Common LinkedIn Errors – And How to Fix Them

Recently, I signed up for a LinkedIn Premium account. As a result, I’ve noticed an increase in people who have viewed my profile. It’s also allowed me to view a lot more full profiles, and I’ve started receiving far more connection requests from strangers.

LinkedIn is the place where I should be making new business connections. The problem doesn’t lie in the increase in requests, it lies in the fact that I don’t know these people. Why would an engineer in India or telecommunications analyst in the Philippines want to connect with a marketing professional in Toronto? Good question, and one I can’t answer… because neither of these individuals told me why they wanted to connect with me.

Which brings me to the first of five common LinkedIn errors I’ve seen recently.

 Error #1 – If I don’t know you, tell me why you want to connect with me

LinkedIn pre-populates a message that allows you to simply push a button and send your connection request to anyone in the world, without typing a single word. If I already know you, or if we share a number of connections within our community, I’ll most often accept this request.

However, if I don’t know you, I want a reason to connect. Perhaps that telecommunications professional saw something in my profile we have in common. Maybe that engineer in India and I could have started a global engineering/marketing empire. Unfortunately, we’ll never know… simply because neither of these people told me the benefits of connecting with them.

Error #2 – Hey, is that your cat?

LinkedIn is for professional networking. So why do so many people use unprofessional photos? A clear, professional headshot is not that difficult to obtain, and if you can’t afford a professional photographer, find a particularly talented friend. Dress up a little, and make sure the picture is in focus. And please, avoid the following:

  • Selfies
  • iPhone pics
  • Pictures of your pets, children, your last vacation, candids of you and your besties at the pub last weekend or a particularly pretty landscape shot
  • No photo at all. The standard photo box makes your profile look incomplete. The last thing you want potential employers or clients to think is that you leave projects half-finished

Some people are concerned about privacy or potential discrimination issues that a photo may open them up to. Unfortunately, that can sometimes be true. But the truth is, even if the interviewer hasn’t seen your LinkedIn picture, they’ve judged your appearance even before you’ve opened your mouth when you show up for your interview.

Error #3 – Check Your Spelling and Grammar

This should be self-explanatory. Having spelling and grammatical errors is the akin to having these same errors on your résumé – it looks sloppy and won’t get you further than the virtual waste paper basket. Asking someone to proofread your profile is smart.

Error #4 -Over-used adjectives and jargon

If you read enough LinkedIn profiles, you could be convinced that everyone is a “passionate”, “dynamic”, “creative” “self-starter”. I’m fairly convinced that’s NOT the case, so why make your profile instantly forgettable by using the same language as everyone else? Use a thesaurus to find different adjectives to describe you.

Also? Not everyone who views your profile will be in your industry. Try to avoid industry-specific jargon as much as possible so that anyone who reads it will easily understand what you do. A friend from a different industry should be able to read your profile and easily understand what you do.

Error #5 – LinkedIn Is Not Your Résumé

I know that sounds odd. It’s a professional networking site, so why shouldn’t you cut and paste your résumé? Here’s why:

  • People don’t read on the Internet, they skim. Brief bullet points or very short paragraphs with clear headings make skimming easier
  • LinkedIn provides you with a chance to be more creative. You don’t have to worry about being confined to a two-page paper résumé, or worse, making sure the information is readable using résumé scanners. Tell a creative story about who you are and what you offer others
  • LinkedIn is about what you offer others, not about what you’ve accomplished – tell people what you can give to them, not what you’ve done

There are tonnes of other frequent errors, but there are the ones that will make your profile look at best, incomplete or at worst, sloppy, to potential employers or clients. Fixing your profile, and taking time to review it and update it frequently will make your profile look polished and professional.


Are Community Managers Undervalued?

Way back in June, I was fortunate to have attended The Art of Marketing to see some of my marketing and communications idols speak. The morning was electric, but the afternoon kicked off with a panel discussion that was, in comparison, relatively subdued. And there was one comment uttered that left me incredibly unsettled. One of the panelists referred to community management as the new entry level position in the marketing world.

Entry level position. Let’s think about this for a minute. Companies are hiring recent grads with little real-world corporate experience to handle a very public role within their organizations.

Most articles I’ve read have discussed who should be in charge of social media and community management from an age perspective. Often, the younger employees (the Gen Y cohort) state that they should be in charge because they grew up as “digital natives” and understand how to make connections online. Many older employees are torn – either they don’t understand social media (and are not wiling or able to put in the time to do so) or they understand the role of online communications as a tool within their marketing mix, and are either willing to learn more, or delegate community management to another individual.

