Your LinkedIn Profile Isn’t Getting a Second Look. Here’s Why.

The closure of a long-term contract relationship has me paying a newly renewed amount of attention to my social presence. Tangentially, I’m also paying new attention to the social presence of others – namely, my competitors. The primary target of that attention? LinkedIn.

In most cases, the searches I’ve run against LinkedIn have shown me companies that might benefit from the particular types of services I offer. But, in other cases, I search for writers; sometimes for possible collaboration but most searches are run simply for competitive analysis. I find myself routinely asking: If my profile came up in a search with 20 of these other writers, whose would stand out? Whose would get clicked? Whose would get dismissed without a second thought?

I have to tell you – I like my odds.

For all the value it can provide, it is disheartening to see most people, both those that come up in my searches and those that LinkedIn suggests as people I may know, still treating the platform like the red-headed stepchild of their online social presence.

When used properly, LinkedIn provides an amazing opportunity in that it is the online representation of your professional existence. Other sites exist for sharing vacation photos and your musings on this week’s episode of Why, In the Name of All That is Holy, Am I Watching This?

But, jobs can be won and, in some cases, careers can be built off of having an effective LinkedIn strategy and profile. Yet, for all the talk you hear about how useful it can be, most people’s use of LinkedIn borders on the atrocious – and I’m not even talking about the writing.

Now, don’t get me wrong; a lot that writing is bad. And, as a writer, I’m supposed to tell you about the importance of well-constructed sentences, the absence of typos, and a demonstration of an ability to present yourself – and your professional attributes – in clear and concise ways. But I’d venture to guess that many of you don’t even get past the results list.

And there is no reason for that to be the case.

We live in a time where the acquisition of a reasonably high-quality (actually, let’s set the bar even lower….how about just decent) photograph is as easy as throwing on something professional-looking, pulling your phone out of your pocket, handing it to a friend, and offering a cup of coffee or a pint in exchange for 15 minutes of their time to grab a few pictures of you. Statistics dictate that one of those pictures will probably be usable as a LinkedIn photograph.

Why some people feel compelled, then, to use the same pictures they’re using on Facebook or other social networks as their LinkedIn pictures, I will never know. In searches on LinkedIn I have found profile photos including:

  • Photos obviously intended as wedding portraits (say it with me: rented tux =/= suit. And now I have to wonder if you even own one of the latter)
  • Pictures of people’s pets (I’m not hiring your cat. And now I’m not hiring you either)
  • Family portraits – of the entire family (which one of you actually wants to connect with me?)
  • Pictures obviously shot at a bar (at least I’ll know what you look like at happy hour)
  • Pictures obviously shot after a night at said bar (at least I know that you can’t hold your alcohol)
  • Pictures that have obviously been cropped to exclude others (just have someone take a picture of you – did you really think I wouldn’t notice the arm around you or the 3 other shoulders in the picture?)
  • Pictures of an American flag (well, at least your I9 shouldn’t be an issue)

Now, is my LinkedIn profile photo perfect? No. Far from it. Those of you who choose to connect with me on LinkedIn will notice that the lighting is a touch harsh, my facial expression is a bit less than ideal (I mean, those eyes. Really?) and, overall, it’s really not the most flattering picture ever taken of someone. It needs to be replaced at some point.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not great, but it meets my immediate requirements:

  • It is obviously a headshot
  • There is no one else in the picture – either in full or in part
  • It is well lit
  • The background is out of focus
  • Posting it in a professional context does not embarrass me

Can you say the same thing about yours?

If you have a profile on LinkedIn, regardless of whether you’re spending any time on the site, you at least want people to read what you’ve accomplished. Stop making your profile photo be the thing that prevents that from happening.

We’ll work on the writing for it later.

Your “Social Media Expert” Probably Isn’t One

Like most, I’m exhausted by the incessant flood of bad news and catastrophes that hit our news and social feeds. But, geopolitics aside, this blog isn’t about analyzing the roots of terrorism, causes of climate change, or the discussion of appropriate responses to any of the world’s ailments. This is a blog written by someone who writes words for other people and knows how to market ideas. That being the case, there’s something that I want to talk about that keeps happening in our world as web marketers – and it’s appalling.

It’s indicative of the continued erosion of the value of social media as a vehicle for real engagement; of the vast number of so-called “social media experts” that have, time and time again, proven that they have no idea what social actually means.

While the human in me recoils in horror at what transpires in a time of crisis; whether it’s an ocean away or much closer to home, the professional in me never fails to recoil when I look at my Twitter stream.

You see, when news breaks, Twitter is my default go-to. The media has largely proven itself to be an entertainment industry first, a money-making enterprise second, and an actual news reporting entity somewhere down around number eight or nine on the list. As such, I mostly ignore it. But the ability to get information quickly and from multiple sources simultaneously makes Twitter a no-brainer when it comes to following a breaking story.

My personal and professional streams are one and the same. The account I use to get news and information is the same account that I use to keep up with the goings-on in my industry. And, as incredible as it seems in the time of crisis, my industry never fails to keep on keeping on.

So-called social media experts continue tweeting out self-serving links – links to posts they wrote, links to posts that other people wrote, links to classes they want you to sign up for, links to live video chats they’re hosting – with no acknowledgement of what’s happening in the world around them.

Of course, anyone who has been online more than a day or two knows that these people aren’t sitting in front of their TVs watching these events unfold while they write and send these tweets. Hell, anyone who has almost any social presence whatsoever knows that most of what you see today isn’t actually composed in real time. It’s all automated – pre-composed and calendared to go out at regular intervals to ensure that your “voice” continues to be heard, even when you’re nowhere near a computer. It’s today’s way of gaining “influence” and, frankly, it sucks.

You know why it sucks? Because there’s a dirty little secret that no one wants you to know. Here it is:

If it wasn’t for automated services, most of the people who run these accounts wouldn’t have anything to say.

Look at the tweet count on some of them…most are in the high 5-figures while some have easily cleared the 100,000 tweet mark. What’s the best case scenario for a signal to noise ratio on an account that is tweeting out anywhere from two to five links per hour? Or, perhaps even more importantly – when do they have the time to read the things that they’re recommending that you go out and read yourself?

They don’t have the time because they haven’t read the links. If they had, they would never get anything done. Mathematically, there’s simply not enough time in a day.

But above and beyond all of this: regardless of your opinion of automation, the role of social media in developing influence, engagement versus broadcast, or any of the other “issues” in our industry (because “issue” seems like such an overstatement in this context), one thing has become absolutely essential to understand:

If you’re going to automate your social media presence, you pause it when the shit hits the fan.

This is the price you pay for the gift of being able to put your “influence” on auto-pilot. The thought process should, quite literally, be:

Oh my god, this event is horrible.

I need to suspend my social media automation, now. Not in a minute or two…right fucking now.

I unfollow a lot of people when tragedy strikes for the sole reason that, in that one instance, they prove to me that they don’t know jack shit about social, empathy, or – perhaps most simply – what it means to be a human being.

If they did, they would have known that shutting down the automation of their self-serving promotion was job one. We’re still people behind these keyboards and no matter how much you want to say that times have changed and the “social mission” has changed, your stream is still you communicating to the world.

And just like the death of someone’s parent is the wrong time to ask about that five dollars they owe you, a national or global tragedy is the wrong time to tell your followers about the 67,243rd link that you think they should read.