LinkedIn now boasts over 467 million users. That’s a lot of eyeballs. A well-done profile will help you get in front of the right ones. Your clients are here, looking for you, so make sure they can find you. This is not the place for hard-selling anyone. Build relationships, interact and network, get your message out there and make your company the “front of mind” when your target market is looking for you.
Setup is simple and straightforward. If the idea of creating a LinkedIn profile intimidates you, it shouldn’t. Remember that your profile is a representation of you and your business, not a static job application or resume. What would you like to add to your marketing materials, or explain better, but can’t, because of the space constraints? Your LinkedIn profile is a blank slate to create the profile that shows off your company’s products and services to the people who are interested and looking for you. You’ll write in the first person, not like formal marketing materials you’d hand out at a trade show.
Identify Your Keywords
Think about what you want people to find you for. You’ll use these throughout your profile to not only be found, but help your target market understand what you do. Make a list of as many keywords as you need to identify you and make sure you’re found when someone does a search using them.
Anyone reading your profile should know exactly what you do and what you can do for them, right away. They don’t want to read every word to just get an idea about who you are. Keywords help your both SEO on and off LinkedIn.
When you open LinkedIn, you’ll see a dashboard, and spaces to fill in. Your name, city (or zip code), industry, and education are pretty basic things. Fill those in first. Your name field should ONLY have your name, nothing else. Don’t add your keywords here.
A good profile picture is important. Selfies aren’t just for teenage girls anymore. Best bet is a professional photographer’s headshot. Don’t have time or money? Have a smartphone? Use it. Take a good, clear picture, preferably a good headshot in business attire. If you can’t seem to get it right, have someone help you. (A previous business headshot is suitable, too.) Don’t use a blurry vacation picture taken with your best friend—this is for your business! Editing functions are built into your smartphone’s photography apps, or you can use an app like BeautyCam to refine your picture. (Don’t laugh, it works.) You’ll have the opportunity to crop your picture once you upload it, so don’t get too close to your face.
Like Facebook, you can also add a “cover photo.” This should be a company logo, or something similar. If you’re not sure what to use, just leave it blank for now.
You’ll need a headline, and this is where SEO starts to come in. You’ll have exactly 120 characters, including spaces, to give a quick description that helps someone find you. Don’t just describe what you do—talk about what you can do for others. That’s a big difference that will set you apart from the rest.
Create some headlines in Word, add a keyword or two, then cut/paste into the field. Don’t just list your job title. Everybody else does that; you’re not a job seeker. Your target market is looking at what you have to offer them, be it a product or a service, and your headline is the first thing they see next to your picture.
Next is the summary, where you’ll give a brief description of your background, skills and abilities. You will have a strict limit of 2,000 characters, so make it count! Practice in Word, add your appropriate keywords, then cut and paste it when you’ve got what you want. Write in the first person, not the third—again, this isn’t the job application, so add additional keywords here. The goal is to be found when someone searches for someone like you, so present yourself professionally.
You have the option to share changes every time you update your profile. If you’re changing jobs, it will let everyone know about it. But they’ll also know if you correct a typo, update your picture, or do any small edits on your profile. Until you want to announce something, turn the “share profile changes” button off.
LinkedIn’s “Media” button allows you to either link to or upload something you want to highlight. Presentations, documents, images—anything you’ve produced that you want to add that shows your company to the best advantage goes here. (You can see the full list of supported file types here.) A picture really *is* worth a thousand words, and LinkedIn allows you to offer it right up front. (You can still add keywords here.)
Once you’ve finished the Intro section, scroll all the way down, and click “Save.” You don’t want to lose anything.
Customize Your Profile’s URL
Your profile has a unique URL, which is usually http://www.linkedin.com/in/myname. On the upper right side, you’ll see the ability to customize your URL, and you should. See if LinkedIn has assigned you a URL that has numbers or additional characters. Get rid of that, and make sure your profile is just your name. (Of course, if your name is “John Doe,” you might have to alter that slightly for uniqueness.) You can use this URL in your email signature, business cards, other online business profiles and anywhere else you want to direct people to your LinkedIn page.
