There are countless articles on best practices and tips for what to do on LinkedIn (including quite a few by yours truly), but I wanted to focus on what not to do on the platform because I see so many LinkedIn users – who are often very successful business professionals – make the same mistakes over and over again. I thought I would jot down a quick list of what not to do on LinkedIn in the hopes that it would prevent future gaffes on the platform. So many people set up LinkedIn profiles but don’t really know what to do with them. In some ways, I think it’s more important to know what not to do on LinkedIn. It’s never too soon or late to start learning how to use LinkedIn to build your professional brand!

  1. First impressions really matter and today, a good profile photo is the norm on your LinkedIn profile. Omitting a profile photo, using a non-professional photo, a low-quality photo, a group photo where it’s hard to decipher who you are or an old photo of yourself from 10 years ago is a big mistake (hey if you’re bald its okay!). There are no excuses today not to have an updated, recent photo. Also, ensure that your photo is correctly sized (ideally 400 by 400 pixels) and high-resolution.
  2. Uploading a non-professional photo as your LinkedIn cover background image. You can upload an image to serve as a cover photo on your profile, giving your profile a little bit more personality. Just keep in mind that LinkedIn is a professional social network, so choose a photo that reflects your personal brand but is also appropriate. Also, make sure the image is high-resolution and correctly sized (1584 x 396 pixels), and that it’s a JPG, PNG or GIF file under 8MB.
  3. Writing out your name in all caps or all lowercase letters – surprisingly, I see this quite often. This is not the place to be unique. Be completely precise in these basic details. If you can’t get your name right, you will leave people with major questions about other things about you.
  4. Not closely proofreading your profile. Careless mistakes are just careless. Have a friend or colleague read your profile for you or send it to for an expert opinion for a low cost.
  5. Not optimizing your headline or having a poorly written headline. Your LinkedIn headline is one of the most important sections of your profile because it gets pulled front and center into some browsers as well as into LinkedIn’s searches. You only get 120 characters to describe yourself, so use this space wisely.
  6. Having multiple profiles. Some LinkedIn users have several profiles from when they worked at prior firms or from defunct firms, or they created profiles under different emails or they were originally set up by someone else – whatever the case, having multiple profiles creates confusion for people searching for you, for your colleagues and for yourself. You can easily merge these profiles together and/or delete the other ones. Having several profiles demonstrates that you aren’t LinkedIn savvy and confuses those who are searching for you. You don’t want them to stumble upon the wrong profile for you and think that the incomplete one is the correct one.
  7. Having multiple current jobs. Some LinkedIn users forget to update their last prior job so it looks like they have two current jobs. This is confusing to anyone who is viewing your profile. You also run the risk of getting strange work anniversary congratulatory emails. Please don’t be sloppy here. Take two seconds to change the date of your employment on your last position.
  8. Being lazy about regularly updating your profile. Each time you move jobs you should immediately update your profile with the new position. This will also let others in your network know that you’ve landed somewhere new, triggering congratulatory notes to you. People just aren’t sending emails as much anymore about job moves. LinkedIn is the place to go for job move information today. By switching your place of employment, you will also then automatically follow your new company on LinkedIn, which will enable you to then easily share content from your new employer.
  9. Making it difficult for people to learn more about you by having an incomplete profile. You have complete control over your LinkedIn profile and can make updates in real time. This is how you build your professional brand and bring in business leads/referrals. By not taking advantage of this, you are doing yourself a disservice especially in this day and age of online networking.
  10. Not listing all your former employers and schools, and omitting key dates (note you do not need to list months but you should list years of that you worked at a position and the year in which you graduated from an educational institution).
  11. Including awards and honors from the dinosaur age. Your mom cares about these but no one else does (sorry).
  12. Not updating your profile (and headline) when you receive an award or recognition, or write an article. These types of brand-building activities help to establish you as a subject-matter expert. The key is to write them in a way that is humble, not boastful.
