Businesses, entrepreneurs, professionals around the globe are turning to LinkedIn as a platform for networking, news, social exchange, and advertising. Gone are the days when LinkedIn was primarily used for stalking your interviewer or uploading your templatized resume. 91% of marketing executives list LinkedIn as the top place to find quality content. It wasn’t until recently that I realized my LinkedIn profile needed a facelift, so I decided to hit the books and do my research. I’ve learned a lot about optimizing a profile and how it can positively impact a business, so if you’re new to the LinkedIn game, we’re in this journey together!
How do I make my business stand out? How do I make my name pop? What should I say about myself in my summary? The questions go on and on.
There’s good news and not-so-good news here (I don’t like saying bad news because it’s discouraging). The good news: There are all kinds of ways to use LinkedIn to optimize your profile and get a leg up in your industry. The not-so-good news: It’s hard to pinpoint a strategy because you have so many options. I struggled with this on my own but have learned that it all comes down to defining who you are, realizing your goals, and highlighting what makes you and your business unique.
Naturally, some fields are more intuitive than others. If you’re an investment banker for a huge firm, it’s pretty easy to understand how your LinkedIn profile should look. Your target audience would be geared toward recruiters who may want to hire you.
Working in a creative field, like photographing headshots and portraits, put me in a different situation. It’s been fun, though—I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the LinkedIn biz. It’s a way to reach out to a new set of potential customers or clients, so you want to be sure your profile really represents what you’re all about. For those of you who would rather not learn the hard way, I’d love to share a little bit about my LinkedIn journey and what I’ve learned so far.
Your LinkedIn profile isn’t meant to trick people into thinking you are different than you are. That won’t help anyone! Your profile is a digital replica of your professional experience and skills thus far. Further, it’s a way to tell someone who you are as a person and what you could bring to their company or add to their work.
Take some time to define who you are, what your objectives are, how others perceive you, and what you’ve done as a professional. Maybe you’d like to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses, the lessons you’ve learned, and your likes and dislikes. If you’re a badass mom who is returning to the workforce, think about how that defines you. Perhaps you’re on the brink of entrepreneurship and you’d like to incorporate your business acumen into your profile. Write it all out!
Create a list of keywords
You don’t have to be an SEO expert or an all-star copywriter to pinpoint certain words that relate to your career. After you’ve defined yourself and your vision, come up with 5-7 keywords that you’d like to draw people to your profile. This means getting inside your audience’s mind and thinking, “What would people need to search in order to find me?”
Incorporate your keywords into your profile
Use those keywords and incorporate them into the following sections:
- Summary, or “About me” section
- Current work experience
- Skills and expertise section
Create a captivating description of who you are
There are two rules to this step, commit to them and you’ll improve your profile significantly. Be specific and be authentic. I am a photographer, for example, but my headline doesn’t just say “Photographer.” I could say that I’m a San Francisco photographer, an entrepreneurial photographer, a photographer for women and their brands, or a headshot and portrait photographer.
You’ll find plenty of ways to name yourself. Keep in mind these things:
- Your target audience.
- What they’re searching for.
- Your keywords.
- What you’d like to be known for.
After you’ve created your headline, focus your attention on your skills and endorsements. Some people may look at your profile quickly, spending about 10-15 seconds on it. In that case, they want to see quick highlights of what you do best. Position yourself as an expert at what you do, but don’t stretch the truth. Think hard about your skills, and then list them out on your profile.
Pro tip: It helps to have endorsements and recommendations from your colleagues, coworkers, and clients. There’s no need to ask people to write them, but keep it in mind if you’re working closely with someone. The more you endorse people for their skills or engage with other professionals, the more likely people will be to recommend you. A recommendation is the ultimate proof of the value you have created for your clients or the company you work for.
Make it professional
While it’s important to be yourself on LinkedIn, it’s also important to be professional. An example is how you interview. You may not wear a business suit and dress shoes every day, but for your interview, you kick it up a notch! The same goes for your LinkedIn profile—be yourself through a professional lens. Here are a few ways to ensure your profile comes across as professional:
- Proper grammar and spelling on every aspect of your profile.
- Professional headshot.
- Avoid speaking too casually or conversationally.
- No overt advertising or spam links on your profile.
Part of maintaining a professional profile is setting a cadence for how regularly you update it. You can’t just make a profile once and never touch it again. Things change, jobs change, and YOU change. You should be updating your profile at least once a quarter to make sure everything is up-to-date and describes you well. LinkedIn rewards users for regularly updating their profiles by boosting your profile.
Connect and engage
A profile isn’t anything without connecting and engaging so that people can see it. That doesn’t mean posting just to post -- all of the content you develop should be quality content that is helpful to other professionals. If you’re getting back into the workforce or you’re simply trying to make your profile stand out more, one of the best ways to do so is to relate to other professionals.
You are an expert in your own field. Impart your wisdom on others and engage with them to learn and share similar experiences. That means creating helpful blog posts, commenting on discussions or other blogs, and congratulating people for their big milestones or promotions. We’re all in this great, big, professional world together. Put yourself out there and network!