5 Tips for Writing a Better LinkedIn Profile
“Everyone’s in sales,” Chris said to me on a conference call. Chris and I have been friends for 20+ years and this is the first time our paths have crossed professionally. I know he’s a great sales professional by reputation, but having a front-row seat to watch the magic happen firsthand made me think about my own role in sales.
Everyone truly is in sales. Whether you’re selling a product, selling an idea to your boss, or selling your experience to a potential employer—you, too, are a salesperson. And one of your greatest tools for the job is your LinkedIn profile.
I know what you’re thinking…not another blog entry on how important my LinkedIn profile is to my “personal brand” — what is this, 2004?
Hear me out, this isn’t that kind of entry. I’m loading it up with some practical tips you can use today. And they’re not all my tips either.
Scribewise and I are lucky to be working with the social media team at a giant technology firm. You’d know their name. They have hundreds of thousands of employees across the globe. And they hire some really smart and impressive people to lead the charge in social selling. Together, we’re piloting an effort to get their employees looking and sounding a little more interesting, a little more professional and a little more on-brand in their LinkedIn profiles. What you have here are some ideas gleaned from that effort—both strategic and tactical.
Tip 1: Start with the “Why”
If you’re a normal human being and not some egocentric sociopath, it can be hard to talk about yourself in glowing terms. This can make it hard to write a LinkedIn profile, which is why everyone defaults to thinking of it and using it as an online resume. But it can—and should—be so much more.
We’ve been using this question to help people identify their why, which helps everything on LinkedIn fall into place. Why do you do what you do, why are you motivated to pursue a certain career path, and why have you been successful?
Ask yourself this question: What has been the guiding philosophy throughout my career?
I’ll give you an example. One executive I asked this question said he is very active with the Salvation Army. Their tagline is “Doing the Most Good,” and he said that idea really resonates with him, both personally and professionally. He tries to live his life by that guiding ethos, and also brings it to his interactions with clients. He challenges himself to do the most good for them and their organization. It’s been the key to his success and helped him build a reputation as a trusted partner.
Those clients know he has their best interest at heart. They gave their business to him, not his organization.
Once you identify your own guiding philosophy, weave it into the storyline you develop about yourself on LinkedIn. Get stuck on how to describe something you’ve done? Go back to that one key point and rework it.
Tip 2: Do a LinkedIn Profile Audit
What does a good craft beer bar have in common with a great LinkedIn profile? Both are great destinations that get more visits based on their reputation!
If you’ve ever walked into a great craft beer bar, the bartender, or cicerone, can provide you an excellent customer experience by asking you a set of questions to lead you to what you should be drinking based on what you like. There is not a best craft beer for everyone, just like there is no one LinkedIn profile format or formula every should use.
The LinkedIn reputation lesson is that as a good craft beer stands out based on what one is looking for, then your reputation needs to describe yourself accurately, so you stand out with the correct crowd. And you can get to the realization that you need to change your LinkedIn profile by asking yourself some very pointed questions.
Here are 10 key questions to ask your sales teams, your leadership, or yourself about your (or your company’s) LinkedIn profile:
- Does your profile pic look like it belongs on the Wall of Shame? Take a professional-like photo, so you stop the social smirking about your silly looking image.
- Does your LinkedIn headline look like a job title that nobody really understands anyway? Why would you use this 120-character space for anything other than an elevator pitch to explain your value to separate you from the crowd?
- Does your LinkedIn summary tell your customer how they are going to help you make it to Presidents Club, 21 Club, or Winners Circle? Make your summary about the customer and network and how you can help them.
- Are you ‘Googleable’; including keywords throughout your LinkedIn profile that sum up your value that people are literally searching for on Google? If not, then include these ‘Googleable’ terms to your LinkedIn Endorsements section, Summary, Headline, Job Experience, Anchored Text to get found by those who are looking.
