A great LinkedIn profile is an important part of your professional image.
While it started as a job hunting platform, LinkedIn has evolved into something greater. Today, it’s the world’s largest social network for professionals, and a go-to location for networking, building connections, exploring opportunities, and learning new things.
Here are a few interesting statistics: [Source: Hootsuite, 2021]
- 4 out of 5 people on LinkedIn “drive business decisions”.
- LinkedIn has 15x more content impressions than job postings.
- With Covid-19 restrictions limiting in-person networking, LinkedIn saw a 55% increase in conversations among connections in 2020.
The first step towards using LinkedIn effectively is to create a great LinkedIn profile. So let’s get started.
Step 1: Select a professional profile image
Your profile image is the first thing people notice on LinkedIn. It takes centre stage at the top of your profile and it shows up on every status update, post, search result, and group discussion.
I highly recommend hiring a photographer to take professional photos, at least every year or so. If that’s not an option, seek out a friend with a new-ish iPhone. You’re going to be identified (and judged) by that image, so skip the selfie.
Here are a few tips:
- Use a headshot instead of a full body photo (to avoid looking like an ant-person)
- Smile but don’t go overboard (you’re aiming for confident and capable)
- No strange filters or special effects
- A simple, solid background is best
How do you want to be perceived by others? If your photo doesn’t match with the vibe you want to send out, take another one!
Step 2: Create a customized cover photo
Don’t just upload an abstract background image. Worse yet, don’t leave that giant space blank.
This is an opportunity to communicate something about yourself. And unlike the profile photo, the cover photo is something you definitely can do yourself.
I’m a big fan of Canva. It makes it easy to create visually appealing, properly sized visuals. I have a paid subscription but even the free version is fun and will help you out.
Tip: Before declaring your cover photo ‘perfect’, be sure to check it out on a laptop, tablet, and phone. That cover photo with a tagline may look great on your laptop. But, on your phone, the message can end up being blocked out by your profile image.
Step 3: Write a powerful headline
Your LinkedIn headline should clearly define what you do. When someone reads your headline, they should immediately understand how you help people.
If you’re the CEO of a universally recognized organization, that’s all you need to say. But for the rest of us, job titles aren’t enough. Let’s use myself as an example.
I’m a business owner and proud of it! But unless you know what my company does, this declaration isn’t enough to get people excited.
So I lead by clearly articulating WHAT I do:
Content Strategist. Writer. Educational Content Specialist.
Then I use the remaining space to identify WHERE I work.
CEO of Trust Communications. Managing Partner of The Canadian Diversity Initiative.
What NOT to put in your headline
If you’re between jobs, don’t put your employment status in your headline. We all know that “seeking new opportunities” is business speak for “out-of-work”. And truthfully, it can seem a little desperate. Instead, focus on the positives: your skillsets and superpowers!
While we’re on the subject of business speak…
Stay away from buzzwords. No one needs a ‘visionary’, ‘guru’, ‘superstar’, or ‘ninja’. In fact, most people roll their eyes at these bits of silliness, and eye rolls are definitely NOT what you’re trying to achieve.
Avoid using jargon anywhere in your profile. In fact, avoid using it in any type of professional communication!
Step 4: Create an impactful ‘About’ section
The ‘About’ section is the best place to showcase who you are and what you bring to the table. Leaving this summary section blank or casually throwing some sentences into the space does you a disservice in the long run.
There are countless online articles offering advice and examples. When you’ve got time, google “how to make a LinkedIn summary”. Loads of creative ideas will pop up.
Remember that your summary also tells people about your communication skills, so make sure it’s well-written. Nothing creates a worse first impression than spelling errors and sloppy punctuation.
Tip: Make sure the first two lines are compelling and can stand on their own. When someone looks at your profile, those two lines will be all they see, unless they click ‘see more’.
Step 5: Add social proof
As we all remember from elementary school, the most engaging part of Show-and-Tell was definitely SHOW.
Social proof is how you show people that you’re telling the truth. There are several types of social proof you can use in your LinkedIn profile, including:
- Books and/or Ebooks
- Publications/websites that have published your authority content
Of the available options, I believe recommendations are the most valuable. There’s nothing better than having REAL people contribute testimonials.
Even if you’re in the early stages of your career, you should be able to get at least two or three recommendations. Besides past employers and clients, you might look for recommendations from co-workers, teachers, volunteer leaders, community leaders, etc.
Step 6: Make sure your contact information is complete
You want people to connect with you. At a minimum, the contact section should include an email address, phone number, website, and social media links.
Also, set up a custom LinkedIn url. It looks more professional and it’s more effective from an SEO perspective.
Tip: Review your contact information regularly. Nothing sends up a red flag like a disconnected phone number or a link to a website that’s no longer available.
Last words about great LinkedIn profiles
Creating a great LinkedIn profile is just the beginning. Once you’re up and running, it’s time to push forward and start building your professional community:
- Send LinkedIn invitations to everyone you know.
- After meetings and networking events, make it a habit to send LinkedIn invitations to people you’ve met. This is a great way to solidify new relationships.
- Don’t obsess about follower count. Instead, focus on interacting with your existing connections. Check the news feed daily. Make positive comments. Share posts. LinkedIn is a “social” network – so be social!
- Ask clients and collaborators to provide LinkedIn references. Keep adding to your arsenal of social proof. And don’t forget to provide LinkedIn references to others.
- And remember that your LinkedIn profile is a living online document. Keep it up-to-date.