Within the realm of social media platforms, LinkedIn is the business-to-business application used by small businesses, professionals, HR representatives, recruiters, and job seekers. It offers a plethora of tools that support a range of personal and business functions. In my opinion, LinkedIn is ideal for assisting users with the following:
- Networking – Connect with friends, colleagues, recruiters, potential hires, referral sources, and executives. Similar to other social media platforms, LinkedIn offers a database of individuals and organizations that you can interact with upon establishing a connection,
- Recruiting – Search for individuals with specific skills, work history, employment status, geographic location, or other characteristics. Unique to LinkedIn, individuals can be identified, grouped, and/or sorted by their employment background or profession, and
- Marketing – promote products, services, companies, brands, individuals, etc. in a myriad of ways. LinkedIn offers a user-friendly blogging platform, as well as, a slide hosting service to showcase work history. Share updates, photos, and a variety of other content to promote your brand. LinkedIn’s position within the social media industry benefits professionals and business owners that serve other businesses (either as employees or contractors), and it may be the premier starting point for such users to establish a personal brand.
The breadth and entirety of LinkedIn’s functionality are beyond the scope of this post, and the ones provided above most likely represent only the tip of the iceberg. However, I call attention to these advanced functions because of their requirement for effective setup of the user profile (the focus of this post). While often overlooked, this is a very important step, and I recommend using the following three concepts as a guide for creating a better LinkedIn profile.
Standout from the Crowd by Including Original Content. As our dependence on web-based applications and content steadily increases, simply establishing an online identity has become a bare minimum standard. The saturated (and over-crowded) conditions of this space have made it difficult to get noticed by constituents (i.e., employers, clients, recruits, etc.). Avoiding the perils associated with being lost in this vast abyss is a paramount objective, and it requires strategic planning and action. Ultimately, our goal is to gain recognition and exposure to a pre-determined target audience, and this requires standing out from the crowd (at least initially). To this end, I suggest customizing your LinkedIn profile by incorporating some or all of these techniques:
Publish original posts using the recently introduced blogging platform. Your content becomes a permanent component of your profile, with the most recent posts prominently displayed and accompanied by a thumbnail image of your choice (see the excerpt from my profile below),
Upload slideshows to showcase a sample of your work by using the slide hosting service, Slideshare.net. Similar to blog posts, an uploaded slideshare file is represented by its title and a thumbnail image of the opening slide. This content generally displays within the “Summary” section of your profile (an excerpt from my profile reflecting slideshows and videos is provided below).
Add YouTube videos to enrich user-experience and highlight your personality. Identical to slideshows, a video is represented by its title and a thumbnail image, and it is displayed within the “Summary” section.
Improve Credibility by Listing Credentials & Organizations. Now that we have the audience’s attention, we need to back-up our content with support that confirms we are a trustworthy, credible source. Ultimately, we want to create a profile that highlights our strengths and accomplishments, but it must portray an accurate depiction of ourselves. To this end, I recommend the following features of LinkedIn:
Certifications – Use this section to list credentials such as Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Juris Doctorate (JD), Nurse Practitioner (NP), etc. In addition, identify the licensing/governing board, certification/license number, and the dates you held the certification (or its expiration date, if any).
Skills & Endorsements – This section is reserved for endorsements of your skills, and it is significant because endorsements are given from other people. While this section is available for user input, it is the only section of a LinkedIn profile that is not entirely created by the user. In my opinion, you should consistently monitor this section to gain a better understanding of your strengths (evidenced by greater amount of endorsements for particular skills) and to make sure your endorsements remain appropriate and consistent with the remainder of your profile.
Organizations – Identify the organizations to which you belong. For example, CPAs might list their membership in the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), attorneys may identify the state bar association, etc.
Demonstrate Commitment to Growth. No matter who your specific audience may be, you can rest assured of their curiosity and interest in your plans for future growth. Based on current trends of our modern knowledge economy, intellectual capital reigns supreme as a measure of value and a form of collateral. Intellect must be nurtured by way of continuing education while also developed through deliberate practice and concentrated effort. Regardless of your particular audience or the specifics of your outlook for the future, I suggest demonstrating personal development efforts by utilizing the following tools built into LinkedIn’s profile application:
Courses – Use this section to display continuing professional education courses, seminars, training workshops, etc.
Publications – Highlight original content that was published by other media outlets. Showcase commitment to furthering skills in new areas such as writing, speaking, teaching, etc.