LinkedIn is what you make it. You control your public profile, your connections, and the social shares visible in your home stream. So, go all-in and make it your best.

Dear Reid Hoffman,2016-08-26 22.23.12

I am sure you have heard it all before.

“I haven’t used LinkedIn in over a year.”

“LinkedIn Groups are a waste of time.”

“There are too many fake profiles and spammers on LinkedIn.”

“LinkedIn is not as fun or interesting as Twitter or Facebook.”

“LinkedIn is dead.”

Congratulations. You did well.

I can only wish that my 6-year-old daughter grows up and follows your lead to co-develop a sucky social media network like LinkedIn so she can sell it to Microsoft for $26 billion dollars.

Your mom and dad must be proud.


Why Does Your LinkedIn Suck?

Let’s unpack this with a comparison to physical professional networking.

  1. LinkedIn Connection Strategies.

Who you connect with depends upon your purpose for social media networking.

If you primarily want to continue and strengthen existing physical connections, then your focus on LinkedIn should be with those you know personally and have previously met physically. With this connection strategy, you are letting the physical drive the social media networking.

Your targeted connections here may include people you know from current and past relations from education, work experiences, and those you have met from business, professional meetings, and conferences.

However, would you attend a physical networking event and only say hello to the people you already know?

Instead, a good physical networker will use the time and place to reinforce existing relationships and develop new relationships. On LinkedIn you can let the social media drive the physical networking and take the initiative to find and connect on LinkedIn with those with a potential of meeting in the physical at a later time.

Your targeted connections here may include people you may want to know who: (1) are members of local career/industry clubs or organizations; (2) attend and speak at your favored regional or national professional conferences; (3) are nearby alumni; and/or (4) are local with like-minded career interests (use Advanced Search with a location and/or keyword filter; or join and search in career-focused LinkedIn Groups).

Ideally, to go all-in and maximize your benefits for using LinkedIn you should also let learning drive your social media networking, with no restrictions on geography or prior meeting (use Advanced Search with keyword filters to find those with like-minded career interests).

For example, when I physically meet someone, I collect their business card, find them on LinkedIn and connect (physical drives social media). I also search for and accept invites to connect from anyone that is a local student, academic, or professional and the potential to meet someday at a networking event (social media drives physical).

And, I search and connect with like-minds and near-minds regardless of geography (learning drives social media). Some are influencers or favorite bloggers in my career focus of digital and social media marketing, and others are just interesting students or professionals who have found me and expressed an interest in the content that I share on LinkedIn about marketing, digital marketing, and personal branding.

If you don’t have a purpose for using LinkedIn along with a strategy for filtering or choosing connections, then you may soon find your LinkedIn home stream and messages filled with spammers, automated sales funnel advocates, and overzealous self-promoters.

Remember, you are in control of your connections.

There are telltale signs to look for when considering connection requests or searching for new connections. You should not connect if you find an incomplete or suspicious profile (with no photo, vague details), or if their recent social share activity shows excessive self-promotion or sales pitches.

Regardless, at any time you can unfollow a connection’s posts that you find annoying or uninteresting while keeping them as a connection, or you can completely remove them as a connection (click on drop down in top right of any of their posts).

Advanced tip – Always initiate a potential connection from their profile so you can include a personalized request in your invitation. In some cases, you may need to refer to their business card, review their LinkedIn public profile, or search the web for their email. With an email, you can choose “Other” to make a connection (Connect>How do you know ____?).

“As with physical networking, on LinkedIn you have to take the initiative and the control to connect with people you know, people you want to know, and like-minds that add value to your networking, personal brand, and career.”

  1. LinkedIn Profile Strategies.

On LinkedIn: Your photo is your approach. Your headline is your introduction. Your summary is your elevator pitch. Your profile is your resume. And, your social activity is your networking.

Regardless of how you find others or how others find you, it is even more important to attend to what others find when they visit your LinkedIn Profile.

You only get one chance to make your digital first impression.

Most visitors will only give your LinkedIn public profile a 5 to 15 second scan. This short review could result in a new connection or a prompting for a longer more thorough examination of your profile.

Just as you would dress the part for physical networking, so goes it for social media networking on LinkedIn.

1) Photo.

Your LinkedIn photo should be of high quality. Never a selfie. Never holding a fish (or a hobby shot). Never a group shot (or of you and a piece of another from a group shot). Just you. Authentic. Unfiltered. And, smiling.

A recent professional headshot is best so you are more easily recognized in a thumbnail photo accompanying a social share or in person at a physical networking event.

2) Headline.

Your LinkedIn headline should include keywords that networking acquaintances, like-minded others, and potential employers or social recruiters may use to find you in a LinkedIn search (keyword SEO). Never default to your most recent job title. Instead, state your current job status and career focus using popular keywords and titles most often used on LinkedIn. Conduct a keyword search and browse other LinkedIn headlines by those in your career field and industry for ideas.

