According to research done by The Knowledge Academy, one of the biggest workplace fears is “Using LinkedIn.” They used Ahrefs to find the monthly global Google searches for common workplace fears, and “how to use LinkedIn” came in at number 2 (right after asking for a promotion). Although it might sound like a random fear that shouldn’t rank so highly, when you think about it, it’s not random at all.
Today, LinkedIn delivers your first impression. It’s the place where you build and nurture your network, learn and grow, source staff, expand your business and share your thought leadership. And when the entire world went virtual thanks to Covid-19, use of LinkedIn increased and its importance to your career success exploded. In short, LinkedIn is the most powerful online tool for building your personal brand in support of your goals. So pushing past the fear of using it is essential.
Over the past several years, I have written more than 100 articles sharing my tips for maximizing LinkedIn. Here, I distill this advice into the most potent and powerful actions to activate this brand-building powerhouse. This is a serial process, so do the steps in this sequence:
1. Get your profile in order.
Your LinkedIn profile is your first impression. Make sure it matches the real you. Focus on these elements:
- Headline: Update your headline to include your title, employer, and all the keywords you want to be known for (this helps with being found in searches). Add something to your headline that makes you interesting (like how you do what you do or the results you achieve when you do it). This is how I did it. Use as many of the 220 characters as you need.
- Headshot: Make sure your headshot is professional and current, and crop it so that most of the frame is filled by your face. Focus your eyes forward and smile.
- About: Your LinkedIn About will be the most-read version of your bio. Craft one that sits at the intersection of credibility and likability. And make sure the first couple of lines are magnetic. That’s all someone sees when they’re checking out your profile. Convince them to read the full text.
- Background. Your LinkedIn background provides an opportunity to use an image to help you convey your personal brand. Use it to differentiate your profile from the myriad others and to say something special about yourself without using words.
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2. Get your professional contacts up to date.
When you get all your professional contacts in one place, it will be easier to remain visible and stay in touch with people who are important to you. Add everyone from your past roles and get in the habit of adding new contacts as soon as you meet them. Be open to connecting with a diverse community of people and connect with the connected (those members with lots of connections) to rapidly grow your network and visibility.
3. Join groups.
Identify two or three groups that interest you while helping you express your personal brand. Then make a plan to check out what’s going on in your groups at least weekly and engage in conversations with those who are posting valuable content.
4. Create updates.
Make a plan to share valuable content with your connections at regular intervals. Choose a frequency that won’t feel onerous—like twice a week. Then, use the LinkedIn Update feature to share content that will be truly useful to your brand community. You can share things like a new statistic you just found or something interesting you just learned in a webinar you attended.
5. Curate content.
When you visit your favorite websites, you likely find articles, videos, etc. that would benefit your contacts. Take the time to share these resources with your LinkedIn community. When you share, be sure to add your point of view—explaining why this content is important or making the content even more helpful. Curating content will help you remain visible and valuable to your connections and followers. Add all relevant hashtags to what you share to make it visible to even more LinkedIn members.
To really up your game and take your LinkedIn profile and activity to the next level, here are three actions for you overachievers:
- Create your LinkedIn video cover story—a 30-second introduction that sits behind your headshot. This is a brand-new feature, so if you don’t have access to it yet, you will shortly. Video is a powerful tool for connecting with others in the virtual world.
- Share your expertise. When you’re ready, use LinkedIn’s blogging feature to showcase your thought leadership. First, choose your topic. Then, create a compelling title—one that will make people want to click on your article. Select a relevant photo to make it even more enticing. (Pexels gives you access to free images.) Then share your brilliance in 500 to 1,000 words. Remember to share your article with your groups. And engage with those who like, comment on and share your article.
- Enhance your profile. Use the Featured section to showcase your best work. You can include whitepapers, images, videos, infographics, etc. This turns your profile into a portfolio and makes it more visually intriguing.
To make LinkedIn work for you, carve out a few minutes on your calendar each week to work on these actions. When you start now, you’ll be a LinkedIn superstar in no time.