As the most critical site for leaders to express their personal brand, LinkedIn is the place to see and be seen.
But are you making the most of it? If your LinkedIn activity has been relegated to updating a few words and reading status updates, you could be missing out on significant opportunities. Employers and executive recruiters WILL search for you online! By crafting a strategy for how to present yourself and build a leadership presence, you’ll be better positioned for job search results. Here’s what you need to know to extract the best out of LinkedIn:
1 – Updating Your Profile Doesn’t Automatically Signal a Job Search.
Yes, others will see that you’ve made changes… but will your boss confront you about it? If my conversations with executives are any indication, probably not. In fact, I can assure you that your CEO is either doing the same or thinking about it. You can prevent announcements of your updates (see your Privacy Settings for more information), but there’s no way to keep others from seeing them forever. If you are still concerned about “giving yourself away,” either update your Profile slowly over time, or apply changes from the bottom up to start getting stronger traffic from keyword searches. Less-obvious activity can still help you get the benefit of a well-designed keyword strategy.
2 – What You Like or Comment On Forms a Significant Part of Your LinkedIn Brand.
ALL of your LinkedIn activity (Likes, Comments, Posts, Articles) will shape public perception of you as an executive leader. Take a look at your colleague’s Profiles and you’ll see an Activity section showing the past 5-6 actions they’ve taken, whether it’s contributing their own input or simply raising that article’s visibility by liking it. It goes without saying that if your activity on LinkedIn isn’t aligned with your professional interests (and it’s leaning toward inflammatory subjects including news reports or political debates), stop and reconsider the message you’re sending. Your best bet is to follow thought leaders in your field and companies that interest you, with brand-appropriate commentary on subjects reflecting your expertise.
3 – Your Headline Shouldn’t Be Left to Chance.
LinkedIn is so eager to provide you with a ready-made Headline that it will pick up your current job title as a default. While COO, XYZ Manufacturing might seem good enough, it’s still leaving out plenty of information about you as a leader. If you’re like most executives, it might seem awkward to brag about your achievements. Rest assured, though: plenty of social media users (including those competing for your next C-suite job) are already doing it. Read A Fast Formula for a Powerful LinkedIn Headline for some straightforward alternatives, including ways to pull in a career-defining accomplishment without over-the-top self-promotion.
4 – Leveraging Other Corners of LinkedIn Can Separate You From the Pack.
Have you added videos, white papers, awards, foreign language skills, certifications, or professional memberships to your LinkedIn Profile? You could be missing out on little-used sections of LinkedIn that can add credence to your brand message. In addition, some of these sections appear to have a strong pull in the site’s search algorithm. For example, a Cybersecurity credential added in Certifications could further distinguish you in a search on technology executives. The next time LinkedIn prompts you to consider adding more career-focused data, take a closer look at Certifications, Honors & Awards, Publications, Projects, Languages, Test Scores, Courses, Patents, Volunteer Experience, and Organizations. By identifying and adding new information in these sections, you could experience a boost in new Connections or recruiting requests.
5 – The First 40 Words in Your Summary Are Critical.
With LinkedIn’s continual new rollouts, your Summary snapshot (what is shown when another user clicks on your Profile) reveals only some of your text – so just the first 282 characters, including spaces (147 on LinkedIn’s mobile app) will be shown. As mentioned in 282 Reasons to Rewrite Your LinkedIn Summary Now, most people will not take the time to read further, so it’s best to put salient information up front. I recommend including your target role and career level, as well as notable skills and achievements. Keep it light on the bullets or special characters to preserve space. This example shows a great Summary introduction that can turn heads: COO, Global Electronics Manufacturing. Turnarounds in PE-Owned & Public Companies (US, EMEA, APAC). 20% Annual Gains in Operating Efficiency. Sales & Ecommerce Strategies for Fast Growth & Strong Consumer Response. Cultural Change & Team Mentoring for Better Productivity & Cost Control.
6 – Accepting (Most) Connections Can Help Get You Where You Want to Go.
It’s never been a good idea to reject every invitation on LinkedIn. Even if you don’t personally know a user who reaches out to you for a Connection, you can start building a relationship. The first step, of course, is actually accepting the request. As outlined in Are You Still Rejecting Connection Requests?, you’ll build a strong brand and elevate your reputation among other leaders by broadening your network. At least 500 to 1,000 connections seem to be the tipping points for a well-optimized network.
7 – Using the Right Photo Will Strengthen Your Message.
Just about everyone makes snap judgments based on visual impressions; employers are no different. Spending hours on your LinkedIn Profile, then adding a headshot unworthy of your reputation creates cognitive dissonance in your message (which is marketing-speak for confusion). Now is the time to create a strong strategy for your LinkedIn Photo, whether this means studying headshots of other executives for competitive intelligence or contacting a professional photographer. Looking the part is important! The right headshot tells peer executives, employers, and subordinates a story of your personality, confidence, and leadership skills.
So don’t leave your executive brand message to chance on LinkedIn! Take the time to plan and execute an effective strategy for populating important sections and expressing your executive strengths.