As someone who has been active on social media platforms for many years, and regularly speaks on the topic of Personal Branding, I’m often asked the question:
Is it still possible to use social media to build and extend your Personal Brand?
The short answer is – Yes. Absolutely!
While social media has changed and evolved over the last couple of decades, I believe that engaging on social media platforms where your people hang out is still a good investment of your time, so you can connect with and learn from others, establish your credibility, build your personal brand or business brand, and grow your career.
So, where do “your people” hang out online?
If you’re a business leader, there’s no doubt that LinkedIn – the “professional” social network that has been around since 2002 – is the most beneficial place for you to engage online, and is worth the investment of your time — especially if you’re looking to grow your career and your business, and to attract opportunities.
But even though LinkedIn is pretty straightforward – create a profile, connect with people, post and share ideas, etc. — you’re likely not getting the most out of your time there that you could, if you were to create an intentional strategy for using the platform.
By being intentional about how you use LinkedIn, you can build your credibility as a thought leader, your reputation as a business leader that others want to work with or do business with, and readily access a vast network of people and resources that you can utilize (for free) for your personal and professional development.
How can you get the most out of your time on LinkedIn?
First, it’s important that you create a LinkedIn profile (or update your current one) that sets you up to achieve your career goals. Starting with your professional profile is important, because it’s extremely valuable online real estate.
How valuable is your LinkedIn profile?
Using your phone or desktop right now, open your favorite search engine – for example, Google. Type your name in quotes (ex. “Jennifer McClure”), and press enter.
You’ll likely notice that the first page of search results for your name returns several websites and social media profiles of others that share your same name, and if you’re lucky, the top 10 search results will include a link to your public LinkedIn profile, or at least one created by one of your namesakes.
For example, in my case, there are quite a few Jennifer McClures that have a strong online presence, and while the search results for my name will vary somewhat from day to day, it’s almost always the Jennifer McClure who owns the .com website for our name that comes up first.
JenniferMcClure.net – my business website – and typically shows up as the third result for my name – which is still pretty good. But do you know what almost always shows up as the number 2 search result for all of the Jennifer McClures?
Yep, you got it. My LinkedIn profile.
So, while Jennifer McClure the photographer will always own the most valuable real estate online for our name (until I win the Mega Millions lottery and offer her enough money to part ways with it), my LinkedIn profile is doing some pretty heavy lifting for my personal and business brand.
Why is that?
I’m no SEO expert, but from what I do understand, the fact that the LinkedIn website is trusted and highly active – with over 900 million users clicking around on their site every day – search engines believe that serving up a LinkedIn profile link high in search results will likely be a strong match for the person that you’re searching for.
Couple that with the fact that I’m a very active user of LinkedIn, with almost 30,000 first-degree connections, and over 200,000 followers, it’s one of the best places for someone searching for me to start in order to determine if they’ve found the right person.
If you’re a business professional, your best opportunity to get noticed online is to have a robust, fully complete, and active LinkedIn profile.
People ARE searching for you online – or they should be – and you have a simple (and free) way available to you to deliver exactly the credibility, image, and authority that you prefer, by being intentional about how you use LinkedIn.
What makes a LinkedIn profile great?
From my research, and from my personal experience as an early-adopter and power-user on LinkedIn for over 15 years — by the way, I’m member number 5,852,039 on the platform — here are the minimum steps that you should take to make your LinkedIn profile work for you:
Use a high-quality head shot for your profile photo.
Your LinkedIn profile photo is your first chance to communicate that you’re friendly, likable, and trustworthy — which, whether we like it or not, are attributes that are crucial to establishing credibility and connection.
We’ve all heard the phrase: “People do business with people that they know, like, and trust”.
If you want to be successful, it’s important to do everything that you can to establish that type of credibility in your personal and professional relationships — as well as online — which is where many first interactions occur these days.
LinkedIn research shows that simply having a profile photo results in up to 21x more profile views, and 9x more connection requests.
Below are 7 Profile Photo Best Practices, summarized straight from the LinkedIn Talent Blog – if you’d like to make sure that your profile photo sets you up for success on LinkedIn:
Tip #1: Pick a photo that looks like you.
Make sure that your LinkedIn profile photo is up to date and reflects how you look on a daily basis – or at least on the days when you’re at “work”.
In other words, if you were planning to meet with someone in-person today, would they be able to recognize you from your LinkedIn profile photo?
Tip #2: Use a high-resolution image, and make sure your face fills at least 60% of the frame.
The ideal size for your LinkedIn profile picture is 400 x 400 pixels. If it’s smaller than that, it will be blurry. If it’s not a square image, then your face will likely be distorted when it’s resized by the back-end website design.
Tip #3: Be the only person in your profile picture.
If you use a group photo as your profile picture, I’m not sure which person is you.
If you want to include a team picture on your profile, use that one for your background image instead, which I’ll share more about below.
Tip #4: Get someone else to take your profile photo.
Did you know that the front or selfie camera on most phones produces a lower-quality image than the rear camera?
To remedy that, you could use the rear-facing camera and the built-in timer to take your own photo, but by getting someone else to take the picture for you, you’ll likely find that you’ll pose more naturally and comfortably, and you also won’t be out of breath from running from the camera to strike a pose just in time.
