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The One Thing You're Doing Wrong on LinkedIn If you're going to buy into the whole personal-branding thing, then at least learn the first rule of branding: Keep it simple.

By Steve Tobak Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When I look at your LinkedIn profile, if I don't get an instant picture of what you do for a living, I move on. And I'm certainly not alone in that respect.

The problem these days is that, instead of just giving your title and the company you work for, too many of you are providing laundry lists of interests that make you look too scattered, too desperate, or too into yourself to be of any use to a hiring manager or potential customer.

I know that sounds harsh, but look at it this way: If you're chatting with someone you just met at a party and she asks, "So Chris, what do you do?" do you look at your watch and say, "How much time have you got?"

Of course not. Well, that's what you're LinkedIn profile says to me when it's all over the map.

Besides, if you need heart surgery, you go to a heart surgeon. If your intellectual property rights have been trampled, you go to an intellectual property attorney. You go to folks who are experts in their field, not people who dabble in this and that. In a competitive business market, why would you do it any other way?

When it comes to your LinkedIn profile, let me give you a tip. If you're going to buy into the whole personal-branding thing, then at least take the time to learn the basics of real branding.

Related: What's Behind the Trump Juggernaut

The first rule of branding is, "Keep it simple." If you're lucky, you get one chance to make an impression on someone and leave them with one takeaway to remember. That's more or less the best-case scenario, since the vast majority of people you'd like to reach will never get a glimpse of you or your business.

Now let's look at how some big companies like Mercedes-Benz, Facebook, and Wells Fargo do this. If I ask you on the fly to name another brand associated with those companies, you'd have a hard time coming up with one. These companies have more money to spend on branding than God, but they know the first rule: Keep it simple.

That's why Mercedes uses alphanumeric designations like SL-500 instead of naming its cars. It wants you to remember Mercedes. Period. And I'll give you one guess why Apple is moving from iDevice names to Apple Pay, Apple Watch, and Apple TV? That's right. Apple wants you to remember Apple.

The most powerful brand in the world knows it won't stay that way if it doesn't focus its branding. That's a powerful example of what I'm talking about.

Related: Quit Reading and Writing and Start Doing

Now let's take a quick look at a few LinkedIn profile examples so you get what I'm talking about (the names have been changed to protect the clueless):

Chris Johnson, MBA, CLC, ELI-MP, CPC,
Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Career Transition Coach, Business Strategist, Transformational Catalyst, Author, Speaker

In the real business world, we would call this person an organizational-development or human-resource consultant or coach. And he had a good corporate career with great experience before striking out on his own, but I never would have known that because I never would have gotten past his title laundry list.

Ann Smith
Profit | ROI |Revenue Consult | Revenue Acceleration | Marketing | Leadership Coach | Entrepreneur | Speaker | Author | Lead Generation | Profit by LinkedIn | Monetization

Don't even ask me what this person does. I have no idea. Her title was just the beginning. Her LinkedIn background alone was 5,000 words of sensational sound bites. The message I got is that she's totally desperate to do anything for anybody, completely full of it, or both.

Now, here are a few profile titles of people whose names you might recognize:

Jeff Weiner
CEO at LinkedIn

Bill Gates
Co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Marc Andreessen
General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz

Notice any difference? God I hope so.

Look, I understand that, if you're on your own, you probably do a few different things. I do. I'm a management consultant, columnist, and author. But I only list the three clearly identifiable jobs I do for a living and, to be honest, I still think that's one or two too many.

Do your career or your business a big favor and leave out all the amorphous stuff like "entrepreneur" and "philanthropist" and the laundry list of things that, in a perfect world with no competition where qualifications don't matter and you're one of only six people on LinkedIn, you'd be hired to do.

And remember the first rule of branding: Keep it simple.

Related: 7 Ways to Manage Your Most Motivated and Talented Employees

Steve Tobak

Author of Real Leaders Don't Follow

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, columnist, former senior executive, and author of Real Leaders Don’t Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur (Entrepreneur Press, October 2015). Tobak runs Silicon Valley-based Invisor Consulting and blogs at stevetobak.com, where you can contact him and learn more.

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