How often should you change your LinkedIn profile photo? (The answer may surprise you.)

“New ‘Camera”‘” by Sherman Geronimo-Tan on Flickr

There’s no question that a photo is a must-have on your LinkedIn profile. What’s less clear, however, is how often you should change your photo. If you listen to the conventional wisdom, the answer would seem to be “frequently,” based on the premise that a new photo will attract new attention.

Well, this is another case where the conventional wisdom isn’t all that wise. While it may seem to be a good idea to switch your photo every now and then, the truth is that you should only do so infrequently. Why? Well, our eyes are drawn to faces–that’s just how we’re wired–but we’re even more drawn to familiar faces. And that means a profile photo that we’ve seen before will stand out from those that don’t register as quickly.

That’s not to say you should never change your photo. The key is to do so only when there’s a good reason to, not just because you think you should. For example, you should consider changing your photo if…

  • Your appearance changes dramatically. One goal of your profile photo should be to make it easier for your connections to identify you in the real world. If you grow a mustache, change your hairstyle, or put on or lose a considerable amount of weight, it may be time for an update.
  • Your photo doesn’t represent how you want to be seen as a professional. Since LinkedIn is a niche network, relevant only to your professional life, your photo should depict how you want to be seen by your professional contacts. If your photo is more relevant to your personal life–a shot with your spouse or at the beach, for example–you should choose something more LinkedIn appropriate.
  • You haven’t changed it in a couple years. This may sound like a contradiction given that I just said you don’t want to change it out too often, but it’s just as bad to never change it out at all. The fact is, our appearance changes subtlety over the years–more than we tend to notice–so there’s a good chance an old photo can look dated. Once a year is more than often enough if none of the variables mentioned above applies.

So, the next time you go to change your LinkedIn profile photo, make sure you know why you’re doing it. If you can’t say what’s motivating the change, it may be better to do nothing at all.

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What LinkedIn CAN’T do–and how you should respond

“How to Decorate a Mortarboard” by TasselToppers on Flickr

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of college students and recent graduates. The conversation centered on the opportunity, as they transition out of college, to shift more attention toward using social media as a professional networking tool. And one of the best ways to do that, of course, is to put more time and effort into LinkedIn.

One question came up several times: how can you build a robust LinkedIn network when you don’t have much of a real world network? Time and again, my answer was the same: LinkedIn’s not a magic bullet. It works better in enhancing existing relationships than in helping you start new ones. That means young people are often better served by focusing on providing value to their current connections–however limited in number–and use those relationships as a bridge to building new ones.

Still, I told the group, there are a few things worth doing if you want to use LinkedIn to accelerate your progress toward building your network:

  • Ratchet up your real world networking and be diligent in following up with a connection request to everyone you meet. Request information interviews. Attend job fairs. Ask your professors to introduce you to people they know in the communities/industries of interest to you.
  • Join LinkedIn groups  in industries that match your interests. Be sure to provide value in those groups and over time you’ll build some relationships.
  • Consider starting a blog and use Linkedin status updates to share the content you create. Employers are absolutely going to look for experience, and a blog lets you demonstrate what you know (and demonstrate an interest in a specific subject matter area or industry).
  • Volunteer. Join nonprofit committees in your community and then connect on LinkedIn with those you meet. Try to align them with your professional interests as best you can, but be open to anything that gives you a seat at the table with more established professionals.
Unfortunately, there are few shortcuts when it comes to building substantive relationships. But if you make LinkedIn a complement to your other efforts, you’ll start to see results.

LinkedIn further marginalizes Recommendations

This blog’s readers know I’m not a fan on LinkedIn Endorsements. My biggest problem with Endorsements is the degree to which they compete with and thereby marginalize one of my favorite LinkedIn features: Recommendations. My ultimate concern is that LinkedIn will ultimately phase out Recommendations (which it can’t exploit since there’s no easy way to mine the “data” they include) in favor of Endorsements (which are easy to quantify and therefore easier to exploit).

Well, it looks like LinkedIn is hammering another nail in Recommendations’ coffin. Today, my news feed included this: item “[Person A] has recommended [Person B].” What’s so bad about that? Well, heretofore, of preview of the body of the Recommendation would be included in the news feed item, making it more substantive and more likely to be seen/read. Now it appears that those previews are being excluded. This change–if in fact it is a change and not a temporary glitch–means that Recommendations have equal weight to Endorsements in the news feed. Which makes them less valuable. Which perpetuates the degree to which they’re lesser used. Which makes it a little more tempting to phase them out.

I hope I’m reading too much into this change, but I think it’s at least a step in the wrong direction. If you agree, why not go and make a Recommendation of a deserving person in your LinkedIn network? Maybe that will help ensure that they live on a little longer and continue to co-exist with Endorsements. After all, just because your Recommendation is less likely to be seen doesn’t mean the person you give it to deserves it any less.

Enhance your professional relationships with a LinkedIn “audit”

I wrote this for the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce Emphasis blog after presenting at this year’s Chamber Social Media Summit. Have you taken a close look at your connections lately?

Enhance your professional relationships with a LinkedIn “audit”

One of my favorite things about LinkedIn is the degree to which it serves as an inventory of each user’s professional relationships. In one location, at a glance, we can see who we’re connected to and evaluate the strength of that connection. This allows us to do something incredibly simple while also incredibly powerful: we can “audit” our professional relationships to see whether there may be an opportunity to strengthen a connection. This is something I try to do every few months, and it usually reveals opportunities I may have missed otherwise.

What are the keys to making this audit worthwhile? Here are a few tips:

  • Put it on your calendar, giving yourself at least an hour. A LinkedIn relationship audit could easily fall into the “when I get around to it” pile if you don’t make it a priority. Putting it on your calendar serves as a commitment of sorts, making it more likely it will happen. It’s also important to allot enough time to the task. An hour may be adequate depending on how many connections you have, but you may need even more time.
  • Focus on the task at hand. Closely study each connection’s profile to understand what opportunities may exist for you to strengthen your relationships. Don’t skip anyone; some of what you discover may surprise you. Has a connection changed jobs? Have they joined any groups that might reveal a shared interest? Have they posted any status updates that open the door to a conversation? Approach this effort like an archeologist would approach a dig site, meticulously looking for artifacts of value.
  • Use “tags” to identify actions to take in the future. LinkedIn allows you to “tag” your connections in a way that makes them sortable beyond the search feature. Use this to categorize contacts based on actions you want to take in the future. For example, let’s say you want to have lunch with some of the connections with whom you’ve lost touch. You’ll only be able to schedule so many lunches immediately, of course, but you can always plan ahead. Apply a “lunch” tag to those contacts you want to meet up with and revisit it every couple weeks and you’ll continue benefitting from your audit long after it’s completed.
  • Keep score. To get the most out of your audit, make sure you measure success. How many of your connections did you reach out to? How many responded? Most importantly, what opportunities did you realize that may not have otherwise emerged? Evaluating the outcome will help you make this effort even more worthwhile in the future.

Conducting a LinkedIn audit may seem daunting when you consider everything else already on your to-do list. Look at it this way, however: nothing in your professional life is more important than relationships. Why not take the time, then, to make them a little stronger?