By Marc W. Halpert LinkedIn Evangelist and Trainer connect2collaborate
©2014 all rights reserved
Social media is synonymous with interpersonal business connections. It’s an integral part of our everyday business life. Social media and business networking are conveniently combined in LinkedIn. But exactly what can you do to look your very best and portray yourself as THE person to work with? The answer lies with your role(s) in any of a number of business relationships you juggle:
- As an internal contact with coworkers
- As a client of diverse businesses and organizations
- As a part of a network where roles can blur and referrals are valued
- As a contact to outside vendors who are looking for your products or services
- As a recruitable candidate for your next big job
- As a business professional travelling through the journey of your career
Go further than the minimum
Looking at my LinkedIn homepage on any time of any day, mostly what I see is “Harry is now connected to Sally,” “John is now connected to David” etc. Only a small minority of the now 259+ million LinkedIn members are REALLY using the LinkedIn power tools beyond the all-too easy practice of connecting; however, savvy businesspeople need to start posting articles they like, expressing opinions, listing upcoming events, asking or answering questions, commenting on someone else’s posting, or (gasp!) talking about themselves.
So as a self-described LinkedIn evangelist and a contributor to the global personal learning network (PLN) that we share with each other via LinkedIn, I put into writing selections from educational seminars I have been giving nationally, to evangelize on the “Ten Steps to Stand Out From The Crowd on LinkedIn.” Here we go.
Tip 1. Never cut and paste sections from your résumé, which is by its definition a historically backward-looking document. LinkedIn allows you to show yourself in 3 tenses: your past experience, your present efforts and your future aspirations. Describe your rich experience in the various past positions you have held, climbing up the ranks and how it contributes to your current skillset and future abilities, in your own words, as you would verbalize to someone you just met.
Use short blocks of copy with keywords in rich easily digestible bites. Why? Short is good since we seem to have short attention spans in our busy day. Grab their attention immediately–your profile is the primary means of branding yourself as an internal (or external) change agent, an authority, an attractive business partner to someone seeking your skills, products or services.
Who better to add color and depth to your brand than you? When compared to a competitor, you need to make your profile shine in your own personal way.
The most important takeaway from my educational sessions is that you must convey in rich search-able terms WHY YOU: what values you distinctly bring to the proverbial table, with your unique perspective and clear reasons why you stand out from the crowd.
Tip 2. Borrow from the best you know; draw inspiration from others you respect. And adapt these inputs into a verbal brand in own personal speaking and writing style. But be sure to light up your LinkedIn profile with your own color. Use present tense, first person and the active voice (“I spearhead a project to…”). In your own words, aimed at the subsection of the LinkedIn audience you want to address, (a very different audience from that on the internet, your blog, FaceBook, or Twitter), tell WHO you really are.
Resist using techno-jargon in your field. Tell your story, concisely and articulately. Your depth and clarity will immediately increase and reflect well on you in your LinkedIn profile.
Tip 3. Write a dynamic personal tagline. That 120-character (which includes spaces!) lines of text under your name that LinkedIn calls your Professional Headline is the first impression you make in your profile. It defines you all over LinkedIn.
Your professional headline is your brand, so make it intriguing; clearly tell others “WHO you really are” not what your title/company is. Craft it carefully and rewrite it as you change, because you will change.
This exercise in self-definition has been exasperatingly healthy for my clients. The professional headline needs to be keyword-rich (for search results) yet easy to digest in a quick gulp.
Your current headline may say “Financial Director at XYZ Corporation,” but it is far better for LinkedIn’s headline/branding/search purposes to change it to “Seasoned corporate certified treasury professional with 20+ years’ experience in global payment management” (that’s 106 meaty characters including spaces, and truly accents WHO you really are). Doesn’t the revised version yield a lot more insight? So, everyone, tell us!
Tip 4. Develop your polished elevator pitch for your self-description, the essence of who you are, so it succinctly positions what you do. Then convert and expand on it for use in LinkedIn’s Summary section, to attract potential connections in a search. You have but a few seconds to capture the reader’s attention. A terse and intelligent Summary is your second chance to stand out.
It complements the WHY YOU aspects we have already touched on and reinforces your areas of expertise, experience, and suggests why you are further worthy of consideration for the requested LinkedIn connection. Sparingly, you can insert your usual industry jargon and acronyms here, if needed.
Tip 5. Describe your background, show yourself as greater than the sum of the experience you had. The Experience section also drives your personal search-ability in LinkedIn; knit in SEO keywords and terminology to improve being found in a search.
In describing your past experience, job by job, display your unique abilities in your line of work, personal skills and unique interests, values that round out your professional background and show you as a whole person. Use a note of humor, cite an excerpt from one of your publications, and express your professional passion.
