Most, if not all of us, will benefit from the personal brand-building power of LinkedIn for job search, business and overall healthy career management.
And it works extremely well.
LinkedIn provides all kinds of personal branding opportunities to:
- Connect and expand our network,
- Communicate our personal brand,
- Become more visible to people who may want to hire us or do business with us,
- Uncover job and business leads,
- Research our target companies and employees, and
- Demonstrate our subject matter expertise.
But sometimes we make missteps that sabotage those branding opportunities.
3 Surprising Ways You Let LinkedIn Hurt Your Personal Brand
1. Neglecting to improve your personal brand’s visibility by customizing your LinkedIn profile headline with relevant keywords and phrases.
Increasing the visibility of your LinkedIn profile to become more “findable” is a good thing, right?
This means that when people search on LinkedIn for candidates like you, they’ll see your LinkedIn profile above your competitors, and will probably take a look at your profile before they go to others.
Your profile (and therefore YOU) becomes more visible and findable when you place the right keywords and phrases throughout your profile in the right ways, and pay particular attention to the places ranking high with LinkedIn’s search engine.
This savvy use of keywords and phrases is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
LinkedIn allows 220 characters and spaces to fully populate the headline, a prime SEO (Search Engine Optimization) spot on your profile.
“So what”, you say? “LinkedIn already put a headline on my profile, and it looks fine to me.”
Why you should care about your profile headline
In general, search engines pay more attention to content that sits higher on any web page, than that which falls lower down on the page.
It must make sense to you then that, since your LinkedIn profile headline shows up at the very top of the web page which is your profile, the LinkedIn search engine will pay more attention to it than the content lower in your profile.
So, a keyword-rich headline should push your profile higher up in search results for the keywords you’ve put there.
But a robust headline is not only about SEO. It will also provide human beings with critical information about you the instant they land on your profile. They won’t need to scroll down the page to get a good indication of what your personal brand is all about, and what you have to offer.
Let me give you an example. The first headline here is the default LinkedIn puts on a profile, using the job title you’ve filled in for your current (or most recent) job in the “Experience” section. Compare this with the second keyword-rich, brand-evident version:
Chief Data Scientist at XYZ Company
Chief Data Scientist for the Fortune 500 | Artificial Intelligence, Data Analytics, Product Development, Thought Leadership | My mantra for business survival in the technology sphere: Unlearn. Transform. Reinvent.
The second headline will have a much bigger impact on both the LinkedIn search engine and any human eyeballs that see it.
I strongly urge you to refrain from fluffing up your headline with words and phrases that won’t be searched like “open to new opportunities” or “results-oriented”. Stick with the keywords and brand messaging you pulled together in your job search research.
More about this in 3 BIG Mistakes That Screw Up SEO for Your LinkedIn Professional Headline.
2. Making your personal brand more susceptible to plagiarism with LinkedIn’s Resume Assistant for MSWord.
You may not be aware of this LinkedIn feature.
Microsoft acquired LinkedIn in 2016 and rolled out Resume Assistant in November 2017. According to LinkedIn Help:
“Resume Assistant in Microsoft Word helps you to create effective resumes by providing you content suggestions to include in your resume. Based on the role and industry you’re interested in, you’ll receive suggestions regarding work experience summary, skills, and also other relevant content available in LinkedIn.”
That’s not all it does. Again, according to LinkedIn Help:
“The work experience examples come from public profiles on LinkedIn, and they’re based on the roles and industries that you filter for in Resume Assistant, so you get the inspiration you need to create a great resume.”
And that’s where the problem is. LinkedIn has made it extremely tempting for those who are not squeamish about plagiarizing to “use” verbatim yours and other’s profile content.
Resume Assistant brings the profiles of people like them directly to people using the feature. They no longer have to tediously search on LinkedIn for them.
Suddenly, your personal brand no longer differentiates the value you offer over others like you.
Suddenly, other people are making the same claims. They sound exactly like you.
What’s so bad about that?
One obvious issue I noted in my post, How LinkedIn’s Resume Assistant Can Negatively Impact Your Personal Brand:
“I think of all the people who have labored over their LinkedIn profile content to get it just right in differentiating the unique value they offer employers they want to work for – often investing in the services of a professional writer.”
And now people you don’t know have waltzed in, copied it onto their profiles and, in no time, have a dandy profile without doing the work.
But also, consider the fact that anyone who would steal your content could well be a competitor of yours in job search or business.
And there could be dozens or hundreds of people who swipe your content and put it on their profiles.
What if recruiters and the employers you’re targeting come across the same content for several candidates they’re considering for the same job? You’ll all look like thieves, and you’ll all probably be passed over. They won’t know who originated the content. Nobody wins.
How about duplicate content?
Another problem is that search engines, in general, penalize for duplicate content. I have to assume that the LinkedIn search engine does as well.
And LinkedIn itself states in its User Agreement “Dos” and “Don’ts”, that members agree they will NOT:
“Violate the intellectual property rights of others, including copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade secrets, or other proprietary rights. For example, do not copy or distribute (except through the available sharing functionality) the posts or other content of others without their permission.”
Lucky for all of us that LinkedIn has an opt-out for Resume Assistant. Here’s how you do it:
- Go to the drop-down menu under “Me” at the top of your profile.
- Click on “Settings & Privacy”.
- Click on “Privacy” in the menu at the top.
- Look for and click on “Microsoft Word”.
- Toggle to “No”, to keep Microsoft from displaying work experience descriptions from your profile to users of Resume Assistant.
Of course, this won’t entirely keep unethical people from copying your profile content, but it should minimize the occurrence.
Read more about this in 7 Reasons NOT to Copy Someone Else’s LinkedIn Profile.
3. Tarnishing your personal brand by allowing typos, misspellings and glaring grammatical errors to be in your profile content.
Such errors will make you look bad as a candidate – unprofessional, lazy for not bothering to proofread and/or lacking strong written communications skill.
But that’s not all.
They can negatively impact your profile’s SEO, especially when they show up towards the top of your profile, where SEO is more potent, as I noted earlier.
LinkedIn and other search engines may not recognize words and phrases that vary from the exact words in any way.
You need to:
- Proofread diligently for typos and misspellings.
- Avoid abbreviations unless those abbreviations are industry-standards (like “CFO”).
For instance, the phrase “CFO, Senior Finance Manager” may be doomed, if it looks like either of these:
CFO, Senior Finance Manger (Manager is misspelled)
CFO, Senior Finance Mgr (Manager is abbreviated)
There’s no place like LinkedIn to build your personal brand for job search, career and business, but following best practices for your LinkedIn strategy is critical. Do your best to keep up with the ever-changing ways to best leverage all that LinkedIn has to offer all of us.
This article was first published on Job-Hunt.org, for my gig as Personal Branding with LinkedIn Expert.