Now you have more room to describe yourself. While this section is like a job application, you can use it to adequately describe what you do for your company. If you’re not sure what to say, you can leave it blank for now and go back to it, write your descriptions in Word (again adding appropriate keywords) and add them when you’re done. You’ll add a section here for each position you want to list, as many or as few as you like.
This section will also have a “share profile changes” button. Leave this off unless you have a profile update you want your network to know about.
Again, you’ll write this in first person, not like the dry third-person approach. And if you don’t like it, you can go back and change it later. You’ll have a lot more room to describe your company, but don’t just write one big, long paragraph. Make it easier for your prospects to read by breaking it up into smaller paragraphs, leaving “white space” in between them. You’ll definitely use your keywords here.
Before you publish, read each description out loud to make sure it works, sounds conversational and makes sense.
Pick your skills from a wide range of available listings, and add them to your profile. Since the skills will show up individually, in a separate section, they display like bullet points—faster and easier to review than a narrative. Add all your skills here, and they’ll also be available for recruiters searching for you.
When you start adding connections, they will be offered the opportunity to endorse you on these skills. Make sure you return the favor.
This section is pretty self-explanatory. Add in all the relevant information you want to highlight.
Contact And Personal Info
Make it easy for your customers to contact you—email, your work phone (or work cell).
This section is for things like awards, special training, affiliations, memberships, etc. If you’re a member of an industry alliance, you should definitely add it here.
Do other people talk about what great work you do? Get it in writing! Ask a colleague, supervisor or other individual who knows your work well to write you a LinkedIn recommendation. Similar to testimonials on company web pages, recommendations are social proof for you and your brand. You can review these before adding them to your profile, but note that you can’t, and shouldn’t, change them yourself. Speak with the writer to correct typos, or change something before it’s public.
If someone recommends or endorses you for something that’s irrelevant, you can, and should, remove it. Ditto for experience that distracts from your current work and your company’s branding.
Interests and Groups
If you’ve looked at a company online and clicked “follow,” or joined a group you’re interested in, they’ll show up in this section. If you don’t see anything, join a group or two, or follow some companies you like. Their posts will show up in your news feed when you log into LinkedIn, and you can interact with people in the groups.
Like most marketing materials, your LinkedIn profile is not about you, it’s about your target audience, and what you can do for them. Focus on what you can do for your customers, and write your narratives accordingly.
Once you join a group (or several, up to 50) that are relevant.
Your LinkedIn profile is now in place. If you haven’t added those job descriptions, your summary or headline, work on those now, and get them added when you’re done. Did you forget to add keywords? Add more media highlights as you create them, and remove the older ones if they’re obsolete or irrelevant.
Check out your news feed. See something you like? Share it! If you read something elsewhere, post the link and it will share to your network. You can also write original content and publish it to promote and strengthen your brand.
Find Keywords with Search Appearances
This function lets you reverse-engineer and find relevant keywords. You can review how many people found you in a LinkedIn search, and identify their industries and titles. Use the keywords in your profile to make it easier for them to find.
This is where you look for and connect with coworkers, colleagues, customers and other people you know in business. Again, this isn’t Facebook, so your best friend from college is probably not the right person to connect with.
You’re looking for quality connections, so vetting is important. Look for people with 150 or more connections, a professional profile picture, and a career history summary.
Once your connection request has been accepted, don’t wait to talk to them about scheduling a phone call or meeting.
Not everyone is going to be the right connection. One way to decide if it’s someone you want to connect with is to ask yourself if you’d pick up the phone and call this person to talk business. If not, don’t connect, or dis-connect.
What Not To Do On LinkedIn
Personalize your messages when you send a connection request or other message, instead of using the generic templates that come with connection messages. Otherwise, you look like a spammer.
Don’t connect with someone and immediately send them a sales message. Hard-sell doesn’t work here. You’re making connections and building relationships.
“Keyword stuffing” isn’t a part of SEO anymore, so don’t do it. Use your keywords appropriately, and in a natural fashion.
Ask For Help
If you’re still unsure about your profile, do a Google search for advice on improving your profile, or ask someone who is familiar with LinkedIn. Narrow your search to find results that are close to what you need. You may not find everything in one blog or article, so keep looking.
A great LinkedIn profile isn’t difficult, but does take time. Continuously improving your profile, offering updates and content, and refining your brand (and your company’s) will give you greater visibility for customers who are looking for you.