A well-optimised LinkedIn profile can make the difference between your approach being ignored or welcomed. In this post I'll show you a few simple things you can do to optimise your profile with lead generation in mind.
This is post 2 in the series How to Generate Leads from LinkedIn: The Essential Guide. Read post 1: How to plan a LinkedIn strategy to generate leads.
Think web page not CV
Your LinkedIn profile is not an online resume. It's an opportunity for you to connect directly with your audience and talk about how you can help them. So use words and phrases in your title, summary and experience just as you would if you were writing a page for your organisation's website.
Again, put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer. Open up LinkedIn and type in the kind of thing they might use as a search phrase. Then look through the results, noting any additional keywords that stand out.
We'll look at how to write these sections up in a moment.
Switch profile update notifications off
Before you dive in and start to optimise your LinkedIn profile, head over to your account's Privacy and Settings page. You can access this from the drop-down menu that appears when you click on your image in the toolbar.
From the Privacy tab, click Sharing profile edits to open the dialogue box, then switch the setting to "No" so your network isn't notified about every change you make as you do it. You can switch this back to "Yes" once you’re done.
Present a professional image
Is your profile photo up to the job? Is it current – taken in the last year or so? Is it free from distractions – busy backgrounds, other people, pets?
Consider booking a local photographer for a professional headshot. You'll come across much better than in a snap your other half took.
You want to look every bit as business-like when you meet someone on the page as you do in real life.
Wear smart business attire in solid dark colours. Keep the background neutral. Look straight to camera with an approachable smile and a confident expression.
Resist the urge to do something to be different – just be yourself.
By the way, if you haven't uploaded a LinkedIn profile photo or you're hiding behind a logo or esoteric design, it's time to show your face. People connect with people not icons.
Your intuition never lies. Except about you
Most of us find it hard to know a good photo of ourselves from a great one. Yet when we see a picture of an unfamiliar face, we make an instant, subconscious judgement.
With this in mind, here's a fast way to see what makes a good profile shot and what makes a poor one. Simply go to LinkedIn and search on any keyword you like. Then scroll through the results. You'll soon spot the kind of images that stand out – for right or wrong reasons.
Ask a friend. Better still, ask a stranger
Once you have your shortlist of professional headshots of yourself, here's how to find out which one to choose.
Upload your images to Photofeeler and get unbiased feedback from 40 total strangers. Each photo is ranked for three traits. The Business profile will show your ratings for how likeable, competent and influential you appear to others. Look at the example below and you’ll see that one photo is a clear winner on all three counts.
You can use Photofeeler for free. You earn credits by voting on other people's pics or you can buy credits to speed things along. I strongly recommend you do your share of voting. Apart from earning credits, you'll get to see a wide range of other people's photos.
This can be enlightening. You'll find yourself naturally yaying and naying in a flash. You might hesitate sometimes over what rating to give, but you'll be in no doubt as to whether you have a positive or negative impression.
Stand out with a background photo
While your portrait photo is best served simple, your background photo is where you can show a bit of individuality. Not everyone bothers with a background pic, which is another reason for adding one. A well-chosen image can help make your profile page memorable and distinctive.
The same broad rules apply here though as for portrait photos. Take care to create the right impression. Symbolic imagery, patterns, inspirational quotes, landscapes are all OK as long as they sit well with your personality and the image you want to project. You can of course use a picture with an obvious connection to your industry or line of work. But if so, best make it a less-than-obvious view or an unusual visual treatment to avoid looking ordinary or boring.
Another pro tip is that the automatic compression settings for these background images is high. So it is better to use a less detailed image, where the compression applied won’t be as noticeable. Detail and overlaid text can often appear blurry after LinkedIn has automatically compressed the image, so take care when using these.
Name: The easy part
Use your real name. No tricks. No nicknames. No qualification adornments – they have a place of their own. Just use the name you would use to introduce yourself to a new business associate.
Headline: Don't sell yourself short
When people use LinkedIn's search, the words you use as your headline are the most prominent after your name.
