this message to many people without having read their profiles. I often hear from users who are tired of constant approaches by recruiters so they amend their headline to state that they are not interested in job opportunities.....and it doesn't make the slightest difference, they still get as many approaches!
7. Lack of background information in profile.
We live in an information rich world and we expect to find it easy to gather information about people, places, products etc. When somebody views your profile they are doing so because they want to see more information about you (including your back story). So why would you deny them that opportunity by revealing little about yourself? LinkedIn is not a one way street, if you view somebody's profile they are likely to view yours and this presents a great opportunity for you to be open and authentic and show them that you are the kind of person that they would wish to do business with. The more you reveal about your background the more likely it is that they will see you have something in common and this can only work in your favour.
This is one of the most common mistakes I come across. Many users sign up, create a basic profile and maybe join a group or two and then…… nothing! This is the equivalent to going to a networking event and sitting in the corner with a cup of tea and not speaking to anyone! LinkedIn is a live and active community of business professionals throughout the world and this presents you with such an exciting opportunity to widen your network, engage with more people and ultimately achieve greater success.
9. Posting links without comment (especially in groups)
This is usually an innocent mistake made by people with the best intentions. They read an article online and decide to share this with their connections and/or fellow group members, the problem is that an article without a comment just becomes noise in a stream that people tend to ignore and the more this happens the more people become disengaged. This can also be as a result of one of the worst things you can do with social media........ automation! Social media is supposed to be social (strangely enough!) and it is only effective when people talk to each other, not when automated processes fire countless streams of information/articles at people. The solution is very simple, read the article and take a view then post the article with a comment expressing your view and asking for feedback. This works, automation doesn't.
10. Dodgy Recommendations.
Many online businesses have learnt that customer reviews are an incredibly powerful marketing tool (Amazon, Tripadvisor etc) and LinkedIn provides you with a similar opportunity via recommendations. The problem is that people obtain recommendations from the wrong people. A recommendation will only influence the reader if it is written by somebody that they consider to be credible and credibility comes from you knowing the person well and by them being in a position of authority i.e. a satisfied customer, and ex-boss etc. Too many recommendations on LinkedIn are from colleagues, family members or worst of all, complete strangers! One dodgy recommendation can ruin a profile, so be careful to only seek testimonials from the right people.