I have been preparing my LinkedIn profile in readiness to use LinkedIn as one of my social media platforms of choice in 2017.
This preparation has included reading many blogs and ebooks, attending a few workshops, attending seminars and one-to-ones with LinkedIn experts, watching videos and researching other profiles.
I don’t now profess to be an expert, but I have learned a lot which you might find useful when creating or improving your profile.
Below is a list of 20 things I either already knew or have learned, that have made my LinkedIn profile more effective. Hopefully, they will do the same for yours. Some are little things. Some are things you should be thinking about way beyond your LinkedIn profile:
1. Decide why you are creating a LinkedIn profile
Seems obvious, but I bet most people haven’t thought about it. For example, I want my profile to position me as an expert in creating and developing brands and therefore hopefully attract new clients. Your purpose may be different. You might be using it to find a new job. Or, you might want to use it to stay in touch with old friends and colleagues. You might be using it for new information and insights, to help you do your job better. By deciding what you are using LinkedIn for will help you create the best profile for that purpose.
2. Think of yourself as a brand
As a brand expert, this is how I think about most things. If I want the readers of my LinkedIn profile to, at some point, use me to help them create, develop or communicate their brand, then I want them to a) believe I am the right person, and b) like me. I use words like ‘believe’ and ‘like’ because creating a brand is about creating an emotional connection between you and your customer. Neurologists have proved that people make most of their important decisions using the emotional part of their brain. One of the strongest emotions you can get on your side is trust. Being believable and likeable is a short cut to instilling trust. Think about what emotional connection you can make with the reader. Dr. Tiffany Watt Smith, author of The Book of Human Emotions: An Encyclopedia of Feeling, from Anger to Wanderlust, says there are over 150 emotions and counting (like one of the latest ones: FOMO – fear of missing out). So, you have plenty to choose from.
3. Make your Professional Headline search engine friendly
My Professional Headline used to read ‘Owner at Brand Satellite’. OK, that is true, but what use is that information to potential clients? At least Brand Satellite sort of describes what the company does, but imagine if the company was called Etherington & Associates. It now reads: ‘Branding expert helping start-ups and SMEs with brand creation, brand development and brand communication.’ Much more useful. These are all terms that a) clearly describe what I do, and b) are search terms that potential clients may be using.
4. Use a professional looking Photo – of your face
Rightly or wrongly, first impressions count. LinkedIn is a professional network, so make sure your profile Photo oozes professionalism. Save your action shots and fun selfies for Twitter and Facebook. Also, don’t use avatars or logos. This is an opportunity to make a human connection with your human customers. Your LinkedIn profile picture should be a head shot that represents what you look like now. A lot of people I spoke to during my research told me that they use LinkedIn to find out/remind them of what people look like before meetings and networking events (saving them from that embarrassing nonplussed look in reception, or at an event without name badges).
Claire Watson Photography offers a very reasonable profile photo service.
5. Make your Current Experience, Previous Experience and Education relevant
The Header section might be as far through your profile as some people go. Below the Professional Headline, LinkedIn only shows three Current, three Previous experience listings and one Education listing. Are they relevant? If your education has absolutely no relevance to what you do now, consider leaving it off.
6. Make sure your Summary is talking to your target audience
This is essential to all marketing communications. The Summary section is one of the most important parts of your LinkedIn profile. Think about who is reading it (or who you want to be reading it). What do you want them to learn from reading your summary? How are they going to benefit from what you say? Most people won’t read any further if you haven’t ‘grabbed them’. Don’t talk about what you do. Talk about what you can do for them.
7. Remember it is a single human being that is reading your Summary
Your LinkedIn profile is visible to three billion internet users worldwide! But every viewing is one, single human being. Make your Summary conversational. Imagine they are standing in front of you. Talk to them in the first person. ‘I can help you…’ is better than ‘Giles can help you…’. Being professional doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly.
8. Put a ‘Call To Action’ in your Summary
Finish your Summary with a call to action. Yes, there is a contact section on LinkedIn – which you should fill in too – but that is another click away. Make it as easy as possible for someone to get in touch with you by adding your contact details.
9. Add images and video to your Summary
You know what they say a picture is worth? Well, currently your LinkedIn profile will be a whole lot of words. Make it stand out from other people’s profiles with images and video. I know it’s easy for me to say because can just add the latest brand identity I have designed or the latest client video I have created. But you might have some product images or website images you can use (if you don’t, I would seriously consider getting some). As well as adding some much needed visual interest, images can portray more about what you are about than words alone. You can also add video to LinkedIn. Have you got ads, how to videos, video testimonials you could add? If you haven’t, you should think about adding video to your marketing mix for 2017 (but that is a whole different blog). If you do add video, then you will probably do so by uploading it to YouTube first. Which is good news – after Google, YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine, so another chance of you and your business being found.
