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9 Steps to Grow Your Brand Using LinkedIn

You may already be signed up on LinkedIn or at the very least heard enough about it to know it’s a viable platform.  In either case get ready to learn a lot more about it. I am going to share 9 Areas with you on how to optimize your LinkedIn profile that I learned from my study of Bert Verdonck’s course LinkedIn Profiles for Social Business Success on Lynda.com.  In conclusion, I will demonstrate to you with my own personal LinkedIn profile and showcase all the changes I made based on the tips I share in this blog. Keep in mind I have optimized my profile a lot in the past, so the changes were few, nonetheless there were still changes I made. When you are finished reading you will see why it’s so important that you optimize your own.

I think its important to give some foundation as to what makes any social platform including LinkedIn so important to use. Its usefulness becomes apparent by first understanding the term groundswell. According to Li and Bernoff (2011) “The groundswell is a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.” You can read more on this topic in a previous blog I wrote, called Social Media Marketing.

In order to optimize your LinkedIn profile, you must first understand why you should. Who are you targeting with it? Your LinkedIn profile is not for you, but rather for the connections and relationships you make through it.  What strategy do you want to employ on LinkedIn? What results do you want to see from it? These questions can be answered when we look at them through the lens of a simple method called POST. This method gives you a solid plan for reaching your goals.

“We call it the Post method, for people, objective, strategy, and technology. POST is the foundation of groundswell thinking – systematic framework for assembling your plan” (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

Let’s break it down section by section.

People: “What are your customers ready for?” (Li & Bernoff, 2011) Are they technologically savvy?  You should not guess as to how your customers engage on technological platforms; you need solid information to develop your strategy to reach them. Do they like to write reviews or participate on social networks only? Develop a customer profile to successfully reach your target audience.

Objective: “What are your goals?” (Li & Bernoff, 2011) Externally you may be interested in marketing or generating sales. Internally, you may want to know how to help your employees work synergistically to enhance the workplace.

Strategy: “How do you want relationships with your customers to change?” (Li & Bernoff, 2011) You may want your customers more engaged with your brand as well as become ambassadors, referring you to their friends and family. Either one is powerful for creating a loyal following.

Technology: “What applications should you build?” (Li & Bernoff, 2011) You can move onto selecting suitable technologies only after you’ve completed the first three sections.  Some examples are blogs, wikis, and social networks.

It’s vital to have a solid plan in mind before you take the time to optimize your LinkedIn profile so that you achieve the ROI (return on investment) you desire.

Now that we’ve covered the Post method, the next step is to dive right into optimizing your profile on LinkedIn. There are 9 areas I will cover in this blog. Some are quick, easy and straightforward while others take much more thought and time. You can follow along and make changes to your existing profile, however, if you don’t have one yet, I would suggest you get started by creating an account prior to what you read next so that you are ready to implement.

Area #1 The Essentials

A common error LinkedIn users make is treating their profile like a billboard rather than the procurement tool that it is.  They sign up, fill out the very basic info, invite a few friends to connect, leave it and forget about it. Then they wonder why it doesn’t do anything.

To make a good first impression you’ll need to build up your profile to showcase different levels of expertise. Level one is being discoverable on the internet.  When people search your name do they find someone else with a similar name or worse yet, find nothing at all. Are you invisible? If either of these happens you have missed an opportunity to connect with a prospect. Did you know that prospects make at least 50% of their decision before they even get in touch with you?

On the second level, you’ll need to think about making some quality and quantity connections. As in most things quality is more important than quantity, however, if you have only a few connections a prospect may see that as a weak network.

To be on the third level you’ll have to show that you are a participator on the platform. To increase your standing, engage on the general posts as well as in specific groups by liking, commenting and sharing the content that resonates with you.

Level four is where you possess credibility through being a thought leader. This is when your views on particular subjects are considered authoritative. Some ways to do this on LinkedIn is to publish articles right on their platform. In turn, you “raise your personal brand and social capital” (Verdonck, n.d.)

Level five is the ultimate place to be on LinkedIn. This is where others trust you as their role model and leader. There are very few users that get to this level.

