LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool for executives — if you know how to leverage your profile to build your executive brand. To attract hiring managers, establish yourself as a thought leader or network with C-level colleagues, you need more than just a good headshot. You need vision and a strong game plan for making the most of the platform.
Luckily, improving your LinkedIn profile and presence doesn’t have to take too much time or effort, but if you follow these four easy steps, you can expand your reach and solidify your executive brand.
Streamline your online image
Your LinkedIn persona won’t mean much if the rest of your online presence doesn’t align. That includes profiles on other social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter and anywhere else online, such as a personal website or tech blog. Here, it’s essential to figure out what you want to put out there and what you want to keep private, says Tamara Gartner, author, speaker and founder of Becoming Bodacious, which offers individual and group life-coaching programs for women and teen girls.
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“Ask yourself what you want — or need — others to see in you,” she says. Whether you want to be seen as a ‘credible thought leader’ or a ‘jobseeker with a strong value proposition,’ pinpointing your brand will help dictate your approach.
It’s counterproductive to have an “impressive LinkedIn profile and then have a potential employer or colleague see you in an unflattering light on Facebook. And yes, people tend to look at both,” she says. Once you establish your mission statement, figure out what you want to make private, and what you want to keep public on your personal accounts.
Brush up your LinkedIn summary
As of 2017, your LinkedIn profile shows only the first two lines of your summary — users need to click “read more” to expand it, says Kelly Donovan, principal of Kelly Donovan & Associates, job search specialist and executive resume writer. The first two sentences of your summary carry a lot of weight — you need to capture the reader, prompting them to dig deeper.
To achieve this, avoid clichés in your summary, such as “results-oriented” or “hard-worker.” Instead, “focus on highlighting your brand — the unique value you offer an employer, and some examples of results you’ve achieved,” she says.
Avoid being too formal in your summary. LinkedIn isn’t the same as your resume, so you can inject more personality into the content.
“You’re a real person, not just a talking head from a company. People do business with humans, so let them know that you are,” says Robin Samora, a small business marketing and PR expert, mentor and speaker from Boston.
Samora suggests sharing things that are important to you, or that demonstrate your values. You want to deliver “a glimpse of your life without going into too much detail.” Once you reach the executive level, people will be more curious about who you are as a person.
Don’t settle for LinkedIn's default
You can include a photo in the heading of your LinkedIn profile, in addition to your profile picture. But this is a step that Donovan says you shouldn’t view as optional — it’s an opportunity for branding.
“The default is LinkedIn's design consisting of a blue background with connected dots — this is the new ‘blue screen of death.’ You want to replace that with something that represents your brand effectively,” she says.
You’ll have to take some time to find a photo — whether it’s a stock image or a personal image, just make sure it isn’t generic. By choosing an image that tells more about who you are, it “will instantly make you more memorable,” says Donovan.
While you’re at it, consider editing the default headline for your profile, which is automatically set to your current job title and company name, Donovan says.
“Instead of VP of IT at Acme Company,” Donovan suggests trying something like “information technology executive driving innovation and efficiency,” followed by your job title and company name. It’s short and sweet, but it reveals a little more about who you are as a professional.
LinkedIn is more than a one-stop resume shop. Being engaged with the networking opportunities available on LinkedIn will help elevate your executive brand. Join industry groups and follow thought-leaders and influencers, and be sure to take time to comment on discussions and respond to others’ updates.
“Belonging to groups will increase your visibility on the site, and when viewers of your profile see that you're in those groups and following influencers, it helps convey the image of a savvy LinkedIn user who's using the platform to keep up on industry trends,” says Donovan.
If you’re happy in your current role, you can stick to logging onto LinkedIn a couple times a week to engage with your groups, share articles and catch up on industry news. However, if you’re job hunting, Donovan suggests logging on daily to actively engage with your network. Stay active on the network by joining in on group discussions, share content and reply to others’ updates.
You don’t have to spend a lot of time on LinkedIn to build engagement. Samora suggests staying “mindfully connected” so you can stay visible.
“You don’t need to be a social media junkie, but at the minimum, comment as an expert in your field. Be generous with your likes, posts and comments. Remember, you’re building your own like, know and trust factor as an executive and as a brand,” she says.
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.