LinkedIn is by far one of the most powerful professional networking apps out there today. It’s a social network, professional repository and cross-industry content sharing platform all rolled into one. Naturally, this means that your LinkedIn profile doubles up as your face on the internet– even more so than a personal website or blog.
LinkedIn slackers and skulkers, there is no better time to up your LinkedIn game and dive into personal branding. Your profile is often the first impression you make on recruiters, potential clients, and future colleagues, even before you give an interview or start a new job.
To get you started, here’s a short and snappy guide to revving the engines on your personal brand.
Tip #1: Find out How People Perceive You
The foundation of your personal brand is your reputation– and you might already have one, regardless of whether you’ve actively fuelled it or not. So, you might as well find out what it is and how you can use it to your advantage.
If you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to deciding how to position yourself on LinkedIn, a great way to get the ball rolling is to find out how people already perceive you. Consider conducting a poll or a survey on the other social media platforms you frequent. Ask friends, family, clients and colleagues for feedback on your strengths, so that you know what to highlight when it comes to it.
Here’s a neat trick– ask your friends, family and colleagues for three words that immediately spring to mind– not long sentences, not anecdotes. Their instinctive answers are most likely the ones they believe in the most.
Pro tip: Look out for any overlaps in perceptions from different people because those can fuel the groundwork for growing your personal brand.
Tip #2: Identify Your Differentiators
After step 1, you’re probably left with a word cloud that is (hopefully) full of positive words. The next item on your list is to identify your differentiators. While terms such as “smart”, “caring” and “kind” are great descriptors in any scenario, they most likely won’t work well enough here. What you need to pull out from your word cloud are unique words or phrases that not only set you apart but make you memorable.
Your differentiating factors may encompass skills, education and previous work experience. For example, you might want to highlight that your former boss said you’re always on top of things, or can function independently, or can balance compromise and assertion. That said, don’t hesitate to pull inspiration from your personal life, either, because LinkedIn is made of humans who want to work with like-minded people who share interests. To that end, if an acquaintance says you’re always willing to share what you’ve learnt, you might want to highlight that going forward.
Pro tip: A handy mantra to keep in mind is “different is better than better”. Seek to highlight unique facets, not to blend in with the crowd.
Tip #3: Create Brand Guidelines for Consistency
Consistency in presentation and information goes a long way in cementing your personal brand and making you memorable on such a highly populated platform. A guide document with “brand” guidelines will go a long way in helping you maintain this consistency, whether it’s across the content you publish, the visuals you use or the way you interact with others.
A fitting example of consistent personal branding is marketing guru Dave Gerhardt. He is well known for crisp and effective tips posted once every day in a lighthearted and engaging tone of voice.
Pro tip: Consider going through LinkedIn’s top profiles to see how they maintain consistency and frequency in articles, posts and comments. Don’t forget to take a peek at their headline to see what they’ve highlighted.
Tip #4: Interact Frequently
LinkedIn loves consistency in frequency. When you embark on your LinkedIn journey, keep in mind that you’ll have to interact frequently to make maximum impact. You can do this by creating a posting calendar that allows you to take advantage of both the short post and long-form article features. Sticking to this calendar in frequency and quality will enable you to bolster your profile with more insights into your past work, current services or overall personality. It’ll also indicate to the algorithms that you’re an active poster, and make it much more likely that you show up on other people’s LinkedIn feeds.
As you build your list of connections, you’ll also find that it is rewarding to interact with other people’s posts, whether by commenting with interesting information, resharing with thoughts or liking the post to show encouragement. The more you do this – and the more value you impart through it – the better your chances at strengthening your personal brand.
Pro tip: The more value you impart through this exercise, the stronger your personal brand. To that end, resist the temptation to reshare and repost– instead, create your articles and posts from scratch!
Tip #5: Keep Your ‘snapshot’ Fully Optimised
Your snapshot is the information and images that show up when someone searches for your profile from within LinkedIn. Typically, it includes your profile photo, header image, headline and location. To keep your personal brand relevant and up to date, ensure that your snapshot always reflects your most recent information.
Consider paying particular attention to the headline, which doubles up as a one-line pitch, if you will, about who you are and what you offer. Many users make the mistake of displaying their current organisational role there, but this is a redundant use of the space considering this information is already available in your ‘Experience’ section. Instead, succinctly capture your services and industry within 120 characters.
Pro tip: Choose a great professional photo for your profile image and header, since this is most often the first visual description of you that a potential recruiter or client will get.
The final word
Personal branding is a long and winding road paved with continuous learning and tweaking. Despite all that, it’s a highly rewarding journey!