Tip #5: Take a photo with the “right” expression.
In other words, smile!
A recent study published in January 2023 of 800 profile pictures revealed that people viewed the person in the photo as more likable, competent, and influential if they’re smiling in their picture.
“By far the most impactful characteristic we found in this study, though, is a particular kind of smile. A smile with teeth visible gains an average of +0.33 for Competence, +1.35 for Likability, and +0.22 for Influence.
To our surprise, a closed mouth smile has about half the effect on Likability and no statistically significant effect on Competence or Influence.
Too much of a good thing can backfire, though. If you take your open mouth smile one step further into a laughing smile, you’ll get a Likability push up to +1.49 but lose your gains on perceived Competence and Influence.”
(Smiling is complicated, ya’ll.) 😊
If that all sounds confusing, my best advice for you? Just be your best self.
Tip #6: Avoid distracting backgrounds.
Don’t have anything in your background that distracts from your face.
Find a simple background that can help ensure that you’re the focal point. Your background doesn’t have to be a white, empty space. You can take a picture outside in nature, or against a painted wall. Just keep things simple without being boring.
Tip #7: Dress like you do at work, or for the environment where you want to work.
If you don’t want to wear a suit at work, don’t wear a suit in your profile photo just because that seems “professional”.
Your goal should be to show your true self that you’re most comfortable with both in-person and online, so the people who are the “your people” will want to connect with, work with, hire, and promote you.
Background or cover images on LinkedIn
At the top of your LinkedIn profile, you have an opportunity to add a background photo, which shows up behind the small box that includes your profile photo.
Use this opportunity to showcase more of your company or personal brand, to share your logo, a photo of your team, or a cool location in your workplace or city.
For example, my current background photo on my LinkedIn profile is an image of me speaking in front of a large audience. As a keynote speaker, this allows people to see me in action, and adds credibility that I actually do what my profile says that I do.
Best branding opportunity? Your headline.
The headline on your LinkedIn profile is the sentence or words that show up directly underneath your profile photo. If you do nothing to change the headline, it will default to your current or most recent job title and company name.
So, if you’re the Human Resources Director at Acme Corporation, that’s what your headline will reflect — which doesn’t distinguish you from the thousands of other HR professionals on LinkedIn in any way.
Personally, I’d be much more interested in learning more about someone whose headline is — “I help burned out and frustrated HR Professionals to take control of their careers.”
In one brief sentence, I know what Julie Turney, (HRforHR) does, who she helps, and how she does it — AND I want to know more.
(Learn more about Julie Turney in episode 44 of the Impact Makers podcast – Get Out of Your Head and Just Get Things Done.)
Or, how about Josh Bersin‘s headline? “Global Industry Analyst, I study all aspects of HR, business leadership, corporate L&D, recruiting, and HR technology.”
Even if you don’t know Josh (one of the leading researchers and voices in the people and HR Technology spaces), you get a clear idea of what he does in just 17 words.
Tips for creating an effective LinkedIn profile headline:
Your headline should be more than your job title and company name.
For the last 13 years, I’ve spoken frequently on the topic of Personal Branding. In my workshops and training courses, I teach leaders how to understand and clarify their personal brand, and how to use the following formula to create a Personal Brand Statement that they can then use to describe what they do in a concise sentence.
I am ___ (your professional identity), who helps ___ (your audience) do or understand ___ (your unique solution), so that __ (the transformation or benefit you create).
Want to create a great Personal Brand Statement that describes you well, and helps you to create a great LinkedIn profile headline? Download a copy of my Personal Brand Workbook, a free 16-page guide designed to help you work through the types of work where you’re at your best, what you enjoy doing the most, and what opportunities you’d like to pursue.
A good LinkedIn headline helps people who are viewing your profile to understand your unique talents, how you create value, and the impact that you create.
Finally, let’s cover one most important sections of your LinkedIn profile – your About section, or Summary.
Your goal should be to make your profile summary one that gets read and helps readers to understand the work that you do, who you help, and how you create impact. It should read like your very own marketing brochure – not like your resume.
The most interesting and effective LinkedIn profile summaries are written in first person, and tell a story that showcases your thought leadership, and highlights your unique perspective, insights, and accomplishments, as well as the impact you’ve made in previous roles.
For a great example of a well-written profile summary, check out one that my friend Amber Naslund — a great writer, and also an executive who works at LinkedIn — used previously as her LinkedIn summary:
(Learn more about Amber Naslund in episode 50 of the Impact Makers podcast — Balancing a Strong Personal Brand With a High Profile Corporate Career.)
By reading this profile summary, I know exactly what Amber does in her day-to-day work. I understand how she got there, and what she brings to the table that makes her work and life experience unique and compelling. This work summary isn’t boring, and she also shares a bit about her life and interests outside of work. (And if you know me, any summary that mentions horses will most certainly capture my attention.) 🙂
You can get some great ideas for writing or revising your own LinkedIn profile summary by checking out some tips and examples over on the LinkedIn Talent Blog — 14 LinkedIn Profile Summaries That We Love (And How to Boost Your Own.)
Now is a great time to review, revise, and update your own LinkedIn profile.
Using the tips above, you’ll increase your chances of getting noticed (by the right people), and creating opportunities to grow yourself and your career.