You probably already know the significance of LinkedIn, you’re no doubt already on there, hoping for attention. But is your profile a hollow shell labelled with just your job title or is it an active, welcoming space that brings your brand to life and attracts people to your mission? With around 750 million members in 200 countries, LinkedIn is a huge marketplace for ideas, a coffee room for connecting with collaborators and the most extensive employment arena in the world. It may be the first and even main place your audience comes into contact with your work and your brand. Why then would you put a poor reflection of what you stand for into all that? It’s time to build your profile.
A strong profile consists of a number of elements, which we often allow to build up over time haphazardly. I suggest a total audit. It’s important to make each of these elements as strong as can be individually, whilst also being mindful of how they also come together to create a cohesive, unifying picture. As I lay out in my book Influence, a brand is the perception of a promise established by a personality. When you take control of your profile, you are moulding that perception.
The main profile elements are:
Obvious but often overlooked. In many ways, online branding is a lot like online dating. We carefully select our pictures, we filter out our bad habits and weaknesses, and we dial up the volume on the things we want to be known for. And we do this for the same purpose - to make a connection. But please don't confuse the two. I have seen far too many profile pics of professionals pumping iron, partying or pouting. Photos should be friendly and professional, while showing your personality, and - importantly - you must be recognisable, so people know it's really you and can use it to locate you in the real world.
Professional headline (120 character limit)
This is the one liner that you want to be known for. Amongst all the other hundreds of headlines people will see when they browse LinkedIn, how will yours stand out? Make it descriptive and attention-grabbing as the wrong impression could mean it’s the first and last thing people know about you.
Be creative and visionary. The headline that you want the world to know is more about your essence and your excellence than your job title. Wouldn’t you be more taken by ‘Reinventing energy supply for the new economy | Forbes under 30 | Ashoka Fellow’ than ‘Account Manager for solar power start-up’? Spend some time browsing other profiles to see what sticks out and resonates with you.
About section (2,000 character limit)
Here’s the space to outline your brand: lead with your purpose-led approach (why you do what you do), what you offer (how it is turning audience pains into gains) and your credentials for doing so. This must present your unique value proposition, showing what only you offer.
A strong ‘About section’ is tightly written but personal and passionate. You want the reader to create a story of you in their mind they’d be happy to tell others about. Don’t feel you have to use all the character count, make it as short as possible to make it easy to understand your story.
Your narrative should mainly focus on the present and future. Do include your accomplishments and experience here but as a snappy summary or in bullets, to aid the reader.
Make sure the first few sentences really grab them as LinkedIn will only show the first few sentences on desktops and even less on a mobile. You have to make the reader want to click ‘Read more’.
Then make sure the last section really kicks ass, by offering a clear call to action. The main text will make them think and feel something, now don’t forget to make them do something too. How do you want them to engage with you?
Incorporate keywords that you want to be known for / what your audience will be looking for so you are more likely to appear in searches and resonate with their desires. Look to other similar profiles to see what sort of keywords they use.
Make sure the work history is up to date with logos for each listing. And make it clear not only what you did there but also what you achieved and how you grew. Link to relevant sites or supporting documents.
A strong list of appropriate skills will seriously boost your profile. Set up the ones you want to be known for and get endorsement for them. If others endorse you for skills you feel are not relevant to your brand, feel free to reject them.
It’s great that you know you are awesome but the viewer of your profile will be much more impressed if other people say it too. Call in those favours, reach out to past happy clients and ask old colleagues to say a few words in your praise, stating a few words how you turn problems into solutions and what is valuable about your approach. It can often help to provide recommendations for others in your network and then ask for one in return. Once received you can then also use these endorsements on your personal website also.
Many people are not getting the most from LinkedIn so even a few simple changes - using these tips - will help set you apart and grow your influence.