Don’t read this if you’re looking for step-by-step instructions on completing your LinkedIn profile or ways to use LinkedIn to find a job. There are thousands of great articles and videos on the web with great LinkedIn instructions and advice.
This article, and the two that will follow, give you advice that no one talks about – the shortcuts and workarounds that can help you make LinkedIn a powerful personal branding tool. The personal branding tips I share in this series are among dozens of tricks I developed through my work with executives over the past several years. At first glance, this advice may seem counterintuitive, but these tips take advantage of the way LinkedIn works so you can build your brand and expand your success. The full series will take you through each of these steps:
- Part 1 – Brand Yourself: We’ll start the series by focusing on branding your profile, making sure it’s relevant and compelling to the people who are making decisions about you.
- Part 2 – Find and Be Found: How much attention have you paid to making sure the right people can find you? We’ll focus on not only how to be found but also how to keep your own research top secret.
- Part 3 – Stand Out and Promote: In this final piece in the series we’ll look at differentiating your profile from the masses and the tools that enable you to maximize the value of your profile by promoting it and syndicating it.
Before getting into any of the tips in this series, there is one seemingly misguided piece of LinkedIn help that you need to implement before you start mucking around with your profile: Keep Secrets.
When you’re updating your LinkedIn profile you don’t want your contacts to be made aware of every little change. Of course, when you make a big change – like announcing your promotion or appointment to a board, you want your contacts to know. Alerting your contacts to every bit of wordsmithing you do while attempting to make your LinkedIn profile more compelling and more searchable, is not something I would recommend. When you’re in edit mode, turn off activity broadcasts and adjust the setting option for ‘select who can see your activity feed’ to be ‘only you’.
Remember to change the settings back when you have completed your edits. This way, when you do make a change that you want all your contacts to see, your scream won’t be ignored as just another rewording or spelling correction.
Part 1: Brand Yourself
Arrogance is an unsavory trait… except on LinkedIn. Know the top five strengths for which you want to be recognized and use them in your profile – repeatedly.
If your top skill is project management, describe your project management proficiency in your summary as well as in multiple experience descriptions. Personal branding requires steadfast focus and redundancy will bolster your brand around your critical skill.
In addition to influencing others, repeating keywords throughout your LinkedIn profile will help boost your ranking in searches of those keywords. Be sure to use all the different variations for how that skill is described to make sure people who are looking for what you have to offer will be able to find you, regardless of what terms they use in the search box.
It’s fun receiving endorsements; but some endorsements can be bad for your brand. Delete endorsements for skills that are not core to how you want to be known. Being a jack-of-all-trades is the complete opposite of branding. As I said in ‘Be Redundant’ above, personal branding requires focus. You need to know who you are and what you want people to know about you, and you must make sure your LinkedIn profile reflects this.
Ask your contacts to endorse you for only your top skills. Having the highest number of endorsements for your signature strengths will influence those who are looking at your profile. A recent New York Times article validates this: “Mr. Peppler [a staffing firm executive] has used [this technique] to find the most endorsed person with a specific background in a particular city. He said “It’s hard to know how meaningful that will be in the long run, but to me, it makes them one of the most influential people in that region for what they do.”
If you’re endorsed for everything from project management to leadership to risk management to coaching, you dilute your brand message. Have the courage to delete the endorsements that aren’t central to how you want to be known. And strive to get them to appear in your profile listed in order of importance to your brand.
Laziness is among the most powerful personal branding techniques available – and it’s a great strategy for LinkedIn too. Don’t mistake this for apathy. Being lazy in this instance is about the smart use of your resources. Reuse and repurpose the content you already have available. In doing this you amplify your message and deliver brand consistency, communicating different forms of the same content in distinctive ways to the members of your brand community. From now on, when you write a new blog, poach a sentence or two for your LinkedIn status update. The next time you produce a whitepaper, upload it to your profile or provide a link to where it can be found. When you post a new video to YouTube, embed it in your LinkedIn profile by placing the link in the appropriate section (summary or experience).
One more way to be lazy: Use LinkedIn to manage your LinkedIn and Twitter communications by using the ‘Share with LinkedIn + Twitter’ feature in your status update. This will copy what you share with your LinkedIn Connections to your Twitter followers as long as you keep your update to fewer than 140 characters.
No one said you had to color within the lines. You need not follow the LinkedIn formula of creating one experience entry for each job title you have held. Take all the space you need to more effectively do justice to your accomplishments by creating multiple entries for every role you have performed. It’s OK to have overlapping dates. This is the best way to secure the real estate you need to truly convey the value you deliver.
Create an experience block for every key accomplishment within each role. If for example, as the Director of Marketing Communications you led a major annual event, managed a design team and built the social media marketing strategy, create three different experience entries with each describing what happened when you did what you did. Few people are using LinkedIn this way, so your profile is sure to stand out.
I have been the CEO of my company for over a decade. If I followed the standard format, I would have only 2,000 characters to talk about everything I have done in that time. Instead, I created separate experience listings for Personal Branding Consultant, Author, and Motivational Speaker. They are three fairly discreet roles I have held under the umbrella of CEO.
Watch for parts 2 and 3 of this series, I’ll share more tips and tricks for making your LinkedIn profile a valuable part of your personal branding strategy, including how being a promiscuous thief can be a good thing.
Do you use any of these LinkedIn strategies in your daily workflow? Feel free to brag about your success in the comments!