With hundreds of millions of professional members worldwide, LinkedIn is a great tool for business. LinkedIn can help you connect with potential clients, partners, and sponsors as well as promote your products and services. Before actively pursuing new business on LinkedIn, however, it’s important to understand LinkedIn best practices for business. LinkedIn has its own set of rules, many unwritten, and having a firm grasp of LinkedIn etiquette is essential to successfully using LinkedIn as a business development tool.
In this article, I describe four common LinkedIn marketing mishaps that can drive away potential clients, motivate other users to block or report you, or even violate LinkedIn’s user agreement.
Mistake #1: Over Optimizing Your Profile
Optimizing your LinkedIn profile with relevant keywords is a good idea. Over optimizing it, on the other hand, isn’t just a bad idea, it can also motivate other users to block or report you.
Optimizing your profile refers to the inclusion of specific words that potential clients could use when searching LinkedIn for a person with your qualifications. For example, if you’re a WordPress web designer with skills in Genesis theme customization, CSS, and HTML5, you would want to include these keywords in your profile to make it easier for people to find you. Including appropriate keywords in your headline, summary, and position descriptions is a LinkedIn best practice.
Where people get into trouble is when they decide that more is better when it comes to keywords and start over optimizing their profile by including these words dozens of times. For example, I recently viewed a LinkedIn profile for someone who, quite obviously, is a copywriter. Instead of creating a position description that provided more information about her copywriting services, she simply entered the word “copywriter” 50 times (see Figure 1). Although this example demonstrates the tactic of keyword stuffing to the extreme, many LinkedIn users insert keywords far more frequently than is necessary or appropriate.
Figure 1 Over optimizing your profile by keyword stuffing can motivate other users to report you to LinkedIn
I’ve also seen people create multiple entries for the same position using similar keywords, hoping that this misguided effort will result in better search rankings (see Figure 2). Unfortunately, this over optimization tactic just makes a profile repetitive and unprofessional.
Figure 2 Don’t list a position more than once on your profile
Instead, focus on selecting the best keywords that relate to what you do and use these terms naturally in your profile headline, summary, and position descriptions. Adding these terms in the Skills & Endorsements section is also a good idea.
Mistake #2: Sending Sales Pitches to Your New Connections
Do you want to know the fastest way to get new LinkedIn connections to remove their connection with you? Send them a sales pitch as soon as you connect.
Almost everyone on LinkedIn has experienced this. You receive an invitation to connect—usually from someone you don’t know well, if at all—and not long after you click the Accept button, your new contact sends you a sales pitch (see Figure 3 for an example of what not to do).
Figure 3 Don’t alienate new connections by trying to sell to them right away
Remember that LinkedIn is first and foremost a professional networking site. Yes, many people find new business through LinkedIn, but you need to use the right approach. In general, it’s best to let your profile or LinkedIn Company Page do the selling for you and stay on your connections’ radar through informative and engaging updates.
If you do want to send a message directly to each new person who connects with you, focus on the relationship, not the sale. Personalize your message and let this person know you’re looking forward to getting better acquainted through LinkedIn (or renew your acquaintance if your connection is someone you’ve met before). You can mention what you do or even include a link to your website, but this isn’t the time for overt sales pitches or requests for a sales meeting.
Mistake #3: Treating Your LinkedIn Network Like an Opt-In Email List
When a LinkedIn member accepts your invitation to connect, it doesn’t mean that this person wants to receive regular promotional messages from you on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, too many marketers treat their LinkedIn network like an opt-in email list, sending regular sales-oriented messages to large groups of people. Even worse, some people extend this willingness to connect beyond LinkedIn, adding their LinkedIn connections to their external email list without permission. Obviously, this is an easy way to get people to remove their connection to you.
If growing your email list is one of your goals, here are some better ways to build your list on LinkedIn:
- Mention your newsletter in your LinkedIn profile summary.
- List your newsletter in the Publications section (see Figure 4) with a link to its landing page. Alternatively, link to your website home page if you don’t have a specific landing page for your newsletter. Calling your newsletter a “publication” is most suited to high-quality, content-rich newsletters with a specific name and focus. This could backfire if people sign up for this publication only to discover that all they receive are regular sales messages with little useful content.
- Share an update to your latest issue if you post these online. Or let people know about a new report, class, or webinar you’re offering free to your newsletter subscribers. It’s best not to overdo this method, however. Keep newsletter mentions to about once a month or so and focus most of your updates on sharing useful information relevant to your network.
Figure 4 Use the Publications section of your profile to showcase a high-quality, content-rich newsletter
Again, as with everything else, use restraint when promoting your newsletter on LinkedIn. Let your network know about it, but don’t oversell.
Mistake #4: Trying to Connect with Too Many People All at Once
Some LinkedIn members view themselves as open networkers, meaning that they are willing to connect with people they don’t know. In theory, this is a solid plan. Getting to know new people is, after all, the goal of professional networking. But some people take this too far, turning it into a numbers game and bragging about their 20,000 connections or their “most connected” status for a particular geographic area.
To grow a huge LinkedIn network, these users often send hundreds or even thousands of random invitations. The problem with sending cookie-cutter invitations to people you don’t know is that people often ignore them. When a LinkedIn member clicks the Ignore button next to your invitation, LinkedIn asks why this person ignored you. If too many people say they don’t know you or worse, say that your invitation is spam, LinkedIn could put restrictions on your ability to network on the site (see Figure 5).
Figure 5 Don’t make it easy for someone to report your invitation as spam
At a minimum, be sure to personalize any invitation you send to someone you don’t know, explaining why you want to connect. For example, you might work in the same industry, belong to a common group, or have attended the same university. Also review this person’s profile before sending an invitation. Some LinkedIn users are very clear that they don’t want to receive unsolicited invitations or connect with people they don’t know. Although limiting your networking options is often shortsighted, sending an invitation to someone who clearly isn’t open to networking is an easy way to get reported to LinkedIn.
If growing a large network is one of your goals, a better way to accomplish this is to actively participate in relevant groups and post high-quality, useful updates. Another option is to join a group dedicated to open networking, such as LION (LinkedIn Open Networker) or TopLinked, where you know other members share your interest in growing a large network and are most likely open to connecting.
Many LinkedIn members are eager to use LinkedIn as a business development tool. By avoiding these common LinkedIn marketing mishaps, you can improve your chances of finding clients and successfully promoting your products and services on LinkedIn.