If someone asked you to define LinkedIn, what would you say? You would probably say it’s like Facebook, only professional. Well, you’re not the only one. LinkedIn has been known by many as “Facebook in a Suit” but those who actually understand LinkedIn and the power it possesses in shaping your personal brand, your business strategy, your network and your clients would never utter these four words.
LinkedIn’s logo is “Relationships Matter” and in the simplest of terms, it can be defined as a social networking platform that allows you to leverage your network and the relationship you share for your professional or your business’ development. LinkedIn is also considered the biggest contributor to creating a personal brand. A sound profile speaks volumes about the person’s professional ethics and career ambitions. To the person viewing the profile, it simply means that “He/She means business.” Let’s be clear that LinkedIn is NOT your online résumé, so please do not showcase a tailored side of you. LinkedIn acts as a résumé, cover letter, reference document, database of your contacts , and a place where you can learn, share knowledge and interact in a professional manner. In the following three steps you will learn how you can build a powerful personal brand allowing you to show potential recruiters, collaborators and clients – that you are a versatile, multitalented individual and a thought leader in your niche, worthy of being invested in.
Step 1: Branding Your Profile
This is the point where you start Branding yourself. Your profile is a reflection of you or who you want to be. Don’t be modest. Be real. The person viewing your profile knows nothing about you and would be judging you. Might as well give them something to judge.
- Ensure that your profile is flawless in terms of grammatical errors. Fill it in completely, leaving out no experiences, volunteer work, courses, skills, etc. Use a professional profile picture, rather than a cropped one. Avoid clichés and just be authentic, simple!
- Use a custom URL. This means your LinkedIn URL should appear as “http://linkedin.com/in/yourfullname.” This allows Google to rank you higher and makes it easier for people to find you.
- Create a distinctive profile headline. Your LinkedIn headline is the first description that people see of you. So, make that first impression last. The default headline would be the current post you have and you would have to change it manually. A good headline is clear, confident and uses terms that people search for.
- A summary is very important. It allows you to, well, tell your story. Some of the elements to feature in your summary are – Differentiating factors (Why You?), The What’s In It For Me? (WIIFM) factor, your USP, your Mission Statement, your Professional Journey, your Assets & Skills, and How to Connect With You.
- When it comes to experience, don’t just list the past few jobs you’ve had. List all your jobs and internships. Describe them and your achievements, in an organised manner. (I would suggest doing this in Microsoft Word, in bullet form, and then doing a simple copy-paste!)
- Ensure that you fill your profile with keywords, get recommendations, and make it as visibly attractive (with certificates, presentations, etc) as possible!
Step 2: Developing Your Network
Before I go any further, I would like to explain to you that there are two approaches to networking on LinkedIn. The first is called Strategic Networking, in which the focus is on the quality of connections not quantity. This is used by most LinkedIn users who prefer to have deeper relationships with their connections. The other, called Open Networking or LION, is used mostly by sales representatives and recruiters, is about quantity. LIONs would have over thousands of connections. I advocate for Strategic Networking as my belief is that if you cannot “pick up the phone and call somebody” and know that they would help you, then what’s the point of being connected with them? Hence, going forth – I would provide you tips on building your network, strategically.
- The first step towards building a strategic network is importing your contacts. LinkedIn allows you to select and import your contacts from your mail. I suggest that you be extremely harsh on yourself when you do this and select only those after asking yourself, “Can I call him/her?”
- While it’s important to keep your circle tight, it is equally important to be open and available to accepting contact requests and continuing conversations through LinkedIn’s messaging facilities. This allows you to build new, deep relationships with those who would like to invest in you and vice versa.
- As mentioned above, ensure that you leave your contact details at the end of your summary as people cannot connect with without your email id. If not there, then make sure that it is present in your Contact field and is public.
- Promote your Custom URL. Simply put your custom URL in your email signature, your traditional résumé, your blog/website, your presentations, and if possible your business cards.
- Stand out by Updating Your Status. Yes, updating your LinkedIn status is an important process of developing your network as this allows you to be visible to your extended network. Talk about projects you’re working on, stuff you’re reading (with your opinion) and events you’re attending. If your status is liked, commented upon or shared, your second and third degree connections have the chance of seeing you. Hence, making it easier to find you. Of course, keep the tone professional. Remember your brand is not just who you are, but what you do!
Step 3: Become A Thought Leader
The third and final step of Personal Branding with LinkedIn is simply the most rewarding, and my personal favourite. LinkedIn provides you with the facility to become a Thought Leader in your niche. This professional networking platform will help you gain attention, followers (not official connections), clients and maybe even a new job!
- LinkedIn Groups provide an amazing opportunity for you to share your opinions and views regarding a topic of your interest. You can help people by answering queries there or simply just contribute and learn from them. You can also create a LinkedIn Group around a topic that you want to “own” rather than one based on your Company. By starting a group, you’re already portraying yourself as a Leader. Invite your connections and promote your Group on other Social Media platforms. But don’t forget to deliver valuable content consistently otherwise it could work against you.
- Make full use of the LinkedIn’s Publishing Platform. The Publishing Platform allows you to write long-form posts regarding any subject of your choice. It permits you to follow other publishers and gain a following of your own in the process. These posts show up on your LinkedIn Pulse and your LinkedIn profile. This means that when someone views your profile, your thought leadership is also showcased.
- Start a LinkedIn Event. LinkedIn Events are strictly for professional interests or for conferences. By starting your own networking event, you can easily promote among your LinkedIn connections, as well as your second and third degree networks. It’s a great way to become known as a connecter and a leader.
- Always remember to participate and engage in conversations and discussions. If someone asks a question pertaining to a topic that you have knowledge about, you must take this opportunity to answer it. This way you would be perceived as a valuable contributor and a go-to person for help in a particular subject.
While the above three steps are fundamental to personal branding with LinkedIn, it’s necessary to understand that LinkedIn is only a part of Personal Branding. It must be consistent with the rest of your online presence as well. This means you should be using the same avatar, your full name and your personal branding statement on all your social media platforms, your blog/website and industry specific social networks. Also, decide how much time you would like to invest in LinkedIn as opposed to other platforms. Keep in mind that by building your personal brand on LinkedIn, you’ll be where people are searching for you and you’ll have access to those people who can help you build your brand now, and in the future.
A final piece of advice to those who plan to build their personal brand with LinkedIn – be consistent, be personal and be generous. You never know what great wonders consistently creating value for people can do for you!
Social Media Consultant
For more inquiries on Social Media Branding, connect with Gurnoor at: firstname.lastname@example.org