As Linkedin continues to grow (now close to 150 million members) it seems more and more people may be rushing to get their profiles published there. In their rush to be live on Linkedin (or maybe through a lack of thought earlier) they may be doing things that will make them look bad on this social network, specifically, and in social media generally.

So if you’d like to deliberately waste your effort on the world’s leading social network for professionals, here are the 5 Ways to Undermine Your Linkedin Profile:

1. Use a bad profile picture: By “bad” I mean any image that makes you look like someone I would not want to work with, collaborate with or in any other way connect with. For example, you may look like you’re in a police lineup or you’ve decided to use an image from your webcam that makes you look serious. But, your picture is there to help people remember you or identify you quickly from all the others with the same or a similar name.Best practice: Have a picture that’s a tightly cropped image of your face and shows you at your best. And, this should be obvious, smile!

2. Write a poor Professional Headline: In the area of your profile right under your name is the opportunity to have a “headline” on your profile. Simply saying “student” or “engineer” is a great way to keep people guessing. But when someone is searching on Linkedin they will usually just see this shortened version of your profile.
Best practice: Use this headline as a “King of Elevator Pitches.” In other words, in as few words as possible say what you do professionally and why people might want to connect with you. For example: “Children’s book author and teacher” or “Marketing and sales professional” or “Deep thinker and inventor of the widget.”

3. Have an ineffective Summary: Just saying something about who you are and what you want is all that matters right? Wrong! This is the space where you need to sum up your professional experience, how you like to contribute to others’ success and how people can connect with you beyond the URLs Linkedin allows you to post.
Best practice: Write your summary in short paragraphs as though a reader might drift away at any moment – they will. Start with a short paragraph that sums you up – your Professional Headline explained, if you will. The next paragraph talks about a current position and how it fits into who you are professionally. Take what journalists call the “Inverted Pyramid” approach (newsiest item first, second-newsiest second and so on) to these paragraphs. Round it out with you contact points such as where you can be found on other social networks and a phone number.

4. Ignore how your Public Profile looks: If you think that just “being on” Linkedin is far more important that “doing anything” with your Linkedin profile then just walk away now. But if you want Linkedin to act as an online resume or CV then spend the time (just an hour or so) to make it the best it can be.
Best practice: In the “Edit Profile” view of your Linkedin Page you’ll see a nicely boxed area that contains all the information that appears at the top of you profile when it’s displayed. The last item in this box is call “Public Profile” and to the right of that is the URL for your page and a link to “edit” this. Click on the “edit” button. The page you arrive at will show your profile as it appears publicly and over on the right side allow you to control what others see. Make sure that as much as possible you are displaying everything about your work history and expertise. Also take a minute to personalize your URL so that it has your name in it rather than the alphabet soup URL that Linkedin provides.

5. Make your Connections open: By leaving your Connections open to the public anyone can “creep” on your profile and find other people to connect with. If you know them that’s fine, but if you don’t you’re exposing your connections to who knows what?
Best practice: Under Privacy Controls click on “Select who can see your connections” and select “Only you. ” Then take a short paragraph at the end of your Summary to explain that your Connections are kept closed to assure privacy, but that you’re willing to open them at an agreed upon time to people you know and trust.

These are only the most basic mistakes – there are plenty of others. Perhaps that’s fodder for a future post.

What do you think? Are people being sloppy with their Linkedin profiles? Are they looking bad in social media because of it?

By Mike Johansson