10. Make your Experience relevant to now (and make it interesting)
This might feel like I am repeating Tip No. 5. That was about making your Current and Previous experiences relevant in the header section. Now, I am talking about the Experience in the Background section. Remember what you are on LinkedIn for and tailor your Experience to help you achieve that. This section isn’t about everything you have done in your life. It is about everything you have done that is relevant to where you are now. The fact that I used to work at Little Chef when I was at college, or packed lawnmowers as a holiday job is totally irrelevant to what I do now. So you won’t see it in my profile. Also, people aren’t going to spend ages on your profile, especially the further they go down the page. Keep it concise. You can be more descriptive and expansive in current positions, but the further you go back time, the more concise you should make it. Just highlight the highlights.
11. Your Experience doesn’t have to read like a CV
You can be creative with the Experience section. It doesn’t have to be a list of places you have worked. My experience of working at some of the world’s best advertising agencies, working on some of the world’s biggest brands and working in London, San Francisco and Amsterdam is crucial to positioning me as highly experienced at what I do. Your career path may have been very different, with the early part not being relevant to where you are now. For example, with one of my clients, we summed up 30 years of her career into one Experience section and then created four different sections, all for her current business. One section was an overview of what she offered and the other three sections each related to a separate process she takes you through when you work with her.
12. Show examples of what you do
Similar to adding images and video to your summary. You can add examples of your work under each Experience entry. This gives you the opportunity to feature stuff you did years ago (if it is relevant), without people thinking, ‘Why is he still showing stuff he did years ago?’
13. Remember you can add sections and move sections around
Your LinkedIn profile will come in a default setting. There are lots of other sections you can add (check out the ‘Add a section to your profile’ link). Adding Courses, Organisations or Projects might be really relevant to you. And you have some control over reordering sections. Your Summary might be more important that your Posts. Your Skills & Endorsements might be more important than your Experience. Rearrange these sections so that the most important are at the top.
14. Repeat Tip No. 2
Take a moment to look back at everything you have just done. Does everything fit with the brand you created for yourself? Are you connecting with the emotion you wanted to connect with? If you’re not, think about changing it so you are.
15. Use the Skills & Endorsements section to your advantage
Here’s a section to keep the rational part of the brain happy. Creating a list of skills on another part of the profile, may feel cumbersome, or be ignored. Here is a section specifically designed for you to show off your Skills. But choose wisely. It is very tempting to add more and more skills (some of the predefined options are very similar). But you want people to endorse your Skills, and they probably won’t endorse you for every variant. For example, I have 32 Endorsements for Corporate Branding, but only 5 for Branding & Identity. 37 endorsements for one of those would probably have been better. Don’t make my mistake, make sure each skill you add is clearly different from the other.
16. Ask people to Endorse you
Once you have added your skills, ask people to endorse you (I’m sure your parents have said ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get.’ to you at least once). Ask people you have worked for, or with, to endorse you for the skills you used when you worked for/with them. Before asking, I had organically received around 250 endorsements. By asking, I now have over 400.
17. Ask for Recommendations
The same theory applies to Recommendations. Ask existing clients, past clients and employers for a recommendation. The great thing about Recommendations on LinkedIn is that they have to be posted by that person. Testimonials on websites and in brochures could have been written by anyone (including the person who’s website it is – but don’t get me started on people that do that!). So, Recommendations that can be trusted could become the most powerful part of your profile.
18. Post stuff
Now you have got your profile to a state that you are happy for people to be visiting it, you need people to start visiting it. Your profile is you telling people what you are good at. Your Posts are providing people with evidence that you are good at them. You might already be blogging on your website, or writing press releases. Post these on your profile. If you don’t, think of things you know about (or like this blog, things you have just done) and pass on that knowledge and experience to a new audience.
19. Keep improving – there is still plenty more you can do
The advice above is just scrapping the surface. There are lots more things I still have to do to improve my LinkedIn profile: add a Company Page, join Groups, follow more Influencers. Like any social media platform, you need to keep working on it, keep everything up to date, look active and be relevant. I also haven’t tried upgrading to LinkedIn Premium yet – something I might update you on in the New Year.
20. Spread the love – press share
Thanks for reading this far. I hope you found what you have just read useful. If so, please Share. This is a social media platform after all!