As a professional, people will search you.
"When someone is looking for you, there are a couple of places they go. First, they might start in LinkedIn directly... Or, they might search Google for your name — which will likely also lead them to LinkedIn," said Hubspot founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah. "Either way, it's the de facto place people expect to find you."
That means making a little effort to make sure that your image is looking sharp on the largest social media platform for business professionals would be a wise move. Keep in mind that Linkedin is no longer about just finding a new job. It's also a place where colleagues and potential business partners and customers can look you up and connect with you.
"The most important thing to remember is that unlike other social-media sites where stupidity and silliness may be forgiven if not downright condoned, LinkedIn is all about your personal brand," said Canva's chief evangelist, and LinkedIn Influencer Guy Kawasaki.
So, save your cat pictures for Facebook, and leave the mayfair-filtered ham sandwiches on Instagram.
Here are some more tips on building and maintaining a strong personal brand on LinkedIn.
1. Have a complete profile
Each chance to fill out a piece of your professional image - where you went to school, where you've worked - offers the chance to show what you could do in the future, said Shah, who is also a LinkedIn Influencer. Completing your LinkedIn might sound obvious, but Gartner analyst Jennifer Polk said there are still plenty of professionals who haven't even uploaded a profile picture.
"Completing the LinkedIn profile is one of those things that requires one-time effort - but provides gains on an ongoing basis. There are not that many things in life like that - take advantage of them," Shah said.
2. Treat LinkedIn like more than just a resume
Though the initial step in creating a LinkedIn is to enter resume-style information, that doesn't mean users can post a CV and walk away. Polk said to treat it more like a synopsis of who you are and what you do. Also, because the platform is relationship-driven, she said it's important to remember that other professionals use it scope you out. "It's an individual one-to-one system for vetting people you're doing business with," Polk said.
3. Watch your opinions
Think about what you post on LinkedIn in terms of what would be safe and appropriate to say in a workplace, or to an employer. "Obviously, folks should avoid expressing beliefs such as women should not have equal rights—don't laugh, I've seen this done," Kawasaki said. "The general mindset that's necessary is, 'Don't say or do anything that you wouldn't do in a job interview for a job that you want.' Every post and every comment is like a job-interview question on LinkedIn." When you post, be professional.
4. Be active
"You wouldn't not answer your desk phone," Polk said. Keeping up with and responding to things like InMail, comments, or requests show that you've actively engaged with your LinkedIn profile, and well as the wider community.
5. Add value, not ridiculousness
You can now post updates on LinkedIn, similar to Twitter and Facebook, but be wise about doing it. According to Kawasaki, adding value to LinkedIn comes in three forms: information, analysis, and assistance. This is a good trio to keep in mind when deciding what to post. "If you want to act stupid, do it somewhere else. Instead, you should always be adding value to people's feeds to build a good personal brand on LinkedIn," he said.
Shah said by sharing useful content, you're making sure people understand your areas of interest and expertise. And if you're looking for a source for content to share, he suggested following LinkedIn's Influencers.
6. Don't indiscriminately amass followers
Speaking of followers, Shah thinks that one of the biggest mistakes users make on LinkedIn is trying to rack up as many connections as possible. "What it does is makes both an individual's social graph and the overall network as a whole noisy and thereby less useful," he said. Shah connects with people with whom he has worked, or at least who are in his circle of associates- they're actual intersections. "Your connections are a reflection of you," he said.
Erin Carson has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Erin Carson is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers the impact of social media in business and the ways technology is transforming the future of work.