LinkedIn’s been around for 13 (lucky) years now and, since then, has quickly swelled from 4,500 members to over 450 million users. Most of us, however, are grossly underusing the network, and even fewer of us even properly understand its features. So let’s go through some of the biggest things holding you back on LinkedIn and how to fix them.

It’s a social network

You might be snickering but the fact is, a lot of people treat the platform like a job portal rather than a social network. If all you’d like to use it for is to apply for jobs and, at most, you’re willing to update your resume once in a blue moon then, for you, LinkedIn becomes a cloud-hosted CV of sorts that allows you to apply for jobs with minimal effort, and that is all you will ever get out of it.

This is the equivalent of taping your resume to the bottom of your fancy briefcase and walking around at the largest business convention ever, randomly popping it open to show people your CV hoping they will swoon with excitement. Now, when’s the last time that has ever happened to you in real life?

If you don’t want to be that guy/ gal, remember one very simple thing – LinkedIn is a social network and being social requires interaction. Whether you like, share, comment, post or write long-form content on the platform, your odds of finding business increase exponentially with every single one of those actions, because, just like at any other business networking session, you’re talking to people.

It’s a social network for professionals

Yes, that means your baby, cat and vacation photos have no business being posted on LinkedIn, unless you can find an angle to make them relevant in a professional context. So, for example, the photo of the huge fabric store in Birmingham might work if you’re a seamstress, less so if you’re a day trader.

As a network for professionals, whatever you say on LinkedIn should represent a slightly more casual business conversation. Similarly, the things you comment on, endorse or in any way interact with should be relevant from a professional standpoint. If they’re not, save them for another social network.

It’s meant to showcase your professional profile

While this might be yet another Captain Obvious moment, all it takes is a quick scroll through your LinkedIn news to see just how many people neither maintain, nor even properly set up their professional profiles.

From using wedding photos as profile pictures, posting music videos and cryptic messages to never bothering to write a proper description for the positions they’ve been in, users seem to treat LinkedIn as yet another social network where everything goes.

One way to look at what LinkedIn intends to be is a first meeting with people you might one day want to work with, and it provides you with the tools to build your professional profile, prove you really are as good as you say at your job, connect with people you can learn from and boost your profile by actively communicating with connections, within groups or, simply, within your network.

It’s important to remember that, while in real life you might get to a point where you share more personal details with someone you’re doing business with, on LinkedIn you should avoid openly discussing topics that you wouldn’t normally touch on in a business setting.

It’s meant for personal use

It’s true that a lot of CEOs, CFOs, and other people with acronyms in their job titles don’t really have the time to consistently manage their LinkedIn profiles but this shouldn’t be immediately obvious. While for executives in large companies, this is likely due to old-fashioned practices, typical for very rigid bios often intended for print, leaking into what should be a more personal, accessible digital environment, now almost any Tom, Dick and Harry seems to be talking about themselves in the third person.

This is sending one of two messages –  either that you’re massively busy and can’t really be bothered to maintain the platform you’ve personally decided to sign up for or that you’re trying to look self-important. Either way, it’s distancing language and you should steer clear of it.

The Bottom Line

We think about using social media as intuitive and something people ought to know how to use easily and effectively. LinkedIn is one of the most obvious examples that’s way easier said than done and, as proven by the growing number of jobs with ever more confusing and elaborate names in the online marketing industry, digital marketing is a job in itself, not something you pick up through a weekend read.

Probably the biggest lesson here is that, while you’ll be able to learn the basics of managing your public image through LinkedIn, and any other social network for that matter, if it doesn’t seem to be working for you or you don’t have the time to do it effectively ask for help, or you might end up on one of these lists.

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