Often ignored, the Certifications, Honors and Awards, Languages, and Publications sections further define WHO you are. If you have peer-given awards, received an honor, earned certifications, or can speak a foreign language for business, say so here. If you published, show it off here.
Tell us where you volunteer and what causes are important to you. Describe your work there and how you get satisfaction from it. It further rounds you out.
Finally what skills do you possess? Be specific. They are also searchable and you will receive endorsements for them.
Tip 6. You MUST have a good photo. A clear picture of what you look like, a friendly, approachable headshot is a basic, yet underutilized, tool to reinforce your brand. You can get creative and include your trade or products in your photo.
Potential business contacts will sometimes telephone you after reviewing your profile; so allow them to speak to you about that product or service they are inquiring about, while looking at your photo on LinkedIn. You don’t have to run out and get a professional headshot; a cropped hi-rez digital picture is fine, so long as it shows what you look like–your face is part of your brand.
Worst of all is not having a picture at all.
Tip 7. Further show your ideas and voice, different from the crowd. Attach powerful graphics to your Summary and Experience sections, to provide easy access to your multimedia presentations, adding even more depth to your profile. Add photos, PDFs, white papers, brochures, podcasts, slide decks, and/or video of you speaking or demonstrating how you perform your services. Sight and sound combined are more memorable than one of these senses alone.
Behind each graphic, link to a website that compliments the image you are conveying. The graphics you use in your Summary can be present-day demonstrations of the quality of your work and the graphics you use in the Experience section can show your past accomplishments in former positions.
Finally, be sure to give the reader a short blurb on what they are about to look at. This is a very limited space so be terse yet clear.
Tip 8. Get your profile to “all-star” level; claim a personalized LinkedIn URL. You don’t do anything 75% complete, do you? But don’t be lulled into complacency that an all-star profile (according to LinkedIn) is the end of the work you have to do. I would argue that you are just beginning…
Then personalize your LinkedIn URL, instead of using the default URL you were given when you joined LinkedIn. If you have numbers and letters at the end of your LinkedIn profile URL, you really need to personalize it. Now use that personalized URL on your business cards, email signature lines, correspondence and all other pertinent materials you produce so the reader can easily learn about YOU, in your own words, on LinkedIn. To learn how to do so, go to the Help Center.
Tip 9. Answer questions; ask questions in groups. Thoughtful, purposeful answers to questions in your expertise area add to your street credentials.
Answering questions to help others is not only a good deed, but also establishes you as an expert in your field. Not a bad reputation to have among groups of like-minded professionals!
Don’t hesitate to ask an open-ended question in LinkedIn groups to tap into your peers’ expertise–the results will amaze you. Ask questions to take the pulse of current thinking in your field or another area you need information. If you get a particularly stimulating answer, take the conversation offline get out and meet that person for a valuable connection now and in the future. I do believe that is called “link out!”
Tip 10. Recommend and get recommended. LinkedIn makes it really easy to give someone a recommendation or ask someone to recommend you for some specific aspect of your work.
Give recommendations to peers, subordinates, coworkers in other department, as a thank-you for great work and add an anecdote to tell what character that colleague uniquely demonstrated.
Ask clients, colleagues, vendors, partners for recommendations, guiding the writer in your request to comment in his/her own words, on a specific characteristic, such as your dedicated same-day follow up on a particular problem to ensure its solution, or your special TLC at an especially difficult time.
The “Halpert 2%” rule should apply: 2% multiplied times the number of your connections should equal the number of recommendation you post. That is to say 2% of your connections so greatly admire you as to be reliably called on to recommend you. Too many or too few recommendations can suggest a misconception about you.
You are always building your business reputation, and branding yourself as an expert further defines your business profile. We spend years and fortunes to reinforce ways to stand out in a crowded field. In social media, communicating is abundant and easy, but making the right impression is far harder. LinkedIn in particular, make this so much more efficient.
These 10 tips are not complex, should be undertaken in little blocs of time, and the time investment in accomplishing this should be taken seriously. Michelangelo said, “If people only knew how hard I work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” The process is dynamic; the results can be exciting. Let me hear good news from your implementing these tips and techniques.
Marc W. Halpert has started, and continues to operate, three companies in the past twelve years. In his third concurrent business, connect2collaborate, he uses his skills in networking and his LinkedIn evangelism to train and coach others. He has been widely recognized for his high-energy presentations and customized coaching focused on the personal branding necessary for each businessperson to succeed. He is a frequent speaker at national, regional and local conferences and has authored numerous articles on best practices of using LinkedIn as a powerful branding tool. He trains individuals, professional practice firms, nonprofits and companies in best practices.