Gone are the days of the blind meet-up.
If you’re connecting with a potential client, employer, partner, or mentor for the first time, you can bet your bottom dollar that they’ve already checked you out on LinkedIn.
So, how do you make a memorable first impression, when first impressions are so often dependent on your LinkedIn presence?
The key is to give people what they want, not what they expect.
Your LinkedIn target audience (the people you want to take notice!) wants you to quickly and clearly tell them two things – who you are and how you can help them.
To do this, you need to stand out by transforming your LinkedIn profile into a personal branding machine.
Let’s start with the surface, “judging a book by the cover” stuff.
Whether we realize it or not, we all make snap judgments (good and bad) when we see someone’s profile picture – especially on a social platform that exists for a purpose as specific as professional networking.
So, unless you have access to a brain-manipulation device (we know ours has been on backorder for a long time), your best bet is a solid profile pic.
While you might have some goodies from your cousin’s party bus event, stick with a photo that is professional and checks these boxes:
- Recent: Yes, you look fabulous in that picture from 2002, but your own mother couldn’t pick you out of a lineup. Make sure your pic actually looks like you, or you’ll confuse people if you ever decide on an in-person (or video call) rendezvous.
- Legit headshot: If you have access to a professional photographer, a high-quality shot goes a long way. Outside help or not, make sure your mug takes up at least 65% of the frame, and your pixel situation is on spec.
- Simple background: If we see your kid giving Tommy from across the street a headlock, your pic is a bit more complicated than it should be. Scratch that – it’s straight up distracting. Clean, crisp, and on-personal-brand are the way to go.
The majority of LinkedIn members actually don’t customize their background image.
(Didn’t your mama ever tell you, though, that being different is what makes you special?)
Just remember that your stunning headshot will cover a portion of your background picture, so you may need to experiment a bit. If you aren’t sure where to start, a workplace, nature, branded, or event-themed shot is a good bet!
Stock photos are no longer a clip art equivalent. There are loads of free stock image companies out there with unique, professional, and un-stocky lookin’ images. (We heart StockSnap, Pexels, and Twenty20, ourselves.)
Alrighty, onto the meat of your profile!
Your headline lives on the row directly below your name. Talk about prime real estate! These 120 characters are possibly the most underutilized section of profile pages.
LinkedIn auto-populates your headline with your current job title and company name, but you don’t have to keep it that way – so why not get creative?
This is your personal brand! This is an opportunity! You must stand out amongst the sea of sameness – YOU MUST SHINE!
(Sorry, we snapped into pep-talk mode for a moment there.)
Ok, remember how we said your audience wants you to tell them two things – who you are and how you can help them. Well, use this section to do just that.
What’s your value prop – your “so what” statement?
Take this go-getter for example:
Bryan gets right to it. You want moola? This is a guy who knows what’s up.
Makin’ sense so far?
Great, on to the “me in a nutshell” section.
Alrighty, the summary section is where you lay out a stunning summary of who you are and why you are so incredibly awesome. As the name implies, keep it concise and top-level.
Before diving in, give these questions some brainpower:
- What do you want your audience to know about you?
- What action do you want them to take?
- What personality traits do you want to shine through?
- How do you want them to feel?
LinkedIn summaries come in all shapes and sizes, but real greats have these traits in common:
- A hook: Sure, you have 2,000 characters for your summary, but viewers need to expand your summary section to see the whole shebang. Get them hooked from the first sentence!
- Scannable: You can’t bold, italicize, or underline on LinkedIn, so take advantage of bullets, short and concise paragraphs, along with white space.
- Value prop: Hit on what you do, but make it about them. How will you make their life easier, better, and mind-blowingly awesome? How are you solving their pain points?
- Human: Just because LinkedIn is a professional network, doesn’t mean it’s a zero-fun zone. If you are funny, be funny. If you are upbeat, be upbeat. You aren’t a professional robot. You’re a human, so act like one. Let that personality shine!
- Differentiators: Let ‘em in on your superpower. What do you do better than anyone else out there? What makes you amazingly different?
- Trophies: Include a handful of accomplishments (quantitative backup is a plus). Link to relevant work, SlideShares, videos, press mentions, or other digital trophies that highlight your skills and validate your claims.
- Keyword rich: Incorporate keywords relevant to your area of expertise to boost your LinkedIn and Google SEO. Near the end, your summary you can even include a little search engine food by listing out your specialties, or areas of focus that people might search for.
- Call-to-Action (CTA): Okay, you hooked the reader. Now tell them what you want them to do. Do you want them to contact you about career opportunities or exciting partnerships? Supply your contact info, so they know where to find ya!
You’ve got the chops. You’re proud of all your experience (and you should be). You’re a total rockstar.
Sure, that summer job on the seaweed barge totally shaped your work ethic (and taught you how to love, but that’s a story for another time), but is it relevant?
The best way to let your experience shine is to pull out the gold nuggets – the biographical tidbits your audience cares about the most.
Then, make that gold digestible (remember that part about scanning and bullets?) and tie ‘em to an achievement.
Remember – you’re selling yourself, not writing a job description.
When filling out your experience, keep these things in mind:
- Link to your company: If your company has a Company Page (which it should!), link to that baby. This gives your business a little SEO love and populates a pretty little logo next to your title and the company name.
- Use action words: If we could erase any phrase from the LinkedIn stratosphere, it would be “responsible for.” Please, please, please be specific, and convey emotion and purpose. Don’t words like “orchestrated,” “founded,” “consolidated,” and “accelerated” have a lot more moxie? We think so!
- Showcase your accomplishments: Link to work samples, highlight awards, tie every responsibility to an achievement, and ask your connections to endorse your skills and post recommendations. Let your work do the talkin’!
The best way to prove that your profile isn’t full of hot air is to get out there and strut your stuff.
Share interesting updates, distribute valuable content (Edgar can help!), ask questions, participate in LinkedIn Groups, provide thought leadership on Pulse, leverage SlideShare, and follow and chat with your favorite influencers, connections, and companies.
In other words, ENGAGE and CONTRIBUTE.
This is the best thing you can do for your personal brand AND your company.
Yup, your company or the company you work for will also benefit from your personal rockstar status.
Hey, they look good because of you!
(If you want to learn how to leverage your personal brand to benefit your company, check out this blog post!)
Your turn! How do you use LinkedIn to make an amazing first impression?
Any particularly awesome profiles you’ve run across?
How do you use your headline, summary, and experience sections to stand out?
Strut your stuff in the comments below!