LinkedIn is a powerhouse of data, connections and content that you can use to position yourself and your business, all of which starts with a smart, optimised profile.
This series provides a number of quick and easy actions that take you from the fundamentals through to advanced tips and tricks that will make you a LinkedIn star. Let’s start with the basics.
Put your best profile forward
Signing up to LinkedIn without doing anything is like going to a networking event and standing in the corner. To make it work, you’ve got to do something once you are there.
Just as people are anchored by what they see when you walk through the door, digital imprints are the contemporary first impression.
These impressions count. We use anchors and reference points to evaluate and make decisions and they influence us even when we’re presented with information to the contrary, which is why it’s hard to turn things around if you get off on the wrong footing.
While ultimately we rise and fall by the quality of our work, when it comes to building contacts or growing leads, social proof is a way to get your foot in the door.
Here’s how to build a LinkedIn profile that sends the right message.
This is not a brand
Your LinkedIn profile is an important plank of your professional brand so how it looks and reads is important.
Our brains are wired to respond quicker to visuals than words, think through the mark you want to leave and use images and colours to achieve it.
A hard-hitting lawyer has a different tone from a more academic one, an executive coach from a lifestyle coach with a focus on fun. Use photographs, images, colours and words that reflect your promise.
Are you a forensic auditor with an eye for detail? A pink balloon may not send the right message. Likewise, a yoga instructor targeting time-poor executives may not want a burnished, loud and proud look.
- Ensure the look and feel of your LinkedIn profile embodies your brand promise
- Ensure your LinkedIn profile is consistent with other digital and social media assets like a website or Twitter profile
- Upload a professionally designed banner that showcases your business offering or expertise
- Use a professional logo
- Write and rewrite your profile so that it’s brief but informative
- Avoid jargon and ‘corporatese’
- Avoid writing in capital letters
- Check grammar and spelling
This is not a headshot
Unless you’re a model this is not an appropriate headshot. Nor is a smartphone photo with the dog or kids cut out. Invest in a professional headshot that’s properly sized for social media platforms.
Gone are the days where including a photograph in your resume was a short cut to the bin. In a world where so much contact and especially first contact is online, people like to see who is on the other side. Photographs are a link between the digital and real world.
The default avatars, or ‘eggheads’ as they are known, are instantly off putting. Further the bots that trawl the web identifying spam target them as questionable.
It’s important to use a current photo so that when you bring a contact into real life (IRL) there’s continuity. You want to be able to walk into a room, instantly recognise who you’re meeting and seamlessly pick up where the online thread left off.
Having said that, once you’ve got a professional image in place you can change it up a bit and have fun, for example at Christmas by popping on a Santa hat or touch of glitter, but in the main keep it professional.
- Have a professional photograph taken with a few different angles
- Use the series across different profiles for a related look and feel without being same-same
- Avoid using default avatars or eggheads. If you don’t want the general public to see your photo go to settings, edit your public profile and tick only the boxes that you want to show up.
This is not a biography
So you’re a CEO, marketer, nurse, lawyer? On a platform of 380 million global professionals a title is not a differentiator.
The small amount of space that LinkedIn allows for your profile is prime real estate, use it to set yourself apart.
This part of the profile is also searchable so add key words that other people would use if they were looking for someone with your skills. When you’re doing this, try thinking from their headspace.
For example, say someone wants a financial planner, no matter how great you are they’re unlikely to type in ‘Jane Smith’. Instead, they’ll use terms like ‘financial planning’, ‘finance’, ‘Melbourne’, ‘high growth’. Load it up with relevant terms and make sure you get a key skill in at least once.
This is not your history
There’s no need to write War and Peace. Even getting someone to scroll up a page requires effort and attention, which are rare commodities.
Instead, write a brief overview for the various positions you have held focussing on what you’ve achieved, rather than your responsibilities.
What people are looking for is a logic around progression that talks to growing experience and also credibility.
When you set up a position LinkedIn asks you to add in the company you worked for and automatically gives the option to load the logo, which is drawn from the company page. This is frequently used for authentication so do it properly. People can use search to verify that the company exists and find others who work there to verify your claim if required.
Because LinkedIn company pages require administrators there a level of verification built into the process. If someone claims to have worked at a place or gone to a university or school that doesn’t have an official link, check it out. Unless there’s a spelling error it could signal a false claim.
LinkedIn also allows you to add rich media to each position, a great opportunity to prove you do what you say you do. Just select the format you want to upload at the bottom of the section. It goes without saying that you if it’s confidential company IP it doesn’t get posted.
So you’re an academic? Add a keynote presentation. A speaker? Add the show reel. A construction manager, add a link to an award-winning portfolio. Again it’s about validating your claims.
In the next post in this series you’ll learn to finesse the basics by crafting a vanity URL, how to integrate LinkedIn with other social platforms and global messaging apps and how to manage endorsements and recommendations or turn them off.
Author’s images sourced from the Dollar Photo Club
Dionne Lew is the CEO of the Social Executive, an adviser to boards and senior executives on digital and social media rated in the top 1% for global community influence by Kred.