The Profile Picture

One thing that gets overlooked more times than not is the profile picture.  It should be professional in nature. The only one in the picture should be you, not your dog, not your kids. It should be a head and shoulders shot with no distracting background and not in black and white. Here’s an interesting fact, 90% of members only visit profiles that have a picture (Verdonck, n.d.). No picture no attention.

The Headline

This is the space directly under your picture. There is room for 200 characters, so make it count. Do not make it boring or only about the company you work for. Show five items that make you stand out including one that is more personal to help as a conversation starter. This will help people connect with you. For example, my headline items include Social Media Expert & Trainer, Customer Follow-up Specialist, Brand Ambassador (for my company) and Major Music Major (I’m really into music).  As you can see, the focus is on efficiency and effectiveness with a zest of wit. One little esthetic trick you can do is add dividers such as vertical bars between your items.

Some other items to include in the essentials are your location and industry. This allows users to find you when they use the built-in filters, which are geographical location and specific industry. Of course, you too can take advantage of this filter technique to find your audience. Some tips to keep in mind are; use your work address location and the industry that best fits you. You may have many but think of what target audience you want to connect with. Tailor it to that.

Area #2 Your Contact Information

Think about how you want LinkedIn users to connect with you. There is space to add your email, instant messenger, phone and address. When choosing an email address choose a professional one (not Hotmail or Gmail). You can have more than one email address, just set the professional one to be the primary one. Once your address is listed on the contact info you can send prospects to your LinkedIn profile specifically for it; the bonus is they are on your profile to see all you can offer. Inside this same section there is a place to add external links to websites and your Twitter handle.
One little trick to make yourself stand out is to add a custom link URL for your LinkedIn address. When you are on your own profile page go to the top right-hand side of the screen and click the button “Edit public profile & URL” to do this. This shows LinkedIn you aren’t a newbie. It even helps you to rank higher in Google’s search results. That’s a win/win.

One last area in your header is the information section. Its located right under the headline. This is where you speak to your target audience and make it all about how you are going to solve their problem. You show people what you want them to do next by giving a call to action. Make it easy for people to choose to do business with you and you will see them show up.

Area #3 Your Summary

In this area below the information section, you will summarize your personal, professional and corporate branding all into one place.  Align all three areas into 3 blocks without going into too much detail.

The first block should be about your organization’s branding. You can showcase a piece of corporate branding and what your organization does. You should start including call to actions at this point in your profile.  “This might be an email for some and a call for others. The bottom line is that you arouse interest and give them a call to action” (Verdonck, n.d.).

The second block is the place where you might tell users “what you don’t do and what you’re not interested in” (Verdonck, n.d.). This helps weed out the unwanted tire kickers or people trying to sell you something.

The last block is devoted to sharing your personal brand summary. A list of keywords that represent you and what you stand for is an easy, interesting and effective way to do this.

The last thing I want to point out is adding rich media to your summary.  This is done by either uploading a picture, video or a link to a website. By adding this to your profile you enrich the experience for other users and really showcase special items related to you. This increases the chances of people responding to your call to actions.

Area #4 Your Experience

This is the section that most users make the mistake of listing their experience in a resume format rather than presenting the results they have achieved through their work experience. In essence, this area is similar to the summary except now it’s time to add more detail. Through the sharing of your responsibilities and achievements, you will show prospects if you are the right person to help them solve their problems.  Always add a call to action here so they can take the next steps with you. If you enhance your experiences and use rich media like visuals, and SlideShare (this is similar to PowerPoint), you help users get to know what you have to offer. You can even add a landing page or website here along with your call to action.

Area #5 Create Your Brand

 “Your brand is WHO you are, WHAT you do, WHY you do it, and who you do it FOR.  It’s your promise to your customers.  It represents what customers expect your company to deliver.
A corporate logo is the visual piece of the brand – it’s a visual way to represent the who, what, why and for” (McCatty, n.d.).

