In spite of its over 500 million global users, LinkedIn is still one of the most underused social media platforms. We’re not really sure what to do beyond creating an account, slapping together a rudimentary CV and maybe add a connection once in a blue moon, an issue that spans across profiles of all levels of seniority.
Some of the saddest things on the platform are profiles of people who are obviously very experienced, but that contain little more than a list of positions they’ve held over the years. Which isn’t just a loss for them but for those who look up to them, as well. LinkedIn is a very powerful network, if you know how to use it and today we’re looking at a few things you can do to give your profile a quick kick in the pants.
Customise your profile URL
Let’s start with something simple you can do right now and it will take you less than a minute. Go to your profile, click on Edit public profile & URL in the upper right-hand side section and, if you haven’t done so already, edit your LinkedIn URL to reflect your name and surname.
Not only does it help from an SEO/ discoverability standpoint but, seeing as you’re likely to share your profile, it’s much easier to do so when it reflects your name. Unfortunately, you may find that your name is already taken, in which case you’ll need to get creative using middle names.
Whatever option you go for, one thing I don’t recommend you include in your customised URL is your company’s name. I’ve seen it happen and it’s extremely impractical. If you change jobs you’ll need to update the URL every time and it conveys a clear message that it’s a company account, even when it’s not.
Communicate in sentences not lists
The most basic feature LinkedIn provides is also the most misused one. Creating your personal profile means more than just listing jobs and skills. It should be about conveying who you are as a professional, through your experience and skills.
The difference between the two is that the first leads to nothing more than a list of positions which, if we’re terribly lucky, contain a bullet point list of responsibilities, while the second tells people what your career is about and how your skills and experience make you really good at it.
It can be as short as a paragraph but try to keep it under three so as not to turn the description into a Great Wall of Text. Try to be mindful of the fact that, even though your job is complex, people shouldn’t have to go through mental gymnastics to get it, so it’s best to simplify responsibilities by focusing on their outcome, just like Guy Kawasaki does on his own LinkedIn profile.
Say something meaningful about yourself
Summaries are a really neat piece of LinkedIn real estate that people tend to misappropriate. Recruiters and sales execs, in particular, tend to use it as a home for their company’s description. Seeing as you probably spend quite a bit of time, money and effort trying not to come across as salesy or transactional, one thing you don’t want to do is come off as a mouthpiece for the company you work for. Bad news, that’s exactly what you look like when your LinkedIn profile is focused on the company, instead of who you are.
More often than not, people use company boilerplates as their LinkedIn descriptions because it’s easier and they really don’t know what to say. A good way around this is by dealing with it once you’ve completed your entire profile.
It’s much easier to write up a Me in a nutshell piece once you’ve built the entire profile. Focus on your achievements, what your career goals are and how working with you translates into a unique experience.
Include a good, human profile photo
For people to be comfortable around you, you need to look like a person with a personality not a corporate mascot or a butterfly on vacation. That means that you should stay away from very rigid-looking profiles, wearing business suits, beach shots or, much worse, not containing your face at all.
Go for portraits that are casual-business, allow people to easily see your face and express an emotion. Profile photos are hard. Really hard. Photographers tend to take them in bulk and what you end up with are pictures you look good in rather than photos that convey your personality, which when trying to do business with people you’ve not met before, is extremely important.
I encourage you to check a photographer’s portfolio, talk to them before you book a shoot, make sure they understand what you’re looking for and they’re willing to put in the time and effort to come up with non-generic photos that express who you are. It’s well worth it.
Target your posts
LinkedIn is a social network and if you ignore its social aspect, it won’t be too kind to you. That means that a successful profile is an active one so we need to put in a little bit of effort into posting our own content, as well as engaging with other users’ content.
When it comes to posting your own stuff, make sure you access the post settings section and select your audience accordingly. If you have a Twitter account, you can choose to also share your LinkedIn post on Twitter. I do, however, encourage you to tailor your posts for each social network, since even with the latest Twitter character count update, you may go over the 280 limit.
The Bottom Line
LinkedIn is a great social network for both you and the company you work for. While you you can act as its ambassador, remember that you are not the brand you work for. As such, your LinkedIn profile needs to reflect your individuality, accurately convey your professional background and provide people with enough context that they become interested in working with you.