There’s no question that younger employees did grow up far more immersed in social media than those in the C-suite. They’re also likely quicker to adopt and adapt to new platforms than their older counterparts. But, much of the experience younger employees bring to the role of community management is personal. Chatting with friends on Facebook or sharing Tweets, Vines or Instagram photos of your weekend adventures is a very different experience than using these platforms to build brand credibility and engage online audiences.

Meanwhile, the senior executives have had years of experience developing strategies, identifying target audiences, market analysis – and they’ve likely been front line in responding to a crisis or two. These are experiences younger employees have rarely had before entering the work world. These are skills that are required to be a good community manager – especially since the online world moves fast and situations can spiral out of control quickly.

Personally, I don’t buy the age-based arguments. Community management should not be an entry level role, period. The employee in charge of your brand’s social media presence needs to be mature enough to handle talking online in your corporate “voice”, the potential for communications to quickly descend into crisis communications should an angry customer decide to use a very public forum to berate your company, have the technical abilities to be able to use the platforms and listening tools to their best advantage and finally, be able to either create or add value to your company’s social media strategy – they need to be able to own some part of that process so that they understand the responsibility they have to represent the company online appropriately.

Bad choices can (and have been) made when communicating online with customers and/or prospects by people of any age. What the role of community manager really takes is someone who has a considerable amount of tact and diplomacy, the ability to diffuse situations quickly and appropriately where needed, and a whole other range of skills (see my post What Makes A Social Media Expert?). And those skills need to be valued appropriately. It doesn’t matter if your community manager is an incredibly mature 20-something in their first job out of school or a 40-something who has been in the marketing industry for a while, but really “gets” social. Hire and compensate appropriately. And remember, the reputation of your brand depends on your community manager.

How To Plan for a Blog Hiatus

A while back, I took a bit of a blog break. And during the month or so of not posting consistently, everything that could have turned my world upside down, did. Fortunately, among the bad, there was a lot of good. My little sister got married, I have some exciting new things potentially happening on the career front and my loved one was released from hospital and is doing really, really well.

Throughout that time, the biggest thing I didn’t do was continue to post regularly. Any content manager will tell you that consistency is one of the most critical indicators of success. And I’ve been guilty of just the opposite. To remedy that should I find myself in a month-long, seemingly endless round of life making my plans on my behalf, I’ve decided to prepare myself using a few content “cheats.”

Pre-writing a few posts

I plan to pre-write some “evergreen” blog posts to put up for when I my focus can’t be with my readers. It’s not fair to my followers who count on weekly content to not read a post in more than a month. And it also undermines my credibility – I can’t be telling people to post consistently if I’m not doing so. Evergreen posts are posts that have a timeless appeal – they’re just as relevant when they’re written as they are a few weeks or months later.

Posting “Lean”

If I don’t have time to compose a full length post, concentrate on writing a short one – even a few well-chosen words is better than no post at all.

Putting myself on a schedule

I schedule my writing time for others. I schedule my social media posting times. I schedule everything else about my life… except my writing. It’s time that I should be guarding just as fiercely as I guard the time for my morning runs. Right now, I’m shoe-horning it in between all the other stuff I do, and that’s not okay.

What’s Happening

If I’m at a loss for a topic (hey, it happens to everyone) and that’s what’s holding me back, I’ll check out what’s happening in the world and comment on it. (and there’s always something happening in the marketing world to comment on).

Experimenting With Other Mediums

Podcasting, vlogging, infographics – there are so many other ways besides writing to create and distribute content, and I’m certainly exploring alternatives to writing a post. The bonus? Visual content is shared much more frequently than written content on the web.

I’m curious about how you schedule your writing time, readers. Let me know in the comments how you work consistent posting into your schedule.

On Creating A Ruckus

First, an apology. I haven’t written a new post in a very long time. It was not my intent, and any content manager worth their pay (me included) would typically lose their mind over an untended blog – think of the valuable online cred you’re losing! But, as the Beatles song Beautiful Boy says, life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans (for a deeper explanation, see my last post, I Am Grateful). Since that post, my loved one was happily released from hospital, but then my daughter and I got sick. I lost a couple of great opportunities, but then uncovered more. Now I’m back with a clearer focus and a huge appreciation for life. Apparently, being faced with mortality does that to a person.

Back to the post at hand though…

On Wednesday June 5, me, and 1899 others, were privileged to attend The Art of Marketing Conference here in Toronto. The speakers were a veritable who’s who of the marketing/creative world – David Usher, Seth Godin, Jonah Berger, Charles Duhigg and Biz Stone. I found out Tuesday afternoon that I was the lucky winner of a ticket (otherwise, I would have never been able to attend) from Renbor Sales Solutions Inc. (Special thank you shout-out to Tibor Shanto).

