This post was originally published on Entrepreneur.com
How exciting! You’ve just received a great introduction to a big potential client. And as you and your team work hard to whip up a stellar pitch, what do you think the potential client is doing?
She’s researching you, of course. And chances are, the first place she’ll go to learn more about your background, experience and personality is LinkedIn.
What’s she going to find when she pulls up your profile? An amateurish photo? Outdated information? Unpopular political views? A lack of references?
In business, it’s vital to focus on developing a quality LinkedIn profile and avoid making a poor first impression. Here are five ways to ensure you don’t embarrass yourself on this fast-growing and powerful platform:
1. Stop using unprofessional photos.
LinkedIn is not Facebook, Instagram or any typical social network. It’s a place to show your professional side, and that starts with your photo. A picture of you slamming beers won’t do; neither will a family reunion. You want a clean, professional headshot with a white or neutral background. If you don’t already have one, hire a professional photographer.
2. Stop forgetting to update your profile.
If a potential client looks you up on LinkedIn to find that your profile still says you work for your previous company, you’ve just made a poor first impression. Your profile is a living, real-time résumé that should be updated on a regular basis to reflect the current reality. It should also be consistent with your other public bios — especially the one on your company’s website. Always make sure to note every time you switch companies, earn a new job title or win major recognition.
3. Stop posting inappropriate updates.
Your passionate opinion about this week’s episode of The Bachelor may be appropriate for Facebook or Twitter, but it has absolutely no place on LinkedIn (unless you happen to be an entertainment journalist). Avoid posting personal or political opinions that could turn off potential employers, clients and vendors. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be yourself on LinkedIn; just be yourprofessional self. If you wouldn’t say it in an office meeting, it definitely doesn’t belong on LinkedIn.
4. Stop being a narcissist.
Have you ever been at a dinner party with a person who can’t stop talking about himself? Don’t be that person. Too many people on LinkedIn are self-promotional peacocks. They post constant streams of updates and group comments that promote their company, their products, an upcoming event or an article they just wrote. No one wants to connect with someone who blatantly self-promotes all the time. And employers don’t want to hire people who seem to always put themselves before the team.
Instead, be genuine and constructive. Always think about how you can add value to your connections and your industry. Try linking to quotes and articles that represent your values and your brand. You can even repurpose content from other leaders who inspire you.
5. Stop neglecting LinkedIn.
LinkedIn isn’t just for job seekers; it’s a nearly limitless network of successfully employed individuals, and it’s a venue where you can establish yourself as a thought leader in your field.
Try to post one quote or image every week that reflects your personal and professional values. Also, check out LinkedIn Pulse, a great resource that’s helped me establish my expertise in performance marketing, affiliate marketing and online customer acquisition. In the past six months, more than 20 high-quality job candidates specifically mentioned that my LinkedIn posts inspired them to apply for a job with my company.
It’s time to start treating LinkedIn like the incredibly powerful platform it is. Your profile should make you look like a polished, professional, well-rounded and well-connected expert.
Need examples? Visit the profiles of Dharmesh Shah and Brigette Hyacinth to see how true networking masters built their identities. Take the time to fully understand every benefit this social network can provide, and hone your own profile to capitalize on those opportunities.
Want to learn more about how to create and maintain a high-value LinkedIn profile? Request a free digital marketing strategy audit.