Before starting my public relations and communications business, I focused more on my LinkedIn page than ever before in my 20-year career.
Sure, my profile was always up to date, but I didn't make the best use of it. My summary story read like a resume, which was then repeated in my experience section. I had no cover art and hadn't written any articles to showcase what I do. I wasn't liking, commenting on and sharing posts from those in my network. So many missed opportunities.
Now I consider myself a LinkedIn pro and, in fact, one of my favorite ways to help clients get the limelight they deserve: the LinkedIn makeover. With half a billion users on LinkedIn, you need to work at it to stand out. Here are six tips for making the most of and getting noticed on LinkedIn.
1. Use a professional photo.
Choose a recent -- within the last two to three years -- headshot that conveys who you are to your next boss or your ideal clients. Selfies need not apply.
"The key to a great LinkedIn photo is a natural, relaxed expression and great lighting. It's really that simple," says Heather Liebler, a professional photographer in Charlotte.
She added: "The biggest mistake people make is thinking it's really not that important, and they just take a picture with their phone in the house or backyard with clutter and real life peeking through. Be professional and commit to putting your best foot forward. It helps to think of who your client is and what image you should represent to appeal to that ideal client."
If you don't have a professional headshot and can't afford a professional photographer, get a friend to take your picture, preferably using a real camera, not a phone. Make sure there's good lighting and a neutral background and that your face fills the frame. Then, make a deal with yourself to get a pro shot done in short order. It's a small investment in you and your career.
2. Find the perfect cover photo.
A few years ago, LinkedIn followed Facebook and Twitter in adding space for a cover photo at the top of its profiles. If you want to maximize your LinkedIn profile, don't skip the cover photo. Photos catch people's eye and help tell stories.
Choose a cover photo that tells your audience what you want them to know about you -- what you do, who you serve, where you're based. Some examples: artwork with your company's brand or a skyline photo. A freelance writer might show off a picture of a vintage typewriter or the keyboard of a sleek new laptop. You can find some beautiful, free and copyright free images on pixabay (www.pixabay.com) and Unsplash (www.unsplash.com).
3. Be thoughtful about your headline.
Along with your headshot, these two lines under your name are what people notice first when they find you on LinkedIn. It's called a headline, after all. Some LinkedIn experts favor a simple straightforward title, like the one on your business card or resume. Other LinkedIn experts advise making your headline not about you and your fancy title but about others -- or how you bring value to others.
I say that depends on the message you want to communicate and when you want to communicate it. I've done both. For my first year and a half as a solo communications entrepreneur, I wanted people to know about my new business. I wanted them to easily recall my business name so it would be on their lips when they made recommendations. My headline: "Owner, By George Communications." But change is good, so I've tried new headlines. There's one I use that promotes my mission, which is "helping people and business tell stories in ways that lead to bigger, better things." There's the one I use to communicate that I am an accredited PR professional, and that's "APR Accredited Public Relations Professional & Business Owner."
One thing I wouldn't advise is appearing needy in your headline. Avoid words and phrases like "seeking" or "looking for." Remember it's about them, not you.
Spend some time with your headline. Try on a few and see how they feel and how people react. Maybe change it up now and then as you change and grow in your career.
4. Tell a story.
Your summary story must be a story -- that narrative arc of your career. Think about the common themes that tie your jobs together, which are listed in the experience section, to make you and your career stand out. While your experience section is meant to sound like your resume, the summary sets you apart, and should be told in the third person. (Amy George is...)
As you write it, imagine someone using it to introduce you at a public event. Share tidbits someone else wouldn't know. For example, I tell of getting a typewriter in kindergarten, because it ties into my story as a writer. Weave in your career and education for a clear, engaging self-portrait.
5. Be clear and concise.
The experience section -- the resume portion -- is where you tout your accomplishments and skills. Ditch the jargon. Ditch the corporate adjectives. Think of it this way: Who isn't strategic? Who isn't thoughtful? Who isn't detail-oriented. These are throw-away words and phrases that bog you down.
People aren't going to remember me as strategic and results driven. They're going to remember I got a client on CNBC, used to be a reporter and provide PR and communications services. They'll remember I have earned credentials, won awards and served on boards. No embellishments required.
Style-wise, bullet your experience entries so the