Powerful Personal Branding Through LinkedIn
It’s a well-known fact that people browse your LinkedIn profile. It could very well be the first place you meet someone! It takes just a couple of seconds for someone to draw conclusions on you, so your goal is to figure out your digital reputation; how to best “sell” yourself to your audience.
Where to start? Your profile should be clear and concise, but also include your brand statement and career goals. Some questions to ask yourself before writing up a digital profile:
- What makes me unique?
- Which topics do my colleagues come to me for advice on?
- What are my most important values?
- Three adjectives that describe what I want to be known for
- Three things that explain how I make an impact
Here’s a list of seven personal digital branding best practices.
LinkedIn tip #1: Include a professional photo
Your profile picture is the first thing someone sees. How do you win them over in less than a second?
- Showcase a full body shot. This is not Facebook or Instagram and your network needs to know you’re not a “bot” – a profile picture is ideal for business professionals
- Have anything ‘questionable’ in the background (no animals, fire pits, parties, etc.)
- Wear sunglasses, hats, Hawaiian shirts, logos or loud patterns/colors
- Look intimidating (think: no mug shot, driver’s license photo or passport-type pictures).
- Use too much Photoshop or high color saturation
If you have an unprofessional digital profile picture it can cost you a meaningful connection or worse – an interview.
- Use a forward-facing shot from the shoulders up
- Smile – with or without teeth. Goal is to look as natural – and happy – as possible
- Ensure there is good lighting (not too dark with strange shadows that appear daunting)
- Dress for success! Wear clothes in your profile picture for the role you want. How would you normally dress for work or for an important meeting?
- Think about hiring a professional if you can afford it. Not only will they understand the technical and stylistic elements of personal brand photography but their photos can build upon your self-confidence.
A good litmus test is to show five people and get their opinion on ‘does this photo represent you professionally?’ Your photo is the first link to your visual brand so make sure it gives off the impression that you are personable and a business professional.
LinkedIn tip #2: Write a keyword heavy headline
The goal of your headline is to grab the reader’s attention, so they will skip the rest of the list results and contact you FIRST. Strategically focus on branding yourself for the job you want and what you have to offer, rather than the one you’ve left behind. Your professional headline is prime real estate.
- Use all UPPERCASE letters. It looks intimidating and gives off the impression that you’re yelling at the reader
- Avoid clunky symbols as it takes away from the content
- Insert your current company name into your headline. Not only does it take up space, but it’s redundant because the reader will see your most recent employer in your Experience section
- Use general titles like “Speaker” or “Expert” – you will be buried in searches. Use terms that reflect the work you do (or plan to do).
- Think about how are you different and better than other candidates?
- Use all 120 characters to come up with a compelling headline
- Write in titles that resonate with the viewer – NOT with your past.
- Figure out keywords or characteristics that are sought out in your role/industry
- Look at target job descriptions and put them into word clouds so you can see what key skills stand out
LinkedIn tip #3: Provide an engaging summary
The summary area is your opportunity to deliver a strong 30-second elevator pitch. Your branding is your story and your future. You can use storytelling to provide insight into who you are and what you want to do. Visualize who you’re talking to and aim your profile to speak directly to that person. Consider what qualities the hiring manager is looking for and how you are the perfect fit.
1. What are you passionate about?
2. What about your work excites you?
You have 2,000 characters here so make sure you use your summary in an engaging, exciting way.
- Share personal interests in the summary. There are other sections for that.
- Give highly detailed explanations. If you have a gap in employment or were laid off or terminated, it is not a good idea to explain this in the summary
- Incorporate too many buzzwords and phrases. It looks like you’re overselling yourself/.
- Have errors. The summary is the first section read through and if you have a lot of typos – the reader will assume you don’t proofread or are at a lower level than you really are
- Write your LinkedIn profile in first person as this makes you seem more approachable and friendly
- List your core skills
- Highlight a specific “success story”
- List personality qualities such as passion, enthusiasm, likability, work ethic, and trustworthiness
- Emphasize particular transferrable skills if you’re changing careers
- Include a “Call to Action” such as “I’m open to new opportunities and connections in the ______ industry and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org”
LinkedIn tip #4: Highlight accomplishment-driven experience
You have 100 characters in each title box and this is prime real estate in branding. The reader takes just a couple seconds to go through these titles so you want to make sure you are “selling” yourself in each title you’ve held. It’s another element of your personal brand that tells your career story.
