A brand is essentially a promise of an experience, and we typically think of branding as it pertains to companies or their products and services. However, you yourself are also a brand, and there is a growing need to manage your personal brand—because it will develop on its own if you don’t. And as the largest social network for professional connections, LinkedIn is one of the best places to build your personal brand on the Web.
First things first: you must complete your profile. Your LinkedIn profile is the destination you want people to reach when you are creating content and interacting with others. Let’s look at seven key areas of your profile and how to best complete them.
- Get a professional photo of yourself and upload it to your LinkedIn profile. First impressions are usually made visually. How can someone trust you if they can’t even see you? This helps to overcome the deeply held belief in “stranger danger”; it’s not as scary to meet someone if you can see a picture of them first. Profiles with a photo get an average of seven times more views than profiles without them. This is the single most important—and at the same time simplest—steps you can take to increase your visibility on LinkedIn.
- Put your name—and only your name—in the name fields of your profile. Some people put a phone number or SEO keywords into their “names” on LinkedIn thinking it will give them an advantage. In reality, it looks spammy and is a turn-off to would-be connections.
- Carefully create a professional headline that is independent of your job title. Don’t sell here. Again, contact information does not belong here. Use this space to create an interesting headline that compels would-be connections to learn more about you.
- Add multimedia elements to your profile. Pictures, videos and presentations help your profile to stand out. If you delivered a really great presentation that exemplified your knowledge on a specific topic relevant to your personal brand, add that presentation to your LinkedIn profile. Think of other ways you can represent your work visually and add some choice portfolio work to your profile.
- Leverage video! This is a growing trend. What better way for someone to get to know you virtually than to both hear and see you in action? If you have the technical know-how (or know someone who does), create a personal branding video that introduces you to the world. Talk about your area(s) of expertise, your interests and your hobbies. Very briefly walk viewers through your professional history and major accomplishments. Keep it interesting and brief.
- Use the Recommendations feature to ask for recommendations from colleagues, clients and others within your network. This helps to establish you as an authority in particular subjects.
- Complete the rest of your profile. Fill out as many sections of your profile as make sense. Input your work history. Tell readers what you accomplished in each position—not just what duties you performed. Have skills? Add them. Are you a supporter or member of non-profit organizations, boards of directors, industry associations or clubs? Let people know. Create a summary with 40 words or more and include terms that are likely to appear on job descriptions for your field. LinkedIn rewards those with 100% complete profiles.
Once your profile is complete, you have a destination for would-be connections. Then, go out and show them what you’ve got. Let people know you’re there by interacting with them and adding valuable content. (It is social media, after all.) Know where you’re going with your brand and create content that will help get you there. Below are seven more specific ideas to help you support the growth of your professional brand using LinkedIn.
- Publish long-form posts from your LinkedIn account. Share insights and thought leadership pieces that establish you as an authority. These updates should be relevant to the brand you’re building.
- Add news items and events to your updates. Is there something exciting in your industry that has been published in national media? Share it. Have you achieved a relevant milestone in your career? Let people know. Have you won an award? Post a photo of you receiving it on stage.
- Don’t be afraid to post things that are indirectly related to you professionally but are likely interesting to your primary audience. Are you a custom men’s clothier? Post a photo of your two-under-par 18-hole golf score card. Are you a stone mason? Post of photo of some interesting rock veneer you noticed while walking down the street and comment on how it can be applied creatively to a home. Hairstylist? Add a blog post that discusses five celebrities’ styles and discuss why they would or would not be a good choice for your audience.
- Search for people who would be advantageous for you to know and view their profiles. Many will see that you visited their profiles and view yours out of curiosity. This is a personal brand exposure that didn’t cost you a thing.
- Join relevant groups and participate in group discussions. Comment on others’ posts and provide valuable, meaningful feedback.
- Consider upgrading your LinkedIn account. As the cheapest upgrade option, the Personal Plus account upgrade on LinkedIn has been de-emphasized over the past year, but it delivers great value for under $10 per month.
- The most important tip in this how-to guide: be yourself. Authenticity matters. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Work with what you’ve got: emphasize your strengths and not your weaknesses; grow in areas that make sense; fully embrace the things you can’t change, and change the things that you can and need to change; focus on self-improvement, self-esteem and self-confidence.
Your personal brand is an ever-changing reflection of you, and your LinkedIn profile can be a great way to capitalize on your expertise. Continue to develop your LinkedIn account, and you’ll have a valuable resource for growing your network and creating new opportunities.