Why LinkedIn is important
To fully understand why you need to optimize your LinkedIn profile, first consider the power of LinkedIn. Currently, there are over 500 million users on LinkedIn – over 133 million of these users are based in the US (Source: LinkedIn).
But just because millions of people own profiles on this network doesn’t mean that they’re active – nor does this mean that this network is for you. However, in the case of LinkedIn, roughly 40% of users (Source: Omnicore) interact with this platform on a daily basis. And in terms of quality, LinkedIn is the most-used social media platform amongst Fortune 500 companies (Source: Statista). And that’s just step one in understanding why it’s important to optimize your LinkedIn profile.
LinkedIn is one of the best networks to choose when connecting with other professionals, clients, employees, partners, customers and employers. That’s why it’s in your best interest to optimize your LinkedIn profile – whether you’re a recent grad or a CEO.
Top 5 things to remember, before you get started with LinkedIn optimization:
- Fill out each section thoroughly
- Be honest when it comes to the information you share
- Ask for endorsements and testimonials from people you’ve worked with
- Reciprocate asks when appropriate
- Publish regularly and responsibly
How to optimize your LinkedIn account:
So what do we mean by “optimize your LinkedIn account”? LinkedIn optimization is about taking steps to up your LinkedIn account’s ranking in search engine results for your name. The goal behind this process is also to increase your visibility in searches performed on LinkedIn. In addition to increasing your online visibility, LinkedIn optimization also requires you to create an engaging and useful profile experience for the people who find it! Luckily, there’s a lot of overlap when it comes to addressing these three aspects of LinkedIn optimization.
Fill out each section thoroughly
If you want to optimize your LinkedIn account, make sure that you’re thorough in the information that you share. You don’t need to use up every single possible character that’s available to you. Instead of writing for writing’s sake, just take advantage of the character allowances so that you can tell your story in a thorough and engaging way. When it comes to describing past job positions, make sure that your role is described clearly. But more importantly, talk about what you brought to the table. Use any data and supporting documents that help tell your story. Try to quantify your value with the data that you include in descriptions of each section.
In terms of the sections that you will be filling out, start with the basic and build up from there. Start by uploading the following information when you begin LinkedIn optimization:
- Your current job: Stick with your current job title here. If you are in the midst of changing careers or are currently unemployed, you can get a little bit creative with your title. Consider listing your current job title as “Consultant”. This should be true as you ought to be open to freelance opportunities as you transition into your next role. There’s no need to lie here, but “Consultant” or “Freelancer” is much more active than “Unemployed”. If you are employed, list your current job as your headline or choose something a bit broader outside of your present title – whatever works for you. This is step one if you want to effectively optimize your LinkedIn profile.
- At least two previous positions: This is to strengthen your professional narrative. By providing at least two previous positions you show people your track record, your skill set and your growth. If you’re applying for your first full-time job out of college, you can still list part-time work, internships, volunteering or extracurriculars as part of your past experiences in detail if they relate to the jobs you’re applying to.
- Your academic achievements, and any additional training or certification: List any academic institutions that you attended and what you studied as you optimize your LinkedIn profile. Make a point to include information about additional training or certifications that you’ve obtained outside of your degrees as well. If you didn’t collect a degree – definitely don’t pretend that you did. However, feel free to list institutions that you attended or include any programs that you were enrolled in.
- Your profile summary: Here you have the chance to really get at the heart of who you are, what you’ve done and where you’re going. If your past jobs don’t naturally fit with what you’re doing now, you have a chance to make the connection for people. You also get a chance to highlight accomplishments that you’re proud of, and show what it is that makes you unique. This is like a mini guided-tour of who you are as a professional that makes it plain why people want to work with you.
- A high-quality photo: While it may seem obvious to include a good picture of yourself, you may be surprised to see what kinds of pictures people upload to their LinkedIn profile. Again, keep it simple. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on a professional photo shoot. Instead just get a friend to snap a clear headshot of you. Pay attention to elements like lighting (go for natural), background (keep it plain) and focus (you should look like yourself in this photo). Avoid taking a selfie, and try not to be overly-done up, or unprofessional. Make sure that you are the only subject of the photo when it’s taken – not you and your friends. It looks unprofessional when you’ve cropped your friends out of an image. Additionally, adhere to the requirements for the size of the image. You don’t want your image to have a poor resolution, or be too huge that the file won’t upload.
- Informative descriptions in the Background, Skills and Accomplishments sections: This can get a little bit overwhelming of course, but fill out as many sections here as possible when they apply to your professional background. Stick to the most recent experiences and work backwards if you don’t have very much time to devote to optimizing your LinkedIn page to start. Make sure to pay special attention to the skills section. Not only is this an invaluable section for you to show off the scope of your talents, but filling out 5 or more skills gets you in front of significantly more people than if you don’t. By sharing your skills, you add more depth to your professional snapshot, and alert employers to your potential. This is also a chance for you to make LinkedIn keywords work for you. By identifying LinkedIn keywords that are in line with the next job or opportunity that you’re looking for, you increase your chances of a recruiter, partner or client finding you. Avoid using LinkedIn keywords that don’t actually reflect your experiences or skill level, but be conscious of the language that you use on LinkedIn.
