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How to Develop Your Personal Brand on LinkedIn

If you’re just beginning to think about using online tools to showcase your personal brand on your business and social networks, begin with LinkedIn. While direct selling is frowned upon on LinkedIn, business conversations are not only accepted … they’re expected. These are the same conversations that allow LinkedIn to do what LinkedIn does best: help build effective business relationships based on nurturing the “know, like, and trust” factor.

Control first impressions

While there are many advanced tactics for sharing your personal brand on LinkedIn, you can accomplish a lot just by doing a few simple things well, starting with the information people see on the first screen shot of your profile and your summary statement.

The ultimate goal is to create your LinkedIn profile in such a way that it provides answers about you and your personal brand that visitors typically look for when visiting any website:

  • Who are you?

  • What do you do?

  • What can you do for me?

  • Do you have proof of what you say you can do?

  • Who else can comment on your expertise?

You make a first impression online in much the same way as you do in person. The first step is to get your LinkedIn presence moving in the right direction. While over time you’ll likely add more information and include and integrate some of LinkedIn’s robust applications, there’s no reason you can’t work toward answering these five basic questions from the outset.

Optimize your snapshot: Headline and photo

Your snapshot is the information on your LinkedIn profile that shows in the search results when someone does a search within LinkedIn. It includes your name, headline, headshot/photo, geographic location, and industry.

[Credit: Robin S. Fox]
Credit: Robin S. Fox

Most of this information is obvious — and yes, it’s critical to include a photo in which you look both professional and approachable.

[Credit: Robin S. Fox]
Credit: Robin S. Fox

The number one mistake people make with their LinkedIn headline is to use the headline space to repeat their current position and employer — information that is viewable in Experience, the section that appears immediately below the Snapshot on your LinkedIn profile. Repeating that information in your headline is a missed opportunity.

The headline area is prime real estate on your LinkedIn profile. Make it work for you by using it to better clarify your personal brand promise. LinkedIn gives you as much as 120 characters to craft your headline. Start by thinking about your elevator pitch or personal commercial. How would you translate that pitch into a LinkedIn profile headline?

Alternatively, focus on answering these questions in the headline: “Who are you?” and “What do you do?” But keep in mind that you’re even better off taking the headline to the point where it answers the next question, “What can you do for me?” Here are a few good examples:

  • Social Media Coach: Helping you raise brand awareness, build effective business networks, and improve your online image

  • Advisory Partner: Specializing in corporate investigations, forensic accounting, and fraud detection and prevention

Search engines consider LinkedIn a highly trusted site. As a result, when someone searches for you, a link to your LinkedIn profile will likely come in very high in the search returns.

Crafting the summary section

One of the most important sections of your LinkedIn profile is the summary section. Here is your chance (in 2,000 characters) to really tell your personal brand story in such a way that it matters to the reader.

When you write your summary section, consider it a one-on-one conversation with the person (or kind of person) you most hope will read it. What problems does that person have? What solutions do you offer that will help?

Use keywords that resonate with the reader and also help your profile get found when others search for the solutions you offer. If you mention your past experience, use it to prove that you’re now ready to help the reader.

Write in the first person to connect more personally with your readers. Let your personality show through so that the reader can connect with you as an interesting person.

LinkedIn doesn’t offer spell-checking. Draft your summary in Word or another editing program and then cut and paste it into LinkedIn.

To encourage business referrals from your LinkedIn network, use a portion of your summary section to explain what you do in terms that will bring you referrals from others your viewers may know. You can use links, photos, testimonials, and video to better represent who you are and what you have to offer the reader.

Boost your summary by describing your skills and other specialties using keywords appropriate for your industry that others will use to search for the kinds of solutions you provide.

Fill in the other basic information on the profile

LinkedIn’s resume-styled interface makes it easy to create an organized quick view that can help prove that you have sufficient experience, education, and/or expertise to successfully accomplish what you say you can do — in other words, to fulfill your personal brand promise. As a first cut, try to fill out this information completely, including any lists of examples of past projects completed that help substantiate your experience.

[Credit: Kelly Welch]
Credit: Kelly Welch

While it may look like a resume, LinkedIn is not one. It’s a communication document. Consider your personal brand and include the experience, education, and expertise you have that support that brand promise. LinkedIn, like all social media sites, is becoming increasingly more visual and better at providing ways for you to connect visuals and links to specific expertise you have. Take advantage of this.

As you fill out these sections, try to use keywords that resonate with your customers and prospects. In addition to making these sections much more compelling by doing so, you gain search rankings in Google if others search for your solution using the keywords you’ve chosen

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