  13. Failing to include a summary or creating an odd summary by using bullets, all caps, one sentence, your firm description or anything else that is not the LinkedIn norm. Note, if you aren’t sure how to write a good summary, just look at some of your competitors’ or colleagues’ profiles for inspiration, or the LinkedIn tips article that I linked above.
  14. Copying and pasting your web site bio into your summary section. Please listen to me on this – you must customize your summary for LinkedIn – it should be more casual in tone and written as if you were describing what you do to someone over coffee.
  15. Writing about yourself in formal terms (such as referring to yourself as “Mr. Smith” instead of “Jim” – you will look like you have absolutely no idea how to use LinkedIn if you do this.
  16. Not including your contact information on your profile. I have seen people lose business and speaking engagements and other great opportunities because they didn’t include their email or phone number on their LinkedIn profile. C’mon – this is basic stuff!
  17. Leaving out chunks of your employment history, leading the reader to believe you have much less experience than you actually do. Don’t sell yourself short!
  18. Not personalizing a connection request. Reference how you met or something you discussed. Keep is short and light. Note – you can’t really do this well from your mobile device but you can from the desktop version of LinkedIn.
  19. Blindly accepting connection requests from individuals who you do not know. Why would you do this? It is my number one LinkedIn pet peeve. I get several of these each day and it baffles me why people continue to send them.
  20. Sending LinkedIn requests to people who you don’t know (you can get penalized for this if you do it too many times!). This is the flipside of #19 – why would you do this? It will not bring you new business or a new friend – in fact, it will repel people.
  21. Trying to link in with someone more than once when they declined the first time (take a hint!).
  22. Bugging your new contacts within 10 minutes of linking with them. Don’t be a stage 1 clinger. Give them space and act cool.
  23. Not checking your LinkedIn messages regularly and missing out on important opportunities as a result. Log into LinkedIn’s settings section to make sure you have your email notifications set to your preference so that you do not miss a message or a notification.
  24. Being too salesy in any communication on LinkedIn (always remember that less is more, try to add value to your connections and build relationships. The used car salesman approach rarely works).
  25. Embellishing your background in any way. Everyone is researching each other online and so there’s no point in doing this. It will catch up with you.
  26. Doing nothing on LinkedIn – meaning having no engagement with your connections by not posting or sharing articles, or commenting on content from those in your network. What’s the point of setting up a profile if you aren’t going to use it?
  27. Not customizing your public profile/vanity URL. If you don’t do this, you will have a bunch of strange looking characters after your name. A shortened, custom LinkedIn URL is much cleaner and web savvy. To customize your LinkedIn URL, follow the instructions right on LinkedIn’s web site.
  28. Posting updates too often that don’t provide value to your connections. Your posts can’t be all about you or say nothing. Think about value-added, educational posts that give insights to your network and help position you as a thought leader and subject-matter expert.
  29. Having less than 200 LinkedIn connections – I know you know more people than that! Remember that while it’s not about the number of connections that you have it is about the quality of your connections, but there’s a happy medium between the two.
  30. Forgetting to change your privacy settings to anonymous when doing a lot of LinkedIn profile research.
  31. Forgetting to edit your sharing profile settings when you are making major changes to your profile resulting in getting lots of emails and congratulations when all you did was add a comma or updating a few words. Make sure to toggle off this switch before you do an overhaul of your profile and then turn it back on again strategically when you want your network to know about updates to your profile.
  32. Forgetting how you know someone when you are asking for a a favor. Recently someone asked me to make an introduction to another LinkedIn contact. She referenced how we met but she was completely wrong when she recounted the story, which turned me off, and made me doubt her memory and judgment. The lesson here – if you are going to ask someone to do you a favor, make sure you know exactly how you know that person and if you have trouble remembering things, keep a spreadsheet with notes on your important contacts.
  33. Leaving your activities section blank. I know you have a lot going on in your life and career. Your activities on LinkedIn show what you care about, so don’t leave that information out of your profile, it’s a great way to help you stand out and be memorable.