- At least three recommendations: Asking for recommendations is challenging, but just do it. Whether you ask someone to endorse your skills or write out a recommendation, go for it. Ask people from different areas of your professional life. Go for at least three so that people get a good sense of what you’re good at and who you’ve worked with.
LinkedIn profile optimization
When it comes to your basic profile, keep LinkedIn profile optimization simple. Use your professional name, where you live (or where you’d like to live if you’re applying for a new job), your current title and your 1 line explainer. Simple, right? When working on LinkedIn profile optimization, capturing the attention of your audience as quickly as possible is part of the strategy. That means that you need to be direct, succinct and enticing.
- Be honest when it comes to the information you share: Start with the big picture when figuring out how to optimize your LinkedIn profile. Begin the process from a point of honesty. Unfortunately, people tend to massage the truth or even flat out lie when it comes to their resumes. But that won’t really fly here. Honesty is key once you start your LinkedIn profile optimization. What makes LinkedIn different from your standard resume is that your former co-workers, classmates, professors and supervisors can see it! Because LinkedIn is a social network, people that you have worked with in the past can easily call your bluff. And even if no one confronts you about dishonesty on your resume, people who know the truth will seriously question your credibility if you choose to lie. LinkedIn also makes it super easy for future employers to check your references. Instead of risking your reputation, keep it simple by being honest. And remember that if you didn’t receive a certificate or diploma, you can still include any partial training that you did. You don’t have to say explicitly “incomplete”, just don’t include the certification if you never received it. And remember, if you’ve put in hard work, it’s not about exaggerating your accomplishments, instead, focus on finding ways to showcase what you’ve done.
- Ask for endorsements and testimonials from people you’ve worked with: Sometimes this can feel a little bit awkward. But don’t let that stop you. Endorsements and testimonials are key if you want to optimize your LinkedIn profile. And remember, if you’re working hard with your teammates and supervisor, they will be more than happy to endorse you and support you in this way. But before you ask everyone you’ve ever known to endorse your skills, or write longer testimonials for you, pause and reflect. Do you actually have a good working relationship with this person? If so, are they really the best person who can speak to your skills and abilities? When getting started with LinkedIn optimization, try not to get overwhelmed by quantity. Instead, focus on the quality of what people say about you.
- Reciprocate asks when appropriate: This may not be the first thing that comes to mind when figuring out how to optimize your LinkedIn profile. But be willing to endorse people that you’ve asked to endorse you if you have worked with them. When it comes to networking, avoid the one-sided asks, it should be mutually beneficial. Now don’t endorse someone if you haven’t actually been exposed to them in a professional capacity, but definitely support people when you’ve seen the caliber of their work up close. And always consider offering to endorse people who are at an earlier stage of their career. They may be too shy to ask for your help, or unaware of how much this could help them.
- Publish regularly and responsibly: LinkedIn is as professional as it gets. So when it comes to LinkedIn profile optimization, the ongoing element requires you to keep your profile up to date and polished. One great way to do this is by publishing original thought pieces relevant to your industry. While you don’t have to be extremely formal, keep in mind that your boss or employees will be able to see what it is that you’re publishing. So put some thought into what you’re writing and sharing. This shouldn’t intimidate you into silence, but consider adopting the mantra, “Pause before you post”. Is what you’re publishing relevant to you and/or your industry? Does it show that you’re an expert in your field or aware of current trends in your niche? Does this piece add value? These are the questions to ask yourself before publishing.
- Stay active: After you’ve undergone your foundational LinkedIn optimization steps, you have to stay active on the platform in order to maintain and improve your profile’s position in search results. You also need to stay active in order to maintain relevance in searches on LinkedIn. Use the momentum you’ve just generated in the first phase of LinkedIn optimization. Maintaining relevance on LinkedIn looks different for everyone, but it’s a must. For some people, scheduling a detailed description of their LinkedIn time in their calendars is the best way to keep up. For others, they’ll naturally check in for shorter blocks of time pretty frequently. Whatever is best for you, the important thing is to keep connecting, following, publishing, commenting, etc. Staying active on LinkedIn is part of keeping your profile optimized, but it’s also an essential part of maintaining professional ties and showing your stuff! Over time, you’ll figure out what tools and systems do (and do not) work for you.
This is how to optimize your LinkedIn profile. Updating and optimizing your LinkedIn profile doesn’t have to be a chore that just eats away all of your non-existent free-time. Instead, approach LinkedIn optimization with a focused strategy to make sure that the right people will find current information about you online that’s in-line with your professional brand. And make sure that you follow the initial LinkedIn optimization steps as well as our 5 tips on best practices listed above once you’re ready to take full advantage of everything LinkedIn has to offer.
To learn more about how to optimize your LinkedIn profile, sign up for BrandYourself’s free DIY online reputation management software. BrandYourself’s online platform will walk you through the entire process of optimizing your LinkedIn profile, and remind you to keep it fresh. If you don’t have time to optimize and maintain your LinkedIn profile, BrandYourself also offers managed services where our in-house team of experts does the work for you. Give us a call today at (646)-863-8226, or schedule a free consultation with a Reputation Advisor so we can find the best reputation management solution for you.