Minimizing Errors of Omission on LinkedIn

Given the sheer volume of information that we need to process in order to be effective on LinkedIn, it is expected that errors will be part of the experience. Many errors associated with LinkedIn use are isolated occurrences and correctable. You catch them as they happen, provide a fix, and move on. Errors of omission, those which result from things you should have done, forgot to do, or something that was inadvertently left out, are often irreversible. In other words, that ship has sailed.

It is fair to state that most errors on LinkedIn stem from a breach of etiquette, flawed perception, or a lack of knowledge. Best practices on the site typically involve the inclusion, rather than the exclusion, of someone or something. Yet that which is left out, forgotten, or shelved is sufficient explanation for why many professionals cannot attract prospects to their LinkedIn profiles, make key connections, or expand their marketing reach.

Effectiveness on LinkedIn equates to minimizing errors and making good decisions in sequence. The onus is on each user to accurately assess each situation encountered on the site and find a sound, logic-driven rationale for moving in a certain direction. Most errors are made in haste or out of impulse. Usually, all that is involved in reversing the effects of an error is a little behavior modification or a retracing of one’s steps.

The reversibility of a given error varies according to user, and depends on the length of time it takes to catch it and the severity of the result. Those errors that go undetected or uncorrected can come back to haunt us—both on and off of LinkedIn. When we are agitated, distracted, or stressed, we lose focus and become more prone to committing errors. Too many careless errors on LinkedIn will impede progress, which can result in weakened relationships and lost opportunities.

Errors on LinkedIn categorize as follows:

Physical errors are mistakes we consciously make (e.g., typos, misclicks) that are attributable to sloppy execution. They are not a matter of life and death, but can generate unwanted circumstances. A typo-laden message to a decision maker can cause a chink in the armor of your brand. An unintended view of a rival’s LinkedIn profile can create an uncomfortable situation.

Mental errors are mistakes of cognition and judgment that are tied to action or inaction. They are prevalent in establishing a presence on the site. Critical thinking, focus, and resolve can neutralize many of the common mistakes that LinkedIn users make in developing their profiles, assembling their networks, and posting original content with an intent to engage.

Errors of omission are mistakes of neglect that occur when something is left out, passed over, or postponed. On LinkedIn, these errors encompass the failure to execute something or respond when an action is necessary. In contrast, errors of commission are mistakes that result from a response or action in instances is where none is required or advised.

The agile LinkedIn user intuits well, glides from task-to-task, and has a system in place for tracking activity. When errors occur, as they most definitely will, quick action can potentially counter any negative impact. But in those instances where something is omitted or forgotten, a return to the drawing board is mandated.

With a little advance knowledge, good self-governance, and a few hours of uninterrupted work, one can minimize or eliminate the effects resulting from the following LinkedIn errors of omission:

1). Failure to Complete, Disambiguate, or Update your LinkedIn Profile

Your LinkedIn profile is your best professional representation at any given moment. Every hour that goes by with an incomplete, ambiguous, or outdated LinkedIn profile can cost you opportunities that you may never get back. You will not rank well in LinkedIn searches. Potential buyers, as well as would-be first-degree connections or referral alliances, will not be able to ascertain your professional value.

The lead strategy in the build-out of the LinkedIn profile is to concentrate the creation of a high-impact brand story in the summary section. This is the point at which attention is centered on a profile view and where the business case for you must be made. Sadly, this section is often overlooked, not kept current, or jammed with boilerplate text on the company. Whereas all pieces of the LinkedIn profile come together to sell you, the summary should be spring-loaded with keywords and flowing, evocative content that piques interest in you and your offerings.

The completeness, clarity, and relevance of a LinkedIn profile are essential pieces of your personal branding strategy. As visitors to your page pass through each section, a pure, unadulterated image of who you are and what you are all about emerges. An impression forms. You gain recognition. When the content is focused on a desired (mutually beneficial) outcome, and the benefits of engaging with you are stated in exacting detail, you stand to generate greater demand and, ideally, more qualified leads.

2). Failure to Be Fully Visible and Accessible on LinkedIn

Greater visibility and accessibility on LinkedIn increase your connectivity and potential for meaningful engagement. These are measures over which each user has control. Users whose profiles are set to fully visible and contain their contact information will drive a wider and deeper footprint on the site and be better positioned to take advantage of opportunities. It stands to reason that if you wish to be accessed by the right people on LinkedIn, even if you are not connected to them, they need to see and know how to reach you.

Those LinkedIn users that diminish their visibility, or conceal their identities altogether, can expect low or nonexistent engagement. The most glaring error of omission on LinkedIn is the absence of a headshot. Your photo is your prime identifier on the site. Without it, at least for LinkedIn purposes, you exist as a ghost. People do not hire or do business with ghosts. With the simple addition of your email address and phone number to your profile, you create an aura of accessibility that can lead to more warm approaches and inquiries into your services.

3). Failure to Act on LinkedIn Invitations you Receive

When I typically sit down with a client for the first time and we access his/her LinkedIn account, there is one conspicuous aspect that necessitates immediate attention—that is, a boatload of pending connection requests. Sometimes they number well into the hundreds and go back several years. There is no telling how much lost opportunity is attributable to invitations not acted upon. In some cases, it can be staggering. 

The LinkedIn connection request has a sense of immediacy. When it comes to receiving invitations from people we don’t know, it is common to err on the side of indecisiveness. We don’t (can’t) possibly know what motivates these folks to connect with us. Nor can we perceive any hint of potential benefit in connecting. There are those invitations that we accept or decline straight away; others languish. The error of omission is the inaction. The longer you deliberate, the more difficult it will be to build the professional relationship and capitalize on any potential synergies. For each connection request that comes in, intuit to the extent that you can and make the decision.

