I've heard a lot of complaints recently from professionals saying that LinkedIn just isn't the same as it used to be. Some claim that the professional network has become too much like other social networks. Others lament an entirely different kind of weird behavior that becomes normalized when people position themselves in an attempt to sell more widgets. While I'm not as pessimistic as some, I agree that we could all make some changes to make it a more useful and enjoyable site. My recommendations all started with eliminating the most egregious examples of bad behavior. So, without further ado, here is part one of my increasingly long list of LinkedIn "cardinal sins." Keep an eye out for part two in the coming days.
1. Glamour Shots for Profile Pictures
On the one extreme is the person who uses a “glamour shot” for their LinkedIn profile pic, and on the other is the older professional who is using a picture that is obviously 30 years old. In the legal world, there is a standard for evidence to be admitted in court. If a photo is to be admitted as evidence, it must be a "fair and accurate representation." Far too many LinkedIn profile pictures don't pass this basic text. Choose a photo that is friendly and focuses mostly on your face.
2. The Lightning Pitch
It all starts so innocently — you accept a connection request from someone you don't know, and then "boom" within a second you get a full-page pitch to buy their services or meet up for coffee to discuss your options. Note: just because someone accepted your LinkedIn request, doesn't mean it’s time to propose marriage. Try breaking the ice first, or you will have your new connection removed as fast as it was added.
3. The Random LinkedIn Request
There is no apparent reason for this connection request. The invite includes no note, beyond the generic “I’d like to add you to my network.” But this person randomly sends LinkedIn connection requests to people on the other side of the country that aren't in the same industry. If you don’t know someone, at least try to explain why you think connecting is a good idea. See my recent post about this topic for a few more tips on how to personalize your attempt to connect.
4. The Humble Brag
"I have super bad jet lag from the ride I took on a private plane yesterday!" There are two essential parts to the humble brag: first, the obvious brag, second, a self-deprecating remark. “Running three successful businesses and raising five kids can be tough at times. I guess I'll sleep when I retire!"
Want more examples, along with a high degree of sarcasm? Check out my new favorite Twitter account on the internet, The State of LinkedIn.
5. The Happy Birthday Stranger
This one is similar to the “random LinkedIn request.” You've never met. You've never spoken. You don't even recognize the person's name, yet without fail they send you a generic "happy birthday" greeting on each year on LinkedIn. Don't wish happy birthday to someone you don't know and have never met. It makes it seem like you have nothing better to do with your time, which is most likely the case.
6. The Unrealistic Promiser
Want to build a 7-figure coaching business in 15 minutes? We need to talk! Most professionals have trouble clearly articulating the value they offer to their clients, but on LinkedIn, there is a rash of “wannabe” professionals overstating their value. If you are pitching immediate results that are absurd, expect to be ignored on LinkedIn. A better approach is to make believable claims that you can back up. Remember, people already have their guard up when someone reaches out. Your initial goal should be to establish trust by showing that you are credible.
7. The Overly Personal or Sentimental Post
Whenever a post begins with, "I never post personal stuff here," the writer should realize it is time to delete and start over. There are plenty of appropriate social networks to discuss your marriage, your child's graduation, or your weird mole, but LinkedIn is not the virtual place.
Adrian Dayton is the Founder of Clearview Social, an internationally recognized speaker on social media for business development, and author of multiple books and white papers including most recently the strategy guide, “9 Reasons Why No One is Seeing Your Company's Content and How to Fix it.”