LinkedIn Etiquette: Five Dos and Don'ts

LinkedIn Etiquette: Five Dos and Don'ts

Creating a useful LinkedIn profile, and knowing how to interact with your connections on the professional social network, isn't always as straightforward as it seems.

Building a strong profile on LinkedIn, the social network for professionals, has taken on greater importance as the economy slips deeper into a recession. What information you decide to include, or exclude, could affect future job opportunities as well as your overall identity on the public internet.

Although LinkedIn doesn't pose the same reputation perils presented by Facebook - such as being tagged in photo albums or being victimized by random comments left on your profile - the pitfalls of a poorly constructed LinkedIn profile, or employing bad LinkedIn etiquette, can alienate your contacts (known as "connections"). It can also turn away potential employers interested in hiring you.

We caught up with Kirsten Dixson, a reputation management and online identity expert, to get her tips on proper LinkedIn etiquette.

1. Profile Picture

Saying your LinkedIn profile picture should appear "professional" states the obvious. But more specifically, Dixson says paying a professional photographer to give you a few headshots to choose from is worth the modest investment because your picture is one the first things people will notice on your LinkedIn page.

Do some research online to find a photographer near you. You should be able to hire one, Dixson estimates, for $200-250 who can get the job done well. Remember: this is a modest investment when you consider how many professional contacts - some of whom you know, some of whom you don't - will view your LinkedIn profile.

If you don't get a professional photographer, you want to keep a fairly neutral background with very good lighting. Dixson says people do use Photoshop to eliminate wrinkles or unflattering features, but be careful: future employers will want to meet you in person for an interview and that picture will set their expectations for what you look like. While this is not supposed to matter, we all know it does.

Lastly, on the issue of timeliness, it can be tempting to leave pictures up of your younger and perhaps better-looking self. Dixson says while you don't need to update your picture every year, it should still match up pretty well with your current appearance.

"If people are going to meet you and be surprised by the difference, it's time to get a new one," she says.

2. Summary

When you read a newspaper or check out articles on a website, many good stories don't get read without a good headline. As such, Dixson recommends that you be very concise, engaging and specific in the summary field of your LinkedIn page. If the summary doesn't draw people in, all the great gigs you've had over the years (listed in the "experience" section below it) might not receive any attention.

"You really want to express your personal brand in the LinkedIn summary," Dixson says. "You want to show who you are, what you do, and why it's unique."

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