4). Failure to Personalize the LinkedIn Invitations you Send 

More than a best practice, personalizing the request to connect on LinkedIn is common decency. There are many LinkedIn users who will refuse to honor a connection request unless it is personalized. Should these include the decision makers that you wish to reach, it is easy to see how this oversight can cost you dearly. On LinkedIn, opportunity can either be gained or lost at the point of invitation. Phrase those you send in a manner that opens up a line of communication.

Tendering the default, generic LinkedIn connection request classifies as an error of omission because the practice continues in the face of constant reminder that it should not be done. Those that take the time to craft an invitation that properly and accurately frame the relationship will increase their chances of advancing a conversation. The act shows a level of respect, an appreciation for the process of social networking, and will get you noticed.

5). Failure to Follow-Up with your LinkedIn Connections

Following up on LinkedIn begins with a note of thanks at the point of connection and encompasses all acts of direct communication with that person thereafter. As one’s LinkedIn activity increases, so does the level of interpersonal accountability. Much like the invitation to connect, there is a shelf life to the messages that you receive or to which you must reply. Frequently, after a first-degree connection is made on LinkedIn, the conversation ends. It is as if both parties worked so hard to get the connection that neither has anything left to say.

The Digital Era has imposed new demands on professionals for staying in touch. Distractions can prevent potentially fruitful relationships from achieving momentum. Not coming through when it is your turn to keep the dialog open represents an error of omission. Messaging on LinkedIn is volley-like, a rapid back-and-forth that may not require more than just a sentence or two. Remember: Opportunities on LinkedIn must be earned. If you cannot budget a few seconds to keep a conversation in play, then maybe you don’t deserve the transaction that could eventually arise.

6). Failure to Post Updates or Publish Long-Form Posts

Artful promotion of one’s talent and skills is at the core of maximizing outcomes on LinkedIn. Producing content on a regular basis that others find valuable, and strengthens your brand in the process, represents the highest and best use of LinkedIn. There is nothing to be gained on (or off of) the site by keeping quiet. Your wisdom won’t do anyone any good if it stays bottled up inside you. Let it out!

Sharing updates is considered effective community outreach and mission-critical to gaining exposure on the site. Publishing original content in LinkedIn Pulse can be instrumental in amplifying your brand, boosting engagement and driving thought leadership. These outlets are open to all LinkedIn users, and opting to not take advantage of them—especially when you have solid content to offer—is an error of omission that can result in lost opportunities.

7). Failure to Delete Duplicate LinkedIn Accounts

Along the lines of disambiguation comes the inconvenience of having more than one LinkedIn account. Many users have no recollection of previously creating an account or two or three, and those profiles just sit out there in the LinkedIn cyberspace. This is often the result of poor planning or a forgotten password (errors of omission). Or, these folks were at a job at which they did create an account, but are no longer with the company and locked out of that account (unanticipated or unavoidable).

Whatever the reason for their existence, multiple LinkedIn profiles only create confusion, for both the accountholder and those on the accessing side. Today, many businesspeople are involved in more than one venture, and feel that they need a separate LinkedIn profile for each. Hey, managing one LinkedIn account is difficult enough. Regardless of how extended you are professionally, you still front only one personal brand, which should be expressed in a single LinkedIn profile.

[If you have LinkedIn accounts that you cannot access, contact the LinkedIn Help Center. They can assist you with the removal of the obsolete or compromised account(s). If you are currently employed by a company, it might be wise to use a personal email address as your primary mode. If you have difficulty in separating the various elements of your value offerings, and including them in one LinkedIn profile, please contact me. I specialize in complex brands.]

Parting Thoughts

♦ Errors of omission can compromise your ability to convert your LinkedIn activities into business wins. An undone LinkedIn profile, negligent communication, and insouciance to site protocol will militate against you. Bringing a greater degree of vigilance in managing your LinkedIn affairs minimizes these errors, up-levels your performance on the site, and fuels professional growth.

♦ We all have characteristic patterns in decision making and a range of response to which we default. Either intentionally or forgetfully, removing something or someone from consideration on LinkedIn can sabotage your pursuit of opportunity. Be thorough, adaptable, and observant.

♦ Successful use of LinkedIn warrants attentive study, organized activity, and diligent follow-up. Accept the fact that you will make errors along the way. But like anything else in business, the more prepared you are, and the better you get at reading situations, the more efficient and proficient you will be in managing what comes at you.

Since 2006, JD Gershbein, CEO of Owlish Communications, has helped advance the collective awareness of LinkedIn and inspired opportunity-oriented professionals in all walks of business to step up and achieve on the site. His ability to spark others to action has earned him the moniker of “The LinkedIn Catalyst.” JD is considered one of the world’s top thought leaders on LinkedIn, and a pioneer in the design and delivery of LinkedIn education. He is also a globally acclaimed social business psychologist, keynote speaker, and frequent broadcast media expert on LinkedIn for business. Additionally, JD is adjunct professor of marketing communications at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Stuart School of Business, where he is advancing social media marketing as an academic discipline. In addition to his blog, The Wisdom Zone, JD is a contributing writer for the Huffington Post and Forbes.

All text, logos and designs are ©2016 by JD Gershbein and Owlish Communications, and are protected under United States Copyright Laws. No content herein may be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, defaced, edited, or used in any manner without the express permission of Owlish Communications.

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