Personal branding on LinkedIn: 11 mistakes to avoid

LinkedIn is a fantastic online business networking platform for professionals. And for job seekers, it’s a brilliant place to showcase yourself and your personal brand. But, if you’re doing the following, you’re NOT doing “Brand You” any favours:

1. Don’t use anything other than a professional looking photo — preferably head and shoulders.

Remember, LinkedIn is a professional platform, so a photo of you downing a beer at a pub, or in your bikini, should be reserved for other social platforms like Facebook. Some people don’t have photos at all. It makes me think they have something to hide and it’s just a little bit creepy (along with those to choose to be anonymous)… We live in a visual world and people want to see who you are and what you look like.

2. Don’t lie.

All your connections can view your profile and if you lie, you will be found out. It will be very embarrassing too. Look what happened to former Yahoo CEO, Scott Thompson.

3. Don’t send people an invitation to connect with LinkedIn’s default text.

It makes them think you couldn’t be bothered to write a personalised message. Why would they bother connecting with you? Give them a good reason, especially if they don’t know you. Note: currently on smartphones, the iPad app, and some pages on the LinkedIn website eg. “People you may know” – LinkedIn sends off the invite without giving you the opportunity to customise the message. I always feel a little embarrassed when this happens. LinkedIn needs to fix this, but in the meantime, avoid these when sending requests.

4. Don’t use the “Friend” option when connecting unless you are a friend of theirs.

It’s a major pet peeve for many professionals on LinkedIn and they won’t want to connect with you.

5. Don’t forget to include all links to your other platforms — and name them.

Many people don’t even know you can do this in the “Contact Details” section of your profile. You can include up to 3 links under the “Websites” heading. So for example, I’ve included Firebrand’s website, Aquent’s website and Vitamin T’s website – all brands that I market. There’s another section to include your Twitter address. Again, you can include up to 3 links here (and name them). I’ve included my own, plus others I manage.

6. Don’t leave your LinkedIn profile incomplete if you want to be found.

LinkedIn has a “wizard” which guides you through completing your profile and tells you when it is 100% complete. Most important is your Summary, your Experience, your Skills & Endorsements, and your Headline. Make sure that they are “keyword rich”. Did you know that all these sections, and more, are searchable? So if you want to be found, make the effort to optimise your profile. You can also choose the order in which they are displayed.

7. Don’t be lazy when sharing links and updates.

Customise your message for LinkedIn. Many people post the same message on multiple platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ instead of customising their message. It irritates people when they see @Twitter handles and #Hashtags on LinkedIn status updates. Take an extra couple of minutes to customise and you’ll reap the benefits.

8. Don’t use LinkedIn groups purely for getting “linkbacks” to your website or blog

You will be flagged a spammer and won’t be able to post to groups again. A well managed LinkedIn group is tightly monitored and most will only allow discussions, questions, and commentary. Many will allow you to link to other people’s blog posts, but not your own. A bit strange if you ask me. Even if your post is totally relevant to the discussion; it is perceived as self-promotion.

9. Don’t spam your connections.

Don’t use your LinkedIn as your email marketing platform and spam people with news and events about your company. Most won’t be interested and will remove you as a connection.

10. Don’t ask people who DON’T know you well in a professional capacity to write recommendations for you.

It’s awkward for them and you won’t get a recommendation that you’ll want to publish anyway. Remember, it’s not about the quantity of the recommendations, it’s about the quality of them. And for the record, tit for tat, reciprocal recommendations look dodgy.

11. Don’t endorse people you don’t know.

You can read a post here that I wrote specifically about this. Not only does it devalue the whole LinkedIn endorsements system, but you end up looking like an idiot because the person on the receiving end is shaking their head and thinking “why on earth would someone I haven’t dealt with endorse me?”.

Is there anything I should have added to this list? Please add your thoughts to the comments below.

More reading:

How to build a ‘village of support’ for your personal brand
Are you a LinkedIn liar?
Don’t be a LinkedIn tart!

An older version of this post was published on


Award-winning Australian recruitment agency, Firebrand Talent, ignites the careers of digital, marketing, creative, communications, advertising, & media talent. If you are looking for your next career move, check out the jobs we currently have on in Sydney & Melbourne.

Please stay connected with us by subscribing to the Firebrand blog, and following us on LinkedInTwitterFacebookGoogle+, and Pinterest.

Related Articles


(8) Readers Comments

  1. All good tips but I would add another caution to your first point. Women often use professional photos taken of them at weddings or parties. They’ve had their hair and make-up professionally done, what could go wrong? Well, they often wear strapless dresses to those events. Turn that glam party photo into a headshot and it looks like you’re nude – not at all how you want to portray yourself in a professional setting.

    • Too funny Sarah! I haven’t seen any of those lately on LinkedIn, but that would be a major faux pas!

    • That’s hilarious Sarah! I never thought of that (and thankfully don’t think i’ve seen any like that yet) but a great tip.

  2. Biggest item on your list right now is endorsing people you don’t know LOL ~ I don’t give endorsements even when asked…. LOL X 2 ….but people are endorsing me when they have no clue what and how I do it!

    Too bad as endorsements have no credibility!

    • That’s exactly right. With all these random endorsements, it has totally devalued the whole LinkedIn endorsement’s system.

  3. Hey Carolyn,

    I was looking into adding some people on LinkedIn. You mentioned that “friend” would not be a great option to do so. How would you go about which option to choose?

    For example, I’ve seen many people send personal messages on Twitter to have us add them on LinkedIn. Would I still consider them as friends? More so, how should I respond to these?


    • Hi Cherry, It’s a little tricky that one, but if you can find some sort of context around why you want to connect, and can send a personal message along with the “friend” option, I think that’s okay. For example, I see that you faved my tweet on this subject on Twitter, so I might go to LinkedIn and send you a message saying “thanks, I hope you found my article on LinkedIn useful. We seem to have a lot of interests in common. Would you like to connect?”. Some people send DMs from Twitter saying connect with me on LinkedIn. This is not personal, but if you think the connection might be useful to you, you can mention their message on Twitter in your email to them (and choose the friend option). Hope this helps :)

  4. Pingback: Job Search Article Aggregate – May 14, 2015 | David Hunt, PE… Mechanical Engineer on the loose!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Thank you for subscribing to our Firebrand Ideas Ignition blog.
You will receive an email for each new blog post published
(approximately 3 times a week).