One thing to keep in mind is that the reader is looking for a title they can easily understand. Sometimes a title may be unique, company-specific or not telling of the actual work performed. You want to make sure you are populating each title with strong key words that align to a professional headline and this may mean using additional keywords in the title box to explain the actual role and function.
For the experience/responsibilities - your LinkedIn profile provides so much more room for typing content than in a traditional two-page resume. Showcase examples of accomplishments related to specific jobs you’ve listed, and describe them more fully.
- List boring, implied job duties
- Have a long paragraph formation. Instead try bullet points or leaving a line in between accomplishments to better break up the format
- Use 3rd person references (“Jane Doe has acquired 45 partnerships ....”)
- List that you are employed if you are not employed. It looks like you’re trying to pull one over on the hiring manager or recruiter and they are not fond of that tactic
- Concentrate on your target audience (i.e. your next manager) when you are describing your background and pay special attention to achievements. Readers want high performers and look for profiles that impress them
- Use metrics – eyes are drawn into numbers. When possible, use numbers/stats to impress and stop the reader in their tracks. It also helps better establish credibility
- Identify “what’s in it for them” and what they would consider most important
- Try to write to the question: Is there something my future boss needs to see that would convince them to pick up the phone RIGHT NOW?
- Use multimedia for your work experiences
LinkedIn tip #5: Influential endorsements and recommendations
While you can add up to 50 skills, RiseSmart recommends you start with the 10 that best highlight your brand, building up stronger endorsements for your high-priority skills.
- Overload your profile with too many endorsements as this will not send the right message and the reader won’t be able to truly see the brand you are wanting to represent
- Ask for recommendations from everyone and anyone. This can alienate your network. You want to pick someone you know and trust who can really vouch for you
- Keep your skills updated. Just as you gain hands-on experience and rebrand yourself as you grow professionally, you also need to drop outdated skills and swap them for new ones you really want to be known for. Don’t be afraid to delete skills and reorder your list as needed
- Try to get at least three recommendations from your LinkedIn network. Recommendations have always been an integral part of the hiring process and having someone praise your talents and personality online puts you ahead of your competition.
LinkedIn tip #6 Represent your personal brand
In addition to the well-known sections of LinkedIn, there are other sections you can add that will set you apart from your competition.
- Education: Listing your academic degrees and certifications makes it 10 times more likely to get your profile viewed.
- Volunteer Experience: One in 5 hiring managers say they have hired a candidate because of their volunteer experience. And, 41 percent of hiring managers consider volunteer work equal in value to paid work experience when evaluating candidates.
- Optional Add-on Sections: Emphasize your credentials by including publications, courses, projects, honors and awards, patents, test scores, languages, and organizations.
LinkedIn tip #7 Getting your digital branding right
In this ever-evolving technological world, online branding is as much an emphasis in your job search and networking as in real world encounters. Your branding doesn’t stop with having updated your digital profile – it’s your online visibility that is vital.
A few tips and tricks:
- Polish your online brand by thinking of the people who will view it. Recruiters are doing searches. Hiring managers go to LinkedIn for sourcing. Potential managers will Google you. Research yourself online and use your digital profiles to your advantage to be a hit (and score higher on the list) for your target positions.
- Understand the various modules of your LinkedIn Profile. This includes organizing multimedia, contacts, key skills, and data using the latest online techniques.
- Overstuff your brand, use only terms/words that make sense to your brand and make sure all professional digital profiles are uniform in that brand messaging
- Integrate content that is irrelevant to what you’re looking to do in the future
- Have poor grammar, syntax structure, spelling, and punctuation
LinkedIn is a top tool in job searching and it is extremely important to get it right. If you have outplacement services, your resume writer and coach will be trained on best practices for creating a professional online presence. The same way resume writers make you look outstanding on “paper”, they can help you develop a digital brand that can generate interest and make you look like a thought leader to your online network.
Personal branding through the digital landscape incorporates understanding career progression and projection including cultural, behavioral, and online observations. A certified branding expert will take unique skills and achievements to make someone stand out against the competition and attract the best organizations and opportunities.