LinkedIn can be an incredibly powerful platform for executives. If leveraged the right way, it can be highly effective in communicating your personal brand. To make sure you nail your LinkedIn profile and communicate your personal brand to stand out among the 450 million other profiles, consider the following.
LinkedIn for Executives
Profile Photo & Background Image
LinkedIn profiles that have photos are 14 times more likely to be viewed than those without. Adding a profile picture is really non-negotiable if you want to raise your visibility and build your personal brand. But it is important to ensure that you select the right profile picture for the platform, noting that more casual photos such as those used on Facebook are not appropriate. Top tips for choosing the perfect photo for LinkedIn; if you don’t already have professional company headshots, would be to select a recent photo where you are wearing professional clothing in front of a relatively plain background. Your face and shoulders should make up around 60% of the image. If you already have a professional headshot for your executive bio, use this. The photos should be the same to emphasize a consistent brand.
Now that LinkedIn has introduced background photos, users are expected to utilize this feature too as it can help your profile stand out and strengthen your brand. As before, make sure the photo you select is professional, eye catching and is consistent with the image and branding that you are trying to create throughout. Avoid clichés such as city skylines. Most people don’t put a lot of thought into their background image and just choose something that looks nice. This is a mistake. Think about how much thought is put into the images companies use across their communications and social platforms. Images matter a lot! So, think carefully about a background image that is on-brand for you.
When creating a new LinkedIn Profile, the default URL created usually consists of the LinkedIn web address followed by your name and a jumbled series of letters and numbers. To demonstrate that you’re current and also have a clean URL you can use on other career documents, you can clear this up in one easy step by creating a custom URL (also known as a vanity URL). To create your custom LinkedIn URL, follow LinkedIn’s own instructions to set this up from your profile. Ideally, your custom URL is the LinkedIn URL followed by just your name, first name, followed by last name with no dashes. If your name is already taken, try adding your middle initial.
If that is already taken, too, you can add a professional designation to the end such as MBA or CPA. Like with your profile photo, keep it professional—this is not the place to be clever. Examples:
Most people just use their current job title and company in their headline. While this approach is perfectly acceptable, it is worth bearing in mind that LinkedIn’s algorithm factors keywords in the headline in terms of how you rank in searches.
If used sparingly, the headline can also reinforce your brand beyond your current role and company. The goal here is to be authentic to your brand and include only what you are truly known for in your headline. You don’t want to come across as gimmicky or trying too hard to impress. If you are an author, a regular columnist, a regular keynote speaker, you are a known thought leader in an industry, or you serve on a board of directors in addition to your full-time role, those are all appropriate to include in your headline.
Again, use sparingly, and if it doesn’t feel quite right, just stick to your title and company. Here are some LinkedIn headlines of prominent influencers, as of publication of this guide:
Mike O’Neil CEO, Integrated Alliances; Forbes Top 50 Social Media Influencer Sales Navigator Expert, Trainer; Speaker, Author, Futurist, LinkedIn Industry Leader
Liz Ryan Founder and CEO, Human Workplace; Author, “Reinvention Roadmap”
Jeff Selingo New York Times bestselling author, Washington Post columnist, higher education strategist, LinkedIn Top 10 Influencer
One way in which your LinkedIn profile differs from your executive resume or CV is that you have the space to tell your professional story in more detail. Although you should be mindful to keep this section concise, your summary is your opportunity to explain your professional passions, interests, achievements and goals. It is also an excellent opportunity to incorporate industry related keywords which will help you appear in more candidate searches.
Highlighting your brand in the first two lines of your summary is critical. By default, on your profile as of publication of this guide, the first two lines are visible to the reader with a link to “show more” below. You must assume some viewers will not click to see more, so you really want to encapsulate your brand in these first two lines. Refer back to your mission statement and pull from there to start your profile off strong.
In writing your summary, be sure to show your values and vision. Most LinkedIn profiles are written in first person and they are conversational in tone. You want to be sure you are connecting with people. Be sure to avoid creating distance with the reader and focus on engagement. The LinkedIn profile summary is less formal than your resume, so you should feel encouraged to inject personality. Show your human side—provide a glimpse of your life outside work without going overboard. Make people curious about you as a person.
Often people tend to just list their three or four most recent roles and any board positions, and don’t include any description in the experience section of their profiles. But again, as of publication, Linkedin’s algorithm also factors content in this section, so that is something to keep in mind. It is also an opportunity to include two or three bullet point accomplishments for each position to help reinforce your brand. As in your resume, avoid overused adjectives. If the company is less known, you can also include a concise statement about the company to help readers better understand your background.
The experience section is also an excellent way to demonstrate some concrete examples of what you’ve done by adding relevant media. Were you the author or co-author of an important white paper or report? Were you the focus of a company video? If so, you can include one or two examples of media for any position you’ve held. Again, stay on-brand and demonstrate examples of accomplishments that you would like to be known for and ideally continue to do.
LinkedIn also gives you the ability to list your relevant skills and allows your connections to endorse those skills. With this section, the rule is definitely quality over quantity. Make sure that rather than creating an endless list of skills, including skills that are not entirely relevant to what you do now or where you want to go, be selective and choose your core skills. This will help readers immediately identify what you excel at and what your strong suits are at a glance.
Authoring and publishing original articles on LinkedIn is an excellent way to demonstrate your expertise, increase followers and build your brand. However, like with blogging and other forms of media, only attempt using this feature if you can do it well, or if you can hire someone who can help you do it well. If you are a great writer or a good communicator with a good editor, then you should consider using this feature.
Some personal branding advisors and coaches also provide ghost writing services, but you should utilize this carefully. Even if an editor or ghost writer is assisting, the content should be ultimately coming from you and should be authentic to your brand. Anyone else involved should only be helping to polish it and make it more readable.
It’s a good idea to join a few LinkedIn groups that align with your interests and expertise and contribute content or comments when you can. If you are a CMO, there are groups for CMOs. If you are a FinTech executive, there is likely a group for that. The goal here is to engage with others knowledgeable in a particular area, demonstrate your expertise and network.
Career Coaching by Cyrille offers the “Career Management: Insights for the C-suite to Future Proof their Career” LinkedIn group for executive-level professionals and covers content of interest to global decision makers.
Writing a few recommendations for colleagues, vendors or subordinates can showcase your management style and network. If for subordinates, it can demonstrate how you have built your team and helped others develop. If for colleagues or vendors, it can showcase your ability to collaborate internally and externally, and communicate cross functional knowledge in the process. Writing a recommendation for someone after finishing a project or when they have moved on to another role can be a good time. Also, don’t be shy about requesting recommendations either. Again, think carefully about timing, though
"Focus on your unique
and compelling value!
You and your competitors
might have many things in common,
but commonality won’t brand
you as a “must-have” candidate
to employers. Whether it’s your
executive resume, bio or LinkedIn
profile, you need to stand out, NOT
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