Sometimes building connections on LinkedIn feels a little like my relationship with my insurance broker--I don't appreciate the true value of the relationship until I really, really need it.
While LinkedIn is a powerful professional networking tool, with over 270 million members, it's hard work to consistently stay on top of the service's newest features and functionality. Moreover, while the platform seems innocent enough, there are plenty of opportunities to screw up.
Here are a few things you should NOT do, things that could impact potential work opportunities and contacts.
LinkedIn puts a hefty amount of public emphasis on your updates, so if you edit your job title or profile, your network is immediately in the know. Which means that if you lose your job, for example, broadcasting this change could lead to an embarrassing scenario that could hurt other work prospects. Also, if you're updating your profile because you're looking for a new gig, this could raise a flag with your current employer.
As a quick test, I slightly tweaked my current LinkedIn position to see what would happen. Within a few minutes, eight people liked my new position. During that same period, four people congratulated me on my new job (despite the fact that my title and employer pretty much stayed the same).
The fix: To turn off your activity broadcasts, select Account & Settings, and under Privacy & Settings/Privacy Controls, unselect "Let people know when you change your profile, make recommendations, or follow companies." This will help to keep your most important activity updates private.
There is something tantalizing about checking out who's checking you out on LinkedIn. However, if you're the one doing all the lurking, it sends the wrong message to potential business contacts. The good news is that you can hide who you are, even without paying for a premium account.
The fix: Simply visit your Account & Settings, and under Privacy & Settings/Privacy Controls, select what others see when you've viewed their profile. Within this area you have three options: Let others see your name and headline, choose anonymous profile characteristics such as industry and title, or go totally anonymous.
The two latter options will disable your profile stats, so you'll miss out on how often people view your profile, but at least you can lurk away without scaring anyone off.
LinkedIn makes us all a little lazy. While it's a breeze to connect with others, it's tempting to forget that this platform works best when we customize conversations. This can be as simple as adding a personal note when you invite someone to connect. Not only does this allow the recipient to have some context, but it shows the recipient that you took some extra time to reach out.
The fix: Another easy way to add context on LinkedIn is to provide more information about why you're on LinkedIn in the first place. Instead of simply stating your position, dive further into your Profile settings to tweak Your Professional Headline (click "Edit Profile" and then click on pencil below your name at top of page). This is the place where your title is displayed by default, but you can customize this line to get specific about how you can help potential connections.
If you aren't taking these extra steps to win jobs and earn contacts on LinkedIn, you're missing out on solid opportunities to build relationships that you may really, really need one day.
[Image: Flickr user digypho]