Do You Make This Profile Damaging Mistake on LinkedIn?

Some of the top professionals and career experts on LinkedIn are making a very basic and in many cases obvious mistake with their profiles. The danger for all of us is if this continues, LinkedIn becomes more of a flea market than a professional network.

Martha Amanda Pamela Ninja AmeliaDebra

But you might be doing the same, without knowing. This collection of well taken headshots are all purported to be of various professionals on LinkedIn. One of them even recently reached out to me to make a connection. But I noticed that her image had a watermark from one of the stockphoto services which immediately made me suspicious.

I uploaded their image to Google Image Search and discovered the same image was available for purchase on Shutterstock and 123RoyaltyFree as well as being used on a national women’s association website and in an industry magazine. She was also used on more than one LinkedIn profile.

Usually when receiving a new request for a connection I do not immediately recognise I look to see who else in my network might know them. Considering other perspectives I wondered if this was this being done out of a desire for some level of privacy? Or was my instinct correct, were there other phantom profiles?  Sure enough I started to find some of Amanda’s ‘friends’.

What was even more shocking was how many leading career experts and professional ‘gurus’ (some even networking and social media experts) had these types of profiles as 1st level connections. How was this so?  Maybe it was a…….

  • Case of needing to be able to say my list is bigger than your list?
  • Proactive response to the value Seth Godin places on the connection economy?
  • They are not responsible for choosing their own connections….surely not?

We want to connect. There re so many choices and demands. Your time is precious, I get it. Some recent clients I have worked with, really great professionals, are only just dipping their toe in to this network.  The potential to forge great relationships and partnerships is just beginning for many of us. Isn’t that worth all of us spending a few extra minutes to maintain that? If not LinkedIn starts to become less valuable to us and it’s shareholders, we will only have ourselves to blame.

5 Steps You Can Take to Avoid Damaging Your Profile the Same Way

Step 1

Carefully read through the potential connections profile. How complete is it? In reading a professional networking profile you should be able to get a fairly good sense of who this person is. What they have achieved in their various roles and companies. Most of the profiles I found only had one position on their profile with no details and very little other information. An immediate red flag.

Step 2

See who else in your network, especially 1st level contacts, is already connected to this person.  Get in touch with 2 or 3 of those connections and ask them what they know about this person. They might end up embarrassed, but also grateful.

Step 3

If Step 2 is not possible then send a note back to the person looking to connect with you. Ask them to refresh your memory as to how you know them. Often this is a genuine reach out, or you have forgotten or someone referred you, but better to ask. If you do not get a reply chances are the person is trawling or a phantom.

Step 4

Copy and save the image and upload it to Google Image Search. See where else the image appears. I just did that with a recent connection and this helped quickly to confirm them as genuine and appearing in several professional websites.

Step 5

Help everyone else not have the same issue. I found 6 such profiles in just 15 minutes and have done this.  If you do find what you believe to be a phantom profile, let LinkedIn know.  You can do that right on the original request to connect. Or you can use these simple instructions from LinkedIn to flag the profile as inappropriate.

Career Hacker Suggestion

Upload your own headshot in to the image search and check that your profile picture is not being misused. I just found an old one of mine was not only being used on another blog without my permission, but they had also edited it. Wonder if they will notice my calling them on it here?

Question: What other steps do you take to be sure the connections you make are genuine? You can leave a comment below. 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Bruce Outridge

    Great advice as always Paul!

  • http://www.autismdailynewscast.com/ Roberta Hill

    Paul,

    A super article and I didn’t know about Google Image search – terrific. I had a few of these invites over the last couple of weeks and they jumped out at me right away. They were too slick and the ones on the white background just didn’t sit right.

    First of all, I don’t connect unless there is a photo of the person (unless I really know them)… but this has become a new twist. Your step one is a basic but I would look at the invite itself. I prefer to see something personal and why they want to connect.

    How complete and how many connections is also useful. Right now these don’t have too many connections but that will change. While endorsements are not always valuable in this case it can be of use in the determination of how real the profile is.

    Let’s go back to how slick these photos are. Most of us on LinkedIn don’t have such a great professional photo and if you do – you bet you would have invested in a pretty snazzy written profile to match.

    Thanks for posting this along with your advice!

    • paulcopcutt

      Great points Roberta – thanks for the added insights.

  • Mark Azavedo

    Paul, your points are thoroughly taken.

    However, you don’t really run through why these “people” are out there in the ether.

    Well, OK, I’m being unfair, the suggestion being they’re out there because of the connectivity era. Surely, though, the point is rather more specific.

    What is really killing LinkedIn is all the spamming.

    There are whole groups whose posts, are, now, nothing but spam. I would assume that there’s a link between the spammers and the phantoms, likely one-and-the-same.

    Focusing on spam, I’ve never understood why group owners don’t just stop spamming dead by removing spammers with immediate effect. True, concerted, action across LinkedIn would see spamming and the spammers dry up. My guess is that would see phantoms reduce.

    I’m wondering if the lack of action in some groups implies the owners are phantoms, offering a way for spammers. Have you noticed how many group owners never contribute to the group? Strange that, given that you would think them to be people with a major interest in the subject

    • paulcopcutt

      So true Mark. Some groups really are already like a flea market or actually worse! I think the subject of Groups could be a whole new post!

  • Cheron

    Hello Paul,

    I have not yet checked out an image on Google, but do check their profile, or if I think I know the person from another site, check back there. Sometimes I’ll send an email asking where we met or how they got my information. I very seldom accept a request from someone that does not have a picture. In fact I commented recently, the reply was the only pics that person had were too big for LinkedIn’s system. I find a profile without a picture to be pretty useless. Most of us are so visual. I feel if we want to be remembered, then the best way – after a stunning profile – is a good picture.

    Thanks for the tips, I’ve learnt something new. Best wishes.

    Oops! Just scrolled down and read Roberta’s comments.
    Not intended to copy, shows we have the same train of thought!

  • http://www.happen.ca Robin M.Wright

    Thanks for the information Paul. It is a continuous challenge to keep connections meaningful.

  • Connie Hampton

    Thanks for the link, Paul! Have you noticed that sometimes the images on LI don’t match the profile?

  • headjones

    Great article. I’m trying to figure out what the upside is of a fake profile.

    • Paul Copcutt

      Collect peoples contact details and then sp@m them for one.