Seven LinkedIn Profile Myths

In about a month, LinkedIn will celebrate its 8th birthday.  At the time the website went live, it took 1 1/2 years to reach a million users.  Nowadays, it adds a million users every 12 days and boasts of over 90 million users spanning 200 countries and territories.  No doubt, it has become the de facto standard professional networking resource.

For such a widely accepted networking tool, you’d think people would invest more time understanding how to unleash its power.  It starts with recognizing the importance of developing a well-crafted profile.

As a search professional, I practically live in LinkedIn.  Along with my growing group of connections, I’ve searched and reviewed countless thousands of profiles.  It never ceases to amaze me the variance of profile thoroughness – from connections to content.  Just as with resume writing and interviewing, developing and refining one’s LinkedIn presence appears to be one of those necessary evils that mysteriously evades the quest for best practices.  Yet, unlike resumes and interviews, we seldom if ever receive feedback on the effectiveness of our profiles.

So who’s viewing your LinkedIn profile?  Many people.  In no particular order, the list likely includes new business contacts, colleagues, bosses, prospective bosses, potential customers, business partners, investors, candidates, recruiters, scammers (they’re everywhere), old acquaintances, old flames (yikes!), friends, and family.  Granted, with some of these people, you probably couldn’t care less if they saw your profile.  And with certain others, you’d prefer they didn’t.  But what about everyone else?

Here are some LinkedIn Profile myths that deserve to be dispelled for the sake of putting your best online networking foot forward.

Myth #1:  My LinkedIn profile isn’t as important as my resume. As someone who has provided resume writing services for years, the resume is near and dear to my heart.  It’s the ticket to the dance.  Such first impressions deserve to be held in very high regard.  Yet, much of the time, your LinkedIn profile serves as an online first impression.  It’s just as important as your resume.  In fact, many prospective employers will check out your LinkedIn profile, even if they have your resume on hand.  They may search for any additional information not included in your resume or look for any inconsistencies.  Thus, attention to grammar, spelling, and organization of information is critically important.

Myth #2:  I only need to list the places I’ve worked; no need for details under each position. While technically true, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not including some information about your role, associated responsibilities, and achievements.  In order to appreciate your capabilities, people need this information.  Moreover, in order to find you, many people use keywords.  If you don’t describe your responsibilities and areas of specialization, then you may not even reach people’s radar screens.  Also, I’ve seen all too many profiles that simply copy and paste a paragraph off their company’s website for the position’s description.  This isn’t what people who open your profile are looking to read.  Besides, many companies have descriptions on LinkedIn.

Myth #3:  There’s no need to populate the Summary and Specialties sections. Just as with the Summary section at the top of the resume, this section is valuable real estate.  Here’s your golden opportunity to encapsulate what you’re all about and how you’re differentiated, not to mention adding pertinent keywords so that you’re more likely to come up in search results.

Myth #4:  The more LinkedIn recommendations I have, the better. Aside from the law of diminishing returns (which is reason enough), too many recommendations can carry an air of disingenuousness.  One sure way to spot a candidate who’s desperately seeking attention is to notice a sudden onslaught of recommendations being added at or about the same time.  If you’re going to accumulate recommendations, it appears more natural to have them added over time, thus eliminating a hint of an ulterior motive.  I’d rather see a handful of recommendations from key colleagues, former bosses, or customers, than a slew of recommendations.  It’s simply more believable.

Myth #5:  The number of LinkedIn connections doesn’t matter. Sure it does.  The more connections you have, the more likely it is that you’ll hit someone’s radar screen.  Yet, you don’t want to go overboard and invite just anyone to connect.  You ought to at least know who you’re connecting with.  At the other end of the spectrum, there’s the sales or marketing individual with only 3 connections.  There are tons of these people out there.  As a search professional, I think twice about contacting them.  After all, what does it say about their resourcefulness?  Sense of initiative?  Ability or desire to network?  Online savvy?   Especially for sales and marketing folks, they are expected to be strong in these areas.

Myth #6:  To be an effective LinkedIn user, I must post updates every day. No!  This is not Facebook.  If there’s something significant going on or important information to impart, then by all means, let your LinkedIn community know.  But if you Tweet multiple times per day, sometimes about relatively frivolous or irrelevant matters, then don’t check off the Twitter-LinkedIn connector.  Do you really want to be perceived as a spammer, or worse, someone who doesn’t prioritize their time wisely?

Myth #7:  Join and list as many groups as allowable (currently 50). Groups are a good way to show what’s important to you.  Thus, choose them wisely and think about which groups you want listed in your profile.  If I see a software product marketing manager candidate with more non-business related affiliations (e.g., I Love Golf, Foodies, Cub Scouts, NFL, Rug Weaving) than industry related groups (e.g., Brand Management, Web 2.0 Product Management, Agile Marketing, Software as a Service), then I’m going to think twice about them.  Granted, my perception may be way off base.  They may very well be dedicated hard-working individuals who have mastered the fine art of work-life balance.  But this is an issue of perception we’re talking about.

Your LinkedIn profile is an important representation of your personal brand.  And remember, a brand is a promise.  So what promises does your LinkedIn profile accentuate?  How does your profile affect some of the common personal brand promises, such as:  intelligence; performance; innovation; responsibility; and accountability?  What about:  attention to detail; organization of thought; communications skills; resourcefulness; and go-getter mindset?  Let the answer to this question be the litmus test on the effectiveness of your LinkedIn profile.  Don’t be misdirected by common myths.

 

Action Items:

1.  Look at your LinkedIn profile as if you were looking at a stranger’s.  Overall, what does it say about you?

2.  Ask those who exude business and online networking savvy to critique your LinkedIn profile.

3.  Remember – you are a brand.  What is your LinkedIn profile doing to either strengthen or detract from your brand?

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