11 ⁄ 18 2016
Building your LinkedIn profile is key to establishing your personal brand. For many entrepreneurs and professionals, a LinkedIn profile functions as a surrogate website. Your brand and value must be communicated clearly, succinctly, and powerfully. Remember: There’s a good chance prospects, partners, and companies are researching you online, and LinkedIn is very likely their first stop.
And that’s a good thing. LinkedIn has leveled the playing field. We all have the same opportunity to use this platform to build our personal brands, grow a network of contacts, and position ourselves as thought leaders in our industries. The owner of a small, local business has the same chance of being found as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Manage your LinkedIn presence properly, and you will have a powerful foundation that serves as a contact manager, lead generator, market research tool, and personal branding platform to exhibit your thought leadership.
It all begins with your professional profile. On LinkedIn, first impressions are everything. A well-worded, properly optimized profile can make a tremendous impact in your visibility, network size, online influence, and status as an expert.
So, how does your profile look? Are you proud of the image you’ve created? Does it represent the value you offer? Let me go out on a limb here: If you found your way to this article, then I am willing to bet your profile does not quite measure up to your standards.
So, let’s get to it. Follow these suggestions, and you will be on your way to building a first-rate profile and leveraging the most powerful and important business network in the world.
Writing a Strong LinkedIn Headline
The default headline is your current job title and company. In almost all circumstances, you are better off customizing your headline by focusing on your personal brand.
Keep in mind that your headline follows you around wherever you go on LinkedIn. When your name appears in searches, it does not appear alone. It is coupled with your professional headline. The same is true when you extend a connection request to another LinkedIn user.
How would you prefer to be known? As Mary Johnson, CEO of Johnson Fitness … or Mary Johnson, Award-Winning Fitness Coach, HuffPo Contributor & National Speaker? You are more than your job title; you have value beyond what you represent to your company. Unless you need to have your name tied to your company, opt for a branded headline instead.
Should I add a photo to my LinkedIn profile?
Yes. No doubt. Do not leave a blank space where your photo should be. Recent statistics show that LinkedIn users are more than 10 times likelier to view your profile if it contains a picture. Also, people are reluctant to connect with users who have no picture. And – it’s actually kind of creepy to get a connection request from an anonymous face.
My advice: If you do not have a photo you like, then engage a photographer to have a professional headshot created. It can cost less than $100 to have a professional photo taken and retouched. You’ll love how you look! (and so will your connections).
Writing a Compelling LinkedIn Profile Summary:
LinkedIn allows 2,000 characters (approximately 300 words) to create a profile summary. This is not a lot of space to tell your story, but it may seem like a daunting task if you do not know what to include.
Here is what you want to accomplish in your summary:
- Create an authentic, positive narrative focusing on your value and brand.
- Increase your chances of being found by prospects, clients, potential business partners, recruiters, and the media.
- Project an image of authority and position yourself as a thought leader and problem-solver.
- Increase traffic to your website, blog articles, sales pages, and your other social media profiles.
- Encourage prospects, clients, and industry influencers to extend and accept connection invitations.
A well-written LinkedIn profile can help you achieve each of these goals. Your job is to convey the value you offer, and not the thing you do. Focus on the results you provide, as opposed to the responsibilities you perform.
A tax accountant would not be inaccurate in writing that he prepares state and federal taxes. And while this fact should be included somewhere in his summary, it is not the value he offers. He would be better off with something along the lines of: “Creating tax minimization strategies for small businesses so that you get to keep more of the money you’ve earned.”
This is your opportunity to let people know what results they could expect if they decided to hire you or your company. What is your track record? What problems will you solve? Do you understand your customers’ pain points?
If you have a bland profile that simply lists the services you provide, then you are missing out on opportunities to impress new prospects and show off your capabilities. Focus on outcomes, not service offerings; on benefits, not features; on the “why” and not the “what.”
This question comes up a lot: “Should I write my LinkedIn profile in the first person or third person?” I am a huge fan of first-person narratives. In the first person, you appear to be approachable and personable. Many people, however, prefer using the third-person because they want their profile more of a professional bio and project a loftier persona. My intention is not to instigate a 1st person vs. 3rd person imbroglio (it can get ugly). Either way is correct and popular on LinkedIn.
Your LinkedIn profile is not the place to dump your resume. Provide a brief description of the scope of your work – and your value. Save yourself some time and leave out the laundry list of your day-to-day responsibilities. No one will read it anyway. Anything that is must-read important in your background should be included in your profile summary.
If you want to provide more flavor, you can include case studies to give specific examples of the results you’ve produced. You can also attach media (videos, documents, presentations) to provide further evidence of your value.
Skills and Endorsements:
“Endorsements” are areas of expertise that you list on your profile, which can be corroborated by your contacts. The LinkedIn community has made more than one billion endorsements to date. List the areas by which you would like to be known, placing primary skills on top. You can drag and drop the entries in any order once you are through adding them.
LinkedIn allows up to 50 skill areas. Should you include them all? You could, but make sure they all have impact. I see a lot of profile where people are struggling to get to the limit, and they resort to meaningless or irrelevant skills.
Of course, recommendations are far better than endorsements, but there is a certain aura around someone who has 99+ endorsements in a half-dozen skill areas.
You have the opportunity to list your certifications, professional associations, awards, publications, and a host of other experiences. Work through each section and fill it out as completely as possible. The more relevant information you include, the more likely you are going to appear in search results.
Be sure to shorten your URL of your public profile. Most people have a URL that includes their name and a series of numbers and letters. If possible, use one that just has your name. Keep in mind: Once you change the URL, the old one will no longer work.
Lastly, be sure to include your contact information. Phone numbers, email addresses, websites, and other social media profiles make it easy for people to connect with you.
Best practices for LinkedIn profiles change frequently. As LinkedIn improves their platform and offers users more options, we have better opportunities to build our personal brand and present our value. I wish you the best of luck in crating or improving your profile.
Need professional help in crafting an excellent profile? Find more information here.
And don’t forget to connect with me on LinkedIn! I’d love to have you in my network: www.LinkedIn.com/in/RobertMandelberg.
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