Two people join LinkedIn per second, and it’s no wonder. The social media site for professionals provides opportunities for networking, job-hunting, hiring, promoting and career management. About 40 percent of LinkedIn’s 200 million users are American, and they represent a wide variety of industries, including higher education, information technology, financial services and retail.
Unfortunately, many LinkedIn users are missing out on opportunities—from job offers to business leads to self-promotion—because their profile comes across as unprofessional, haphazard or just plain uninspiring. Here, three experts explain the right way and the wrong way to present yourself on LinkedIn.
WB: Wayne Breitbarth, speaker, consultant and author of The Power Formula for Linkedin Success: Kick-start Your Business, Brand, and Job Search.
MD: Melonie Dodaro, international social media speaker and trainer, creator of the Top Dog Social Media blog and author of the free download Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile in 21 Easy Steps.
PG: Patrick J. Gallagher, speaker and author of the ebook LinkedIn Secrets Revealed.
A missing, inappropriate or poor-quality photo. “Your photo is your first chance to give someone searching for your product or service a sense of your brand. If it looks unprofessional, so do you.” PG
Blah headline. “Your headline is arguably the most important part of your LinkedIn profile. If your prospects aren’t captivated, they aren’t going to check out your profile.” MD
Not enough information. “You need to express your unique experience in 120 characters, including critical keywords. If you are looking for a job, your headline should clearly state that you are a job-seeker and what kind of position you are looking for.” WB
A blank activity feed. “This is a missed marketing and branding opportunity. You should be sharing great information and establishing yourself as a thought leader in your field.” WB
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Cutting and pasting the summary from your CV (cover letter). “A recruiter will look on LinkedIn to differentiate between two CVs. To get that interview, your summary needs to go beyond your CV and tell them what you can do for them.” PG
Lying. “We live in such a transparent world now. It’s so easy to verify facts that it’s important to be honest and transparent. Lying just makes you look bad.” MD
Including only resume-like information. “You have to share what’s different about you. Why should they choose to contact you over someone else? Use all the characters you’re allowed and differentiate yourself. Tell your story.” WB
Only including current or recent work. “Every job experience you list is another way for people to find you.” WB
Being endorsed for skills you don’t want to be found for. “Choose your top 10 to include your keywords, and even if connections offer to endorse you for other things, don’t add them until your top 10 are established.” WB
Inappropriate or unprofessional. “This isn’t Facebook. Always keep in mind the image you want to convey.” PG
No recommendations. “Recommendations are one of the most difficult things to get on LinkedIn, but they’re very important because they’re the only information that comes from someone other than you. They verify the information you are providing.” MD
Joining no groups, or only a few within your field. “This is a missed opportunity for networking. Many people say they don’t want to be bothered by email notifications, but it’s easy to turn those off.” WB
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A professional headshot of you smiling and dressed for business. “A good photo increases the all-important ‘know, like and trust’ factor for you and your business.” MD
Engaging, informative headline. “This is the most important real estate on a profile. That headline travels around with you on LinkedIn. It should give people enough information to make them want to click on your profile.” WB
“The ideal LinkedIn headline should consist of an attention-grabbing statement that includes or is followed by one of the keywords you want to be found for.” MD
Include links to three websites. “Use this area for branding purposes. You can include different pages of one website or even link to charities or other organizations that are important to you.” (Click on “Contact info” to add websites.) WB
Insert your own description for each website. “Do not use their generic labels such as ‘Personal Website.’ Click on ‘other’ and change the words to describe what you offer.” MD
Create a vanity URL. “It looks more professional and makes it easy for customers to find you.” PG
Update your activity feed several times a week. “This gives you exposure and credibility and also helps you turn up in LinkedIn searches.” WB
Summary speaks directly to target audience, in first person. “By reading this, people should get a sense of who you are, what you have to offer them and whether they want to connect with you.” WB
Contains your carefully identified keywords. “According to testing, [using] five keywords is optimal. Anything above five keywords puts you in the weeds.” PG
Uses every character available in each text field. “Search engines prefer higher word counts with many appropriate keywords.” MD
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Summary includes a link to a video. “A study done by Forbes found that 65 percent of C-suite executives visit a vendor’s website after watching their online video. Not that many people have video, so having one allows you to differentiate yourself. Include both your message and something of value to those who watch it.” MD
Ends with a call to action. “Always tell people exactly what they should do next, such as go to your website for more information on a particular topic. This increases the chance that they will engage further with you.” WB
Experience: Goes all the way back to your first job. “This widens your reach in terms of people you have something in common with.” WB
Includes hyperlinks to various media such as slide shows, images and documents. “This is just another way to tell your story.” WB
Education: Goes all the way back to high school to create a bigger network.
Projects: “If any of them apply to you, grab them. It’s all about differentiating yourself.” WB
“Use this area to profile what you’re currently working on or promoting.” MD
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Skills & Experience: Your 10 top skills are consistent with your chosen keywords, and you have lots of endorsements. “People will compare you to others based on skill endorsements.” MD
Recommendations: You have 10 or more. “Recommendations are better than endorsements because they show what differentiates you. Get two or three for every job or education entry you have.” WB
Groups: You are a member of 50 groups (the maximum allowed). “There’s a goldmine of opportunity in LinkedIn groups. Most people only join groups in their area. Remember, your ideal customers are not your peers. You need to join groups where your ideal clients [or connections] are located.” MD
Paula Boon is a freelance researcher, writer and editor whose work has appeared in publications in the United States and Canada.
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