LinkedIn is one of the most widely used social networks, with 330 million registered users. Many professionals log into LinkedIn on a daily basis and use it to stay in contact with old colleagues, learn new perspectives, identify sales targets, and meet new contacts. One of the most valuable features of LinkedIn is its ability to connect you with new people.
Meeting people on LinkedIn is similar meeting people anywhere else. When you meet someone in person for the first time, you immediately assess what type of person they are using their vocabulary, clothing, appearance, and body language as clues. According to social psychologist Amy Cuddy, “When we form a first impression we’re judging how warm and trustworthy the person is.” We do this on social media, too.
Social media can be tricky because we don’t have the benefit of eye contact, but what LinkedIn offers is a robust profile template to help you showcase who you are. The majority of social media channels, such as Twitter, only provide a short bio section for members to describe themselves and what is important to them. But LinkedIn members have the opportunity to shed light on their career highlights, key projects, volunteer efforts, blog posts they have authored and recommendations from past clients and coworkers. In addition, members can even list their interests and hobbies.
In essence, LinkedIn has created an environment where it is appropriate to brag about your achievements, while also sharing what makes you unique. It’s not uncommon to find users on LinkedIn with a mostly blank profile. Consider what happens when someone visits a profile and it is blank. They viewed that profile for a reason, probably wanting to learn more about the person behind the profile. When they only find a short, impersonal summary and job titles, rather than accomplishments and humanizing details, they probably just click away. And ultimately the profile owner has missed out on the opportunity to convey a reason to connect.
Besides individual connections, LinkedIn has a robust platform for forming communities through joining LinkedIn groups. With Linked groups, you have the opportunity to learn from others, but also position yourself as an industry thought leader, if you have the knowledge to back this up. Jayson DeMers said this about groups in a Forbes article, “This may seem like an extra step to take for a social network, but doing so can fast-track your reputation as an industry expert, and put you on the road to becoming an influencer in your field.”
Now that you’ve learned about some of the many benefits of having a LinkedIn profile, here are the six most important items you should update your profile with.
1. A professional profile photo. It is imperative to have a great headshot. LinkedIn has conducted a ton of research where they track subjects’ eye-movements when they visit profiles. The research shows that the first thing that people look at is the profile picture. In addition, LinkedIn research shows that a page with a profile picture is seven times as likely to be viewed as a page without one. It is best to have a photo which conveys you as friendly, professional and approachable. This is your first chance to guide visitors’ perception of you as they begin to form an opinion of who you are.
2. A creative headline. The second place visitors look is the LinkedIn member’s headline. Your LinkedIn headline is critical as it’s the only customizable personal information people will see of you in listings, group discussions and feeds. By default, LinkedIn pulls in your current (or most recent) job title. But you can edit your header to showcase what makes you unique. Don’t feel limited by your job title – highlight how you help people and what is relevant to your target audience. If visitors want to learn your title, they’ll look at your experience.
3. Your summary. Your bio is the opportunity to provide a quick overview of who you are, what you do and what you are looking for. The bulk of your summary should focus on what you can do for others. The majority of people won’t take the time to scroll through to other sections of your profile. It’s appropriate to include activities you are involved with outside of work. If it’s written well, your summary should encourage the reader to want to learn more about you and connect with you. You can add video, pictures and documents to support your summary.
4. Hobbies and Interests. This section is a window into how you spend your time outside of work. These are the things you are passionate about. We know that successful people are usually well-rounded and enjoy spending their time in a variety of different ways. The hobbies and interests section allows you to create additional opportunities for prospects and contacts to connect with you as a human.
5. Projects. Anyone can state that they are a successful project manager or best-in-class sales person. However, it’s a more compelling story when you showcase your expertise and demonstrate that “the proof is in the pudding.” You can list multiple projects here.
6. Rich media. Two years ago LinkedIn started supporting uploads of documents and presentations to your summary and experience sections. The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” is definitely true on LinkedIn. Videos and images allow you to showcase your company and your achievements.
There is no doubt that it takes time to update your profile, but it is well worth the investment! You never know how many opportunities you have potentially missed out on, all because your LinkedIn profile didn’t show the visitor how you could help them.