Use this precious real estate wisely. Don’t make it read like a business card. Turn it into an engaging 5-second elevator pitch. Packing it with keywords will help you get found in searches. But balancing that with originality hooks people's interest the way a good subject line does with email.
Avoid the obscure or clichéd. Think about how you want your target audience to see you. What impact do you make? Include keywords that describe your core expertise.
Summary: Give them a reason to connect
This is where you tell your story in more detail. Just make sure it's not all about you, but all about the difference you make to other people.
Talk about what you do, not what you are. What can you help with? What makes you special? Unique?
LinkedIn's current format shows the first two lines of your summary – around 30 words. So make sure you make enough impact with the start of your summary for your readers to click "See more" for the rest.
Make smart use of keywords and buzz words.
Make a list of keywords you want to be found for, and then weave these into your summary text. Include relevant words such as expert, specialist or any other generic term for your industry that someone might use as one of their search words.
Don't repeat the exact phrases you used in your headline. Use variations or words that are complementary or expansive. LinkedIn's search engine will often grab words from both your headline and summary.
Experiment with different phrasing, word order and singular vs. plural. LinkedIn search can be a bit unpredictable. Check to make sure you show up for the things that matter most.
Optimise your LinkedIn profile to make your experience count
With the most recent LinkedIn profile page redesign, your current role is displayed on your profile in full. Previous roles show job title only with the rest opened by clicking "See description".
As with your summary, write your current and past experience with your target audience in mind. Remember the earlier advice: think web page, not CV. You have much more freedom here in how you describe your professional experience.
As far as possible, talk about results, outcomes and achievements. And once again, keep those all-important keywords top of mind.
Optimise your LinkedIn profile by making your content easy to scan by using formatting just as you would on a web page – subheads and bullet points can help break up blocks of text.
Jazz things up with video and slideshows
I'm talking here about video and slideshows as part of your Experience section – so anything that expands upon your expertise in your current role is perfectly at home here. (Video and other rich media can also feature in your profile's Posts and Activity section.)
If you don't yet have any great short videos or slide presentations in your repertoire, go and create some. This will add some extra interest to your profile. Make your videos relevant and worthy of the time investment.
Include "Click to PLAY VIDEO" at the start of the description to make it clear this is playable as the title frame may otherwise look like a photograph.
You can easily create a professional slide presentation with SlideShare – LinkedIn's integrated presentation platform.
Let your skills and expertise speak
A good way to build your reputation is to garner endorsements for your skills and experience. But first, you'll need to make sure you list these in the relevant section of your LinkedIn profile.
In the section Featured Skills and Endorsements, click "Add a new skill". Start typing the skill and LinkedIn will prompt you with suggestions. You can add up to 50 in all, but ideally focus on the most important.
To edit the settings for endorsements, expand the Featured Skills and Endorsements panel and scroll to "Adjust endorsement settings". You'll then have the option to say "Yes" to "I want to be endorsed".
Be generous, but sincere, with endorsing others
If you opt in to endorsements, LinkedIn will occasionally prompt your connections to endorse you for one or more of your listed skills. (You can't request an endorsement.) You'll be prompted in return to endorse them for their skills.
It's worth giving endorsements freely as this will increase the number you receive. But do maintain professional integrity and don't endorse people for skills you cannot vouch for.
Add weight with Recommendations
The Recommendations feature is an often-overlooked asset in the LinkedIn profile. Our goal is to get your profile optimised at every opportunity. And notching up a bunch of well-chosen positive vibes from fellow professionals is a heavyweight plus point. Don't skip it.
Although your connections can recommend you unprompted, to get the ball rolling, you need to be proactive. LinkedIn makes this easy.
In the Recommendations section, click "Ask to be recommended". You then choose which of your roles you want to be recommended for. Then you add up to three of your connections.
To play things smart, depending on how well you know your intended recommenders, you might edit the pre-filled message and make a specific request about the areas of expertise (or keywords) you'd like them to cite. Content in your Recommendations section also feeds into LinkedIn's search engine results.
A good target to shoot for is at least 10 recommendations. For extra brownie points, see if you can engineer or encourage some of these to be given on video.