  34. Having no direction. It’s always a good idea to think about what you want to do next in your career as you are updating your profile. This will help you fine-tune and refine yours so that you can better position your skills and experience for the next opportunity or as you think about rebranding yourself.
  35. Not showing versus telling. You are up against the content clock with every single line of your LinkedIn profile (the platform gives you space constraints in each section) so you must be smart, clear and concise in your language while trying to stand out from the pack. I always aim to show versus tell in everything I write demonstrating the how and why instead of simply stating it.
  36. Omitting your accomplishments in each job. Don’t just list your responsibilities for each position – take it a step further and detail in a concise way a few of your proudest achievements.
  37. Not letting your individuality shine through in your profile. You are not a robot (at least I hope you aren’t). Let your unique attributes and what makes you YOU come through in your profile.
  38. Using business speak/jargon: don’t use cliche phrases like “depth and breadth” or “synergy” or “results-oriented” – instead write the way you actually speak and drop the business filler language from your vocabulary. Your words will be much more powerful.
  39. Posting only text. Visual content performs better online than text, so every piece of content you post to LinkedIn (and to social media in general) should have an accompanying image to go along with it. Take photos at events, use to create free custom graphics, use Picstitch and repurpose headshots.
  40. Clicking on something too quickly from LinkedIn (either in an email or a web page) and winding up sending invites to everyone in your address book, including your grandma and your gardener. Proceed with caution and do not auto enable anything with regards to your contacts.
  41. Not using LinkedIn as one of your primary tools when you are job hunting. LinkedIn is one of the most powerful tools for job hunters – from actual job postings listed on the site to providing you with tons of free research on employers and future colleagues – you would be very wise to incorporate the platform into your job hunting strategy. Those who aren’t are at a huge disadvantage today.
  42. Giving/accepting recommendations. While it’s nice to say nice things about people you know, you may eventually regret recommending someone down the line and in some fields, such as law, it is actually frowned upon to give and receive recommendations. My advice on this to completely steer clear of this area on such a public platform like LinkedIn and save any recommendations for the private sector.
  43. Failing to use LinkedIn Publisher to write articles. The LinkedIn Publisher tool gives you the ability to publish articles right from your desktop just like I am doing here. This will help you build your brand and establish yourself as a subject-matter expert. It is also free to do and you since you are self publishing, you can freely write about the business topics that interest you most. You can add hashtags, which will help your content be found. So why wouldn’t you take advantage of LinkedIn Publisher?
  44. Not actively engaging with your connections – you should be reading, liking, commenting and sharing the posts of important people in your network every single day. Try setting a small goal for daily social media engagement.
  45. LinkedIn is a key way to extend relationships before and after events and conferences, so don’t be lazy about not connecting with all of the people you meet or want to meet. It gives you a real reason to be in touch with individuals.
  46. Not downloading the LinkedIn app. One of the smartest things you can do is to log into LinkedIn from your smartphone on your commute or during other downtime. You can do many of the things that you can do on desktop version of LinkedIn from your mobile device (just save any heavy profile editing for when you are at an actual computer).

I think LinkedIn is one of the best tools to grow your relationships, strengthen your brand and stay top of mind with key individuals in your professional network regardless of where they live – IF you know how to use it. So spend the time to learn the do’s and don’ts and you will be well on your way to business development and marketing success in no time!

If you enjoyed this article, please let me know! If you have other LinkedIn don’ts, please post them below!

For more advanced tips on how to use LinkedIn to build your professional network, read my article, “Build a Stronger Professional Network Today with These LinkedIn To-Do’s.” 

I hope you will consider joining me and my 2019 LMA Social Media and Digital Marketing co-chair Jennifer Simpson Carr for our LMA 2019 Annual Conference deep-dive workshop program on day two of the conference on Wednesday, April 10 at 1:30pm “Beyond Branding: Aligning Social Media Strategy with Business Development Goals.”