A professional head shot is “LinkedIn 101.” But could other simple mistakes be impacting your LinkedIn credibility?

While scrolling through my LinkedIn feed last week, I was surprised to see multiple posts sharing personal details – vacation photos, a political argument, even a food review – that are normally reserved for other social networks. Worse, I’m not sure these users even realized I would see their posts. Several of them were secondary contacts; their activity only showed up in my feed because a mutual connection had commented on their posts. Consequently, my introduction to these individuals came in the form of vacation photos and political rants– not a stellar first impression!

LinkedIn can be a deceptively tricky network to navigate. To build our network, we often connect with individuals we may have only met briefly at an industry event. Then, to build our credibility and stay top of mind with contacts, we strive to post content regularly. Unfortunately, when that content is overly personal, we can end up in an awkward situation: sharing vacation photos with someone we met for five minutes at a conference two years ago.

Don’t run afoul of LinkedIn etiquette. Keep these guidelines in mind before hitting post:

  1. Consider your audience. Think of every LinkedIn post as a mini marketing piece. Is the content you’re posting aligned with your professional brand and your company’s brand? If you’re not sure, ask yourself before posting, “Would I talk openly about this topic at a networking event, conference, or trade show? Five years from now, do I still want to be connected with this information?” If the answer is “no”, don’t post it. Period.
  2. Check your tone. LinkedIn is not the office water cooler. It’s not the place to air grievances, complain about your boss, or post negative commentary. There’s a difference between constructively debating a trending industry issue and posting vague comments about management troubles or coworker conflict. The former shows you’re a critical thinker on the cusp of industry news; the latter suggests you thrive off workplace drama– a huge red flag for recruiters.
  3. Watch your frequency. Even if you’re keeping the content professional, posting too frequently could backfire and end up alienating your contacts. For example, one of my contacts posts multiple articles each day in addition to sharing his own thought pieces on LinkedIn Pulse, which he then cross-promotes on all his social networks. Unfortunately, it seems he’s focused on quantity over quality. He’s quick to re-share articles, but rarely adds valuable insight. Don’t spam your contacts or post self-serving content.
  4. Keep it positive. While this should go without saying, recently I’ve seen several contacts get into heated arguments on LinkedIn and one even went so far as to criticize a direct competitor. There’s a clear line between constructive discussions and unprofessional arguments: stay on the constructive side! Keep your comments positive or, if you think something could be misconstrued, err on the side of caution and don’t post it.

There’s nothing wrong with injecting a bit of personality into your LinkedIn presence as long as this personality is aligned with your professional brand. Simply put, LinkedIn is a place to build your professional reputation. Nothing destroys your efforts to be a thought leader faster than over-sharing personal details or getting into a heated debate over politics or religion.

Questions about LinkedIn etiquette or what recruiters look for in a LinkedIn profile? For more information, contact me at DArmendariz@lucasgroup.com.