For example: in the Experience section of LinkedIn I use my official job title, “Professor of Marketing.” Yet, in my LinkedIn headline I use the more searchable keywords of “Digital Marketing Professor” along with other keywords of my career focus that include Social Media Marketing and Personal Branding.

3) Summary.

Your LinkedIn summary is basically your elevator pitch. It should continue what you presented in your LinkedIn headline and give others a reason to dig deeper into your profile.

However, a bulleted list of skills and accomplishments is boring. And, redundant.

Instead, grab the reader’s attention by telling your personal brand story. This is a first-person written story about your career passion, career milestones, and an added dose of personality. How did you get to where you are today? Where do you want to go tomorrow? Or, why do you love what you do?

Your summary should be easily readable (short paragraphs, spacing between paragraphs, good grammar and spelling). Make it interesting enough to prompt continued reading of your full profile. Search and browse other LinkedIn summaries by those in your career field and industry for ideas. Write several alternative drafts. Find someone for honest feedback and proofreading.

At the end of your summary, include a call to action (CTA) that explains why others should connect with you and include your business email so that potential connections can use the Other box and connect with you without paying for InMail.

Advanced tip: The Muse provides some good advice and examples about writing the LinkedIn Summary section.

4) Remaining profile.

Though fodder for another blog post, the rest of your LinkedIn profile should match the details of your resume (including education, experiences, etc.). Then expanded to include career relevant content such as: courses and projects (if a near or recent grad), publications (especially if you are an academic, blogger, or book author), skills & endorsements, recommendations, and more. Continue to build your profile until LinkedIn says you are an All-Star.

Again, your privacy is in your control and you can choose which sections you want visible in your public profile versus what is visible after connecting (go to Public Profile in your Account Settings).

Advanced tip: While updating your LinkedIn profile, be sure to turn off your update notifications so as not to annoy your current connections with all the minor edits (see the “Notify your network?” box in the right column).

  1. LinkedIn Social Activity Strategies.

Alas, as explained in a previous blog post, you should not let LinkedIn be a place where your resume goes to die.

Your social activity on LinkedIn will keep you noticed and remembered by your connections and others considering connection.

However, mistakes are made as to what truly represents social media networking on LinkedIn.

Again, this is best understood when compared to physical networking.

1) Don’t be anti-social.

To not social share and social engage with others on LinkedIn is the equivalent to missing a networking event or attending and acting smart but looking dumb as a technologically preoccupied wallflower.

You go unnoticed.

You are forgotten.

Instead, give social sharing and social engagement on LinkedIn a try. On LinkedIn, efforts of quality rather than quantity are of most importance for personal branding.

There are numerous ways to social share on LinkedIn. Begin by finding and sharing links to current and interesting content about your career focus that is educational (how-to, why-to), informative (news, announcements), or inspirational (favorite quotes).

Continue being sociable by responding to the social shares of others.

To only social share “links” with your connections or to only “like” the social shares of others is the equivalent to attending a networking event and walking around and shaking hands without saying a word.

You are acknowledging their presence, but not really being social.

It is not social media networking if you are not being social.

Instead, show others your authenticity (the real you), your authority (your expertise on a subject), and your willingness to converse/engage by always adding relevant comment to your social shares and to the social shares of others. Let them know why they should read what you have read and shared, or that you really did read and learn from what they have shared.

3) Don’t be a social media robot.

To only social share as “sales messages” or “self-promotion” is the equivalent to walking around a networking event and shaking hands, quickly delivering your elevator pitch, exchanging business cards, and moving on.

A robot could do this and for some on LinkedIn, one-click automation does their social sharing without any attempt at being social or building a relationship.

You should not automate your personal brand.

Instead, you should limit your self-promotion or sales messages to an occasional share along with a majority of social sharing that adds value to your relationship with your connections.

Excessive self-promotion and sales pitches are the quickest ways to get your social shares unfollowed and possibly even lose a connection. With a couple of clicks, connections can disconnect with you and tell LinkedIn that you are a spammer. Then your account could spend an unknown number of days with restrictions in LinkedIn jail, and repeat offenses could end in account suspension or termination.

Rather than using an old school practice of outbound marketing that disrupts the flow of a connection’s home stream, an inbound social selling approach is recommended. This is where you directly engage and share valuable content that adds value and positively sells your personal brand while subtly and indirectly prompting potential customers to contact you or your company.

“Social selling begins with social and ends in selling, with a whole lot of relationship required in the middle.”

The Take-Away.

LinkedIn is unlike other social media networks and to go all-in requires that you use it differently and professionally.

Connecting to anyone and everyone, uploading your resume content without adding more to your profile, and the absence of social sharing and engagement, will ensure a sucky LinkedIn experience.

LinkedIn sucks when you do.

What are your recommended best practices to get more out of LinkedIn to benefit your personal brand?

This article originally appeared on Digital Self Marketing Advantage and has been republished with permission.