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4 huge mistakes to avoid if you're a LinkedIn newbie

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic related lock-down, self-quarantines, working from home etc. lots of people have started spending more time on LinkedIn and in fact more people have joined the professional network in the last six months.

But just like any new initiative, there is a learning curve for new users and here are four mistakes to avoid as a new user.

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

LinkedIn is a very powerful networking community of professionals. It's a lot easier to screw up on LinkedIn than on Facebook or Twitter where sharing your child's potty habits seems to be the norm. LinkedIn does not function in the same way. It's a place to share professional updates and information about your industry, it is not a place to debate politics, or discuss your hangover. That said, let's go over four mistakes to avoid using LinkedIn. 1. Do Not Use a Fake Name or Initials only. LinkedIn is a repository for your professional life. The worst thing you can do is try to be anonymous. I know there is a lot of concern about people getting private information about you off the Internet but this is not the time to worry about that.

On LinkedIn, being found is the name of the game. If you do not use your real name, the one you use at work and in business, you will not be found and if people find out later that your real name is different from the one you have been using on LinkedIn, you'll lose trust. In addition, you will want to ask for endorsements and recommendations from former colleagues and you can't do that if they don't know who you are. You must be the most authentic you that you can muster on the LinkedIn network in order to make it fruitful. If you cannot do that, and be yourself, you may as well not join. 2. Avoid Using a Crappy Picture or Posting No Picture Your photo on LinkedIn is a graphic representation of your most professional self. It's perfectly okay if you work at home in your PJ's, but on LinkedIn, it's important to try to capture a good close up image of your face (what you have on won't matter). People want and need to see your eyes, nose and mouth. It's how colleagues will recognize you, and how new people will feel trust for you. You can snap a simple image with your smartphone to use on LinkedIn but think about it harder than you do other social media networks like Instagram. On Facebook and Instagram, it's common to use different types of photographs and be creative with filters, the same with Twitter.

But on LinkedIn the face matters. So take a close shot of the face, and try to blur out or make the background less noticeable. The best image is a portrait style shoulder-up shot. Whether you smile or not is entirely up to you (I prefer a smile) but users need to be able to clearly see your face. Finally, don't skip the photograph. If you don't put a photograph on LinkedIn, most people will ignore you completely. You're not even a person yet until you have a photo on LinkedIn. If you're trying to find a job, or find new clients, or make sales of any sort, you need a good picture, but no picture is worse than a bad picture. You can always improve upon it later, so put up a picture. 3. Do Not Create a half-hearted profile Some people join LinkedIn and are so overwhelmed by the profile that they skip parts or just never finish it. The profile is key to your ability to connect with others, obtain recommendations for work that you've done, and to provide the social proof that shows you as the hardworking professional that you are. It is also a way for people to find you as certain elements of your profile are searchable not just on LinkedIn but on search engines like google and Yahoo as well. Fill out all aspects of the profile that you can and then take note of the parts you've not completed. Come up with ways to fill out the profile completely. From your photograph, to how you want people to contact you, it's all important. The more complete your profile is, the more people will trust it. Remember, you can reorganize the profile to showcase and highlight the most important parts of your profile putting the less important parts toward the bottom. 4. Non Participation Can Kill Your Presence Once you create your profile and you've jumped in connecting with current and former colleagues, it's important to maintain an active account by participating i.e engaging. Participating in other people's posts, discussions, groups, and by commenting on, "liking" and sharing updates from others is a great way to build trust and promote reciprocity. It is also a great way for others to figure your personality and to position yourself as a thought leader depending on the subject. Set out a little time like 15 to 20 minutes a day to comment, like and share interesting content from your network. You'll find it educational, enjoyable and you'll get a lot out of the interactions. You can demonstrate your expertise by entering into discussions within groups, or by starting your own targeted group too. If you spend any time on any type of social media, choose to spend time on LinkedIn participating. Like any platform, it will take you a while to get used to it and find your stride. But if you avoid these basic but painful mistakes, you should be well on your way to LinkedIn bliss!

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