- Are you using your formal, baptismal, confirmation or any other name that would only be familiar to your mother? Your mother may be in your network, however, you need to include the name which you go by in the work place so others can find you.
- Are you employable? If you don’t have at least three current and past positions that include keywords and accomplishments to explain the value you added then add them immediately. The way in which you describe your job experience can add to the way that your network
- Does your LinkedIn profile show that you play well with others? If not, then get some Recommendations, Endorsements and Awards listed to show others what your first-grade teacher knows!
- Does your LinkedIn profile pass the reading, writing and arithmetic exam? If you are not writing in first person, have typos throughout your LinkedIn profile, use poor grammar and do not include any publications, videos or SlideShares that you’ve created then you fail this test. And, you let your competition go to the head of the class.
- Are you all dressed up (i.e., a polished profile at the LinkedIn dance, but acting as a wallflower would by not participating in the conversation? It’s one thing to get dressed up for a ‘dance’ with a great looking profile, but if you hang on the sidelines, then you are not helping your reputation – telling your story, your brand’s story or just being a part of the process. Get moving with LInkedIn group updates, daily status updates and asking people to connect with you.
- Are you driving your LinkedIn profile like there is no reputation speedometer? If you are fine-tuning your reputation’s engine then pay attention to the speedometer – how many people are viewing your profile, does your network view and share your updates, are people asking to network with you and accepting your invites? Paying attention to your reputation dashboard will help you reach your destination.
Tip 3: Make the Sale Above the Fold
We all do it. You have a conference call with someone new or you’re meeting a prospect for the first time. Checking out their LinkedIn profile is part of the research you do beforehand.
But how often do you dive into the fourth or fifth bullet of one of their jobs from 15 years ago on that profile? If you’re like me, pretty much never. You’ll read their headline, get an impression of what they do, scroll through the experience section to see where they’ve worked, and maybe glance at their schooling.
So, you really need to make the “sale” in your profile above the fold. This means focusing on your headline and the summary section.
A few best practices we’ve found help us create more effective LinkedIn profiles:
- Make the headline pop: Sure, you can default to your job title in the headline, but it’s not really a standout move. You’re leading with what you do instead of why you do it. A better approach is to offer a glimpse of yourself and frame it in terms that answer the question “what’s in it for me?” for your profile viewer. Think of this as a billboard on the highway…you have about three seconds to get someone’s attention flying by at 70 m.p.h.
- Spend time on the summary: The summary is where you tell the story of you. I like using a lead-in sentence (almost a “summary of the summary”) followed by a few short paragraphs that capture your value as a professional.
Here’s an example:
Tip 4: Humanize Yourself
Let’s be clear. LinkedIn is still a professional network. I’ve seen a bunch of non-professional nonsense making its way into my newsfeed recently. It’s not a dating site, it’s not Reddit, or a place to talk about your latest medical mishap.
That being said, you can humanize yourself in your profile in a professional way. Volunteer to save dogs? Lead a Girls on the Run group? Sit on a corporate or non-profit board? Work that into your profile in the Volunteer section. Likely, whatever you’re doing outside of work aligns in some way with your guiding philosophy, so it’s perfectly appropriate for your profile.
Here’s another practical tip for being a little more human. Check out your public profile URL. If it has a long random list of numbers at the end of it, there’s an easy way to get rid of them and customize your URL. Take a look at the simple instructions here.
Tip 5: Don’t Look Silly While Updating
Maybe you’re revising your LinkedIn profile for the first time in years and realize you have a lot of updates to make. The worst thing you can do is notify your network of every single update you decide to make. They’ll show up in your followers’ newsfeeds if you’re not careful.
To make sure you’re not sharing each and every profile edit, click Share profile changes to “No.” When you’re updating your profile, you’ll find it at the bottom of every section you’re editing, right above the Save button. Use it wisely!
I know updating your LinkedIn profile is laborious, and it’s so easy to push it down the to-do list when things get busy. But it’s important, because as they say, everyone is in sales. Even you.