While all the speakers were amazing and so, so inspiring, one comment stood out to me. Just as Seth Godin was leaving the stage, he said, “create a ruckus.”

Such a simple phrase – and one that would take many of us back to Max’s words from Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are (Although the correct phrase is, “Let the wild rumpus start!”). But for grown-up me, I thought about it. How long has it been since I created a ruckus about something I was passionate about? How long has it been since I questioned the status quo? The answer struck me almost as quickly – it’s been too long.

We all get caught up in the day-to-day. The hustle and bustle. The crazy thing we called life. But I’m thinking lately that all of the events that have happened to me and my family over the past six months have led to this moment. This challenge to create a ruckus. I am so, so ready.

My ruckus will be simple and quiet. But it will be all mine. And, Seth, if you’re reading, consider this your challenge accepted.

Blogging Your Business

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how marketing has become an exercise in story telling. People don’t just want to know what you’re selling anymore, they often also want to know the story behind the product, service or company. “Content marketing” has become the new marketing buzzword, and you’ll often hear people talking about the importance of company blogs – apparently, if you don’t have one, you’re in the digital dark ages.

I personally sit squarely on the fence when it comes to company blogs. Do I think companies need blogs? Absolutely. But there are three basic considerations:

  1. Don’t sell! A company blog is not another place to push your product. Push information. If you sell, say, mailboxes, talk about how the mailbox industry has changed or new trends in mailboxes, not just the features and benefits of the mailboxes that you personally sell
  2. Keep it updated consistently. If you’re not updating your blog consistently, it’s not worth keeping one. People want to see regular posts, otherwise, they’ll move onto other, more consistently updated sources
  3. Be real, but not too real. Your human voice needs to come through, not your corporate voice. But, keep it clean, though – no swearing, no running down the competition, no off-colour jokes

A blog is a great place (along with a really strong ‘About Us’ page) to tell your story. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and tell your story. I’d love to hear it, too so leave me a comment and tell me more about you and your story.

So, This One Time, At Podcamp

Over the weekend, I went to camp for my first time in my life. For two days, I played and learned with a group of like-minded professionals, amateurs and people interested in new media.

Podcamp Toronto is an “unconference” – a two-day gathering of new media professionals that began in 2007. Podcamp began in Boston in 2006 and has since been held in a number of different cities. The conference is free (thanks to some fabulous sponsors and the presenters who donate their time), and attendees vote with their feet. If you don’t like a session, you walk (hopefully not without some measure of respect for the presenter). And if you have a session you want to present, you go to the Podcamp site a few weeks before the conference and describe your idea. If you have an idea during the conference (and there’s space in the schedule) – well, talk to the organizers, put it together and Tweet it out to find your audience.

A last-minute decision I made on Thursday afternoon to attend found me standing in the lobby of the Rogers Communications Centre at Ryerson University on Saturday afternoon. Since I missed the entire morning of sessions, I felt like it was my first day in a new school – cliques were formed and were gathered, talking and laughing – and I was all by myself. But, I took a deep breath and jumped in with both feet. And I’m glad I did.

Six Things I learned at Podcamp:

  1. That as much as I love radian6 and Sysmos as social media measurement tools, they may not be the best for small businesses because they’re pricey. But, you can gain information about reach of your posts, you can use the basics: Facebook Insights, Hootsuite Analytics or Sprout Social (which, while Facebook Insights and Hootsuite Analytics are basic free tools included with the applications, Sprout Social does have a cost. But there are educational and not-for-profit discounts for those that qualify)
  2. That while some of the session titles may not actually describe what the focus will be, if you stay, you may take something away from it anyway. I attended the How to Develop A Killer Content Marketing Strategy session on Saturday afternoon. While content marketing wasn’t exactly where we spent the most time (I learned about buyer personas during my undergrad but the refresher was interesting), I did meet three interesting people from a variety of areas just by starting a dialogue about what we had just learned – and I came up with an idea for a killer blog post (more on that later this week)
  3. That about 70% of Google’s algorithm is geared to answer the question “who cares?” – and the better you answer it, the higher you’ll show up in the search results
  4. That a 16-year-old kid can be more mature than some adults I know, and that said 16-year-old can summarize why people like brands on social media better than anyone who has ever liked a brand on social media can. When this kid graduates from high school and gains more experience in the customer service side of social media, I’d hire him
  5. That sometimes, the presenter of a session may not show up. And while it’s disappointing, it’s a good time to network with others, decompress, review your notes from previous sessions and check your email
  6. That I need to become a ninja in my field

Will I go back next year? Absolutely! Would I recommend it to my friends in new media? Absolutely! Will I propose a topic for next year and present? Maybe! The world does need someone who will talk specifically about developing a killer content marketing strategy, does it not?