This section shows who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and what awards and honours you’ve received. Highlighting your projects so people can see them on your profile will get them interested in taking the next step towards working with you. Ultimately this is adding social proof to your profile.

Another great tool for adding power to your brand is to publish articles on the LinkedIn platform. Be sure to include a link, use an image and headline so that you can increase the views by more than 200%. In your articles always use your speaking voice so you are authentically you. Here are some practical tips to follow when publishing; use verifiable stats, include 300-500 words, post on Thursdays and Sundays, rather than Mondays and Fridays. Post as often as you like and keep it on a consistent weekly basis. Share your articles on other networks once you’ve published them.  The goal, of course, is to add value on LinkedIn with free tips and advice. This should land you some likes, comments and shares on your posts and articles.  When that happens, LinkedIn’s algorithm picks up on it and it places your content into an email digest for thousands to millions of members to see. That’s a nice size audience.

Always share information on a topic you are an expert on.  To be an expert you should be able to share 200-300 tips.

Area #6 Skills and Recommendations

In this section of your profile, choose the skills you want to be known for. Not all your talents and skills need to be here but rather what you want to be showcased that’s relevant to your profile. Your connections on LinkedIn will be able to endorse you for those skills. This will give a good first impression. Another way to impress members is to have others post recommendations on your profile. 5-7 is the ideal number.

Area #7 Your Education

Education is meaningful if you think of it as a lifelong thing.

Albert Einstein said, “Once you stop learning, you start dying.”

Some areas to showcase in this section are any certifications or courses you have completed. You’ll want to be truthful because LinkedIn has a third-party watchdog keeping an eye on this section for verifiability.

Area #8 Make the Most of Your Personality

On your LinkedIn profile, you want to make your personality shine through. Sprinkle it throughout wherever it fits to arouse curiosity. This shows you are approachable. Your volunteer work really connects to who you are and showcases your core values. Be sure to include this section.  This also boosts engagement as it shows you are passionate about leaving the world in a better condition than you found it.

Area #9 Extra Strategies to Stand Out

When developing your profile remember to use keywords relevant to your target audience. This helps them find you when using Google search engines.  Always put these keywords and any alternatives in the most natural way possible. You don’t want it to feel awkward.

Engaging in groups is a great way to get found.  Only 1% of LinkedIn users are proactive on this platform, but another 9% are reactive, meaning they are seeing your posts and will find your profile if they are interested in connecting. This leads to my next point before you engage in groups make sure your profile is in order. Always, always, always add value and never sell yourself in the groups. Show (don’t tell) that you are an expert.

Follow industry leaders and repost their articles with a status update of what it meant to you. Do not just repost, as users will skip right over it. Add your personal touch.
One last strategy for making connections is to add a personal note when you invite someone to connect with you. It’s always nice to have a human connection in a digital world.

Conclusion – A Side by Side Comparison

Next, I will show you some before and after shots of my profile showing the things I changed to optimize my profile. Keep in mind this is still a work in progress for me.
Before1
Before
After1
After: I changed my headline items to showcase what I want to show my target audience and included a personal one called Major Music Major (meaning I’m majorly into music in every way).
Before2
Before
After3
After: I added rich media in my experience section to showcase my skills (such as Instagram posts and website design).
Before4
Before
After4
After: I added a description in my NAIT Education section to summarize the experience as well as add my GPA.
Before5
Before
After5
After: I added one more certification and added all my Dean’s Honor Roll Certificates.
I’d like to leave you with one last valuable article that reiterates why your brand should be on LinkedIn and how it can help you in your business.
Once you’ve optimized your LinkedIn profile, feel free to connect with me over there. Remember to add a special note indicating you found me through my blog.

References

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell. Forrester Research, Inc.
McCatty, N. (n.d.). Corporate Branding: What It is, and How to Do It Right. Retrieved from Search Engine Journal: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/corporate-branding-right/96041/
Verdonck, B. (n.d.). LinkedIn Profiles for Social Business Success. Retrieved from lynda.com: https://www.lynda.com/LinkedIn-tutorials/LinkedIn-Profiles-Social-Business-Success/512777-2.html

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