There are more than 300 million LinkedIn users in over 200 countries. How can you possibly stand out in a crowd that large? The answer lies in your personal brand. Who are you and what do you stand for? What have you achieved throughout your career? By building a stronger LinkedIn brand you can attract more attention from recruiters and open the door to more career possibilities.
Personal branding as a concept was first described by author and management expert Tom Peters who said, “We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”
The Personal Branding Wiki defines branding as “the process by which individuals and entrepreneurs differentiate themselves and stand out from a crowd by identifying and articulating their unique value proposition, whether professional or personal, and then leveraging it across platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal. In this way, individuals can enhance their recognition as experts in their field, establish reputation and credibility, advance their careers, and build self-confidence.”
5 Tips For Building Your Brand On LinkedIn
Branding matters because it helps you to differentiate yourself. On LinkedIn, this means building a “Brand You” platform. Here are some tips for building your brand on LinkedIn:
1. Choose your brand focus
The key place to highlight your career targets is your LinkedIn headline. At a minimum, yours should contain your target title(s), industry(ies), #1 geographic preference, and skill keywords. Since you only have 120 characters to work with, you will have to keep your headline brief. Here are a couple of examples that show different ways to achieve this goal.
Headline sample #1 (117 characters): Senior Operations Executive/CEO in Chicago Electronics Manufacturing Sector | Excel at Lean Six Sigma Transformations
Headline sample #2 (120 characters): Saved >$750M & positioned >$3.5B in biotech sales | Healthcare IT Exec | CIO/CISO/CTO | Open to US or global relocation
- There are several important things to note about these examples:
- Non-critical words are omitted to make every syllable count.
- A divider is used in place of a semi-colon to increase readability.
- Title abbreviations and other keywords make up 98% of their content.
- The first example summarizes the candidates’ career targets and key skills while the second emphasizes achievements.
These kinds of headlines are easily used by those who are job searching overtly. If you’re in a covert search, you may need to tone down or eliminate one or more elements to achieve the level of self-marketing you’re most comfortable with.
2. Prove your UVP
If your claim to fame is generating sales, then your LinkedIn profile needs to prove your abilities to do so. Use your summary to deliver that proof through mini achievement statements or by structuring your whole summary as one or more CAR stories (Challenge – Actions – Results). Utilize personality adjectives, quotes, awards, career credentials/pedigree, or thought leadership to make your case. You might want to check out these summary mini-templates for more help in this area.
- Use personal adjectives sparingly and choose them very carefully. All you need is one to three great descriptors, which should, of course, be the most relevant characteristics you possess in relation to your targeted career(s).
- Don’t repeat LinkedIn testimonials, but do consider adding additional quotes about your background and capabilities. You can draw these from emails, verbal expressions, thank you letters, letters of recommendation, or performance evaluations. Giving insight into how others think about you helps communicate your brand.
- If possess key degrees or certifications that are relevant to your career goal(s), note them in your summary. Or, if you have experience working for industry-leading companies in your field, make mention of those experiences.
- If you are a current or emerging thought leader in your industry with some combination of speaking, training, honors/awards, or publications to your name, it is vital to highlight this briefly in your summary.
3. Infuse your profile with keywords
By now you have hopefully heard how important keywords are to an effective and brand-driven LinkedIn profile. Because the LinkedIn search algorithm sources keywords from different locations in your profile, it’s important to include them throughout:
- Headline: I’ve already noted this so I won’t belabor the point, but it is imperative to include industry-relevant keywords in your headline.
- Summary: Likewise, they must be used throughout your profile. You will often also see folks adding a Skills or Specialties “section” in their profile, which is another great way to boost your profile’s keywords.
- Position Titles: LinkedIn allows you to use up to 98 characters in your title spaces so this is a legitimate way to sneak in still more keywords. Adding a shortlist of key skills used in the role after your title would be a great strategy.
- Position Descriptions: In addition to or instead of weaving keywords into your position titles, you can also insert them as a list within your job descriptions. LinkedIn allows you 2000 characters per position, so this should be plenty of space to incorporate multiple keywords per role.
- Skills & Endorsements: This skills section is one of the most critical keyword pieces of real estate on LinkedIn. Hence it’s vital that you identify 50 keywords encompassing your target industry(ies) and insert them in this section. Make sure you move the most relevant keywords toward the top of your list to cultivate endorsements. And also make sure you use alternative phrasing for your most critical keywords. If you excel at relationship management, for example, try including stakeholder management in your list as well, so regardless of which term is used your profile will rank higher.
- Additional Sections: Don’t overlook additional keyword placement in the extra sections LinkedIn allows you to add to your profile. If you just finished an MBA, for example, why not list some of your courses? This will embed more keywords for you. Listing recent professional development coursework and associations also help.
4. Request brand-focused testimonials
Did you know that LinkedIn identifies the keywords used in the testimonials others have written about you and counts them toward the total that helps rank your profile in searches? When soliciting testimonials from current and former managers, colleagues, clients, and peers, you’ll find it helps if you gently direct their testimonial toward select keywords.
If you worked on a project with a colleague, for example, ask them to focus their testimonial on your project management skills. Not only will this boost your LinkedIn keyword count, but it will also make your testimonial more insightful for your profile readers.
5. Share brand-driven status/group updates
One of the most powerful ways to bolster your LinkedIn brand is to share regular updates or resources via the status update or Group discussion forums, yet only .4% of users ever share, say, a blog post they enjoyed. Sharing updates and prompting or participating in Group discussions helps broadcast your brand throughout the greater LinkedIn community if you use them wisely.
Considering that sharing such resources gently reminds your network about your brand and your capabilities without overtly hitting them over the head with your expertise, how can you afford not to do so?
It’s important to stand out on LinkedIn, but it’s even more important to stand out for the right reasons – ideally for your history of achievements and measurable impacts to date. And if you’re worried that you shouldn’t do so because it appears that hardly anyone else is, remember that in today’s strained economy you must stand out to get invited in for interviews. Besides, why follow the crowd when you can lead and get rewarded for your brand in the process?