LinkedIn is the #1 most critical site for leaders to express a personal brand message to employers.
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 maximize LinkedIn best practices for executives:
1) Your LinkedIn Headline is Much More Than Your Executive Job Title.
By default, LinkedIn picks up your current job title and displays it as your Headline. This is NOT the best way to represent your brand, especially if you want to rise from VP of Operations to COO, Director FP&A to CFO, pursue a Board seat, and so on.
Instead, take the time to craft a strong executive LinkedIn Headline using keywords and achievement, such as:
VP of IT. Cloud, Digital Transformation, & Technology Initiatives Supporting Global M&A, Product Strategy, & New Market Entry. Strengthen Security, Operations Efficiency, & Data Privacy in Manufacturing & CPG Settings
See A Fast Formula for a Powerful LinkedIn Headline for more best LinkedIn practices at the executive level.
2) Updating Your Profile Doesn’t Automatically Signal an Executive 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.
3) Your LinkedIn Activity Will Affect Your Executive Brand & Ranking.
ALL of your LinkedIn actions will shape public perception of you as an executive leader, but your Activity Feed, including posts and comments, is critical. Keep it clean and professional!
Take a look at other Profiles and you’ll see an Activity section displaying their actions for months.
If your activity on LinkedIn isn’t aligned with your professional interests (especially if you’re focused on politics or other potentially inflammatory subjects), stop and reconsider the message you’re sending. Instead, avoid publishing anything at odds with your professional brand.
LinkedIn is also paying CLOSE attention to how “engaged” you are with other users, showing your Profile more often if you’re involved in genuine interaction and routinely sharing relevant content.
By increasing the number of times you post or comment on topics of interest to your professional network, you’ll see an uptick in the volume of visitors to your Profile. However, merely issuing a “Like” to another user’s post won’t cut it.
Don’t know what to post? See Hannah Morgan’s tips in 25 Inspiring Ideas for What to Post on LinkedIn.
Stay informed by reading about changes in LinkedIn’s algorithm, as well as watching how other executives leverage best practices in using LinkedIn. You needn’t spend all day on social media, but knowing how to get better visibility will be a boon to your job search.
4) Using Other Sections of LinkedIn Can Elevate Your Online Presence.
To leverage LinkedIn’s best practices for your executive career, consider adding videos, white papers, awards, foreign language skills, certifications, or professional memberships on your Profile.
Not only will your articles and posts be selectively highlighted (in a new showcase area on LinkedIn called Featured), but you could be missing out on important personal promotion opportunities.
Even better, 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 and your Projects entries can help showcase your success stories (see Grab Recruiter Attention With LinkedIn Projects).
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 adding new information in these sections, you could experience a boost in new Connections or recruiting requests.
5) The First 40 Words in Your About Section are CRITICAL.
When someone views your Profile, your About section only shows a few lines of text! This means most people see just your first 282 characters (147 on LinkedIn’s mobile app).
As mentioned in 282 Reasons to Rewrite Your LinkedIn About Summary, 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:
6) Accepting (Most) Connections Can Help Get You Where You Want to Go.
Don’t automatically reject connection invitations! Most social media experts say you should keep an open mind about building your network – even as an executive.
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.
The only time you should ignore another user is when the Profile has very few connections, and a search on the Profile reveals questionable details such as fictitious company names or a photo copied from elsewhere on the web.
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) Your LinkedIn Photo Can Either Help (or Hurt) Your Executive Brand.
Just about everyone makes snap judgments based on visual impressions; employers are no different. Don’t make the mistake of spending hours on your LinkedIn Profile, only to add a headshot unworthy of your brand.
To get an idea of the right photo, study headshots of other leaders in your field. You can also post your headshot to Photofeeler.com, where you will receive user feedback on the emotions, such as trust, conveyed by your picture.
Looking the part is important! The right headshot tells peer executives, employers, and subordinates a story of your personality, confidence, and leadership skills.