When LinkedIn debuted in 2003, it was merely an online resume and an entree to e-networking. Since then, LinkedIn has continuously enhanced its offerings – transforming into a complete career management resource. Our mindset about how to use LinkedIn, however, has not evolved as quickly as the product. If you haven’t changed your approach to LinkedIn, you’re missing out on some of the biggest benefits. Here are five elements of LinkedIn that most executives I know are not using correctly – or aren’t using at all – along with suggestions for maximizing them.
1. Headline. Your headline has the same function as the headline of an advertisement; its primary purpose is to get the target audience to want to read on. Yet most LinkedIn members think “headline = job title.” If you don’t write a headline, LinkedIn uses your current job title as a default, and that’s a real snooze. To have your headline work for you, it should say what you do and entice people to learn more about your services. Don’t make it all about you; make it about the people you serve. Tell viewers what you can do for them. The second crucial function of the headline is to serve as an online “magnet.” If you want to be found in a search, you have to pack your headline with the keywords for which you want to be known. Making this an even greater challenge, you need to accomplish all that in just 120 characters. Here are some excellent examples of headlines from LinkedIn trainer and coach Anne Pryor:
Amanda Klein, MBA: Director of Strategy & Marketing at Star ★ Creating + Building Lasting Impressions for Exhibits & Events
Gordon (Gordy) Curphy, PhD: #1 Leadership Author | Coaching & Consulting Leaders, Teams & Organizations on Improving Efficiency & Effectiveness
Dustin Wellik, PHR: Talent Acquisition Lead – Consumer & Industrial Business Groups | Recruiter at 3M | Be part of what’s next!
Anne Elizabeth Denny: End-of-Life Speaker, Blogger, Author and Software Innovator Inspiring Thoughtful Advance Care Planning
And one more thing. If you’re looking for work, don’t use hollow headlines such as “Seeking my next big adventure” or “Currently open to new opportunities.” Those will work against you in a search (where are your keywords?) and the implication that you’re not being productive right now makes you less attractive to some prospective employers.
2. Groups. Most LinkedIn members I know spend their time on connections – sending requests and adding people to their network – yet the real value of the site is found in the groups, a powerful resource hidden under the Interests menu Groups serve three functions:
They amplify your message. Many groups have tens of thousands of members or more. Yet according to Craig Smith in “By the Numbers: 100 Amazing LinkedIn Statistics,” the average number of groups to which members belong is just 7. You can belong to 50. An infographic prepared by Brandon Gaille revealed that over two thirds of LinkedIn members have fewer than 500 1st-level connections. If you post to your network you can reach a few hundred potential people. With groups, you can amplify that by 100 or even 1,000 times. LinkedIn groups provide one of the best personal branding opportunities you have with social media.
They help you build and nurture your network. When you join groups related to your area of expertise, you can easily connect with like-minded professionals and leaders who can help you reach your goals. Think of groups as professional associations with no geographic limits and meetings that are available to you 24/7. Try out a few groups to see if they are right for you. Ask yourself: Are these my people? Do I want to connect with these people? Do I have content and value to contribute? Am I willing to be a regular part of their conversation?
They enable you to do your job better. Groups provide a type of on-the-job learning that you can’t get anywhere else. You see which topics are hot, you get introduced to new resources, and you learn and grow each time you take a look at the conversations. They can challenge your thinking or provide data that helps reinforce your beliefs. You can also use groups to source staff, build partnerships and open doors to prospective clients.
3. Multi-media. LinkedIn allows you to integrate images and video directly into your profile, yet most profiles I see don’t contain any multi-media content. Thanks to technology, a picture really is worth a thousand words. With this new feature, you can add tens of thousands of words without turning your profile into a huge, boring whitepaper on the brand called you. According to a study by W.H. Levie & R. Lentz, published in the Educational Communications and Technology Journal, visuals impact us cognitively and emotionally. Cognitively, images speed up and expand our level of communication and increase comprehension, recollection, and retention. Emotionally, visuals engage our imagination and heighten our creative thinking by stimulating other areas of our brain – which translates into deeper and more accurate understanding. By embedding images and video into your summary and your experiences sections, you go from being boring to being a compelling brand. And, because most people aren’t using this feature, it helps your profile stand out. When I added a video reel of my public speaking to my summary, views of that video increased by 25%.
4. Endorsements. Let’s face it. Endorsements seem silly. Yet we make judgments about people based on the skills for which they were endorsed, and LinkedIn showcases those skills in a way that delivers tremendous visual impact. Whether they admit it or not, people are evaluating your expertise this way, so you must work to get your key skills endorsed so that the top ten are displayed in the order of importance to your career success. Yes, LinkedIn gives you control over that. To make it happen, choose the skills for which you want to be endorsed. Pick the ones that bolster your personal branding and will help you advance your career. Be willing to delete endorsements for skills that just muddy the waters.
Giving targeted endorsements is a great way to acknowledge others. Giving them randomly – whenever LinkedIn suggests you should, whether you actually know about the person’s expertise in that area, has little value. It can even undermine your perceived integrity. It’s best to give endorsements when they are timely, such as when a colleague demonstrates her project management skills or an employee of yours makes a great leadership decision. Endorsements like these mean more to the recipient.
5. Headshot. In a world where most people meet us online before they do in person, people want to connect a face with a name. In addition, your headshot can get you noticed. According to LinkedIn Career Expert Nicole Williams “ You’re 11 times more likely to have your profile looked at if you have a photo. ” Your headshot should add credibility to your profile – so make it professional. It’s not just about having a photo. It’s about having theright photo. To make your mug work for you:
- Have your face capture about 80% of the space. Remember that the shot will be used as a thumbnail, far beyond the top of your listing. Whole body shots are too small to see – especially in sections like endorsements.
- Face forward or to the left, looking into your LinkedIn content. Don’t look off-screen.
- Be professional and engaging – save the selfies and vacation shots for Facebook. Make the viewer want to get to know you.
What’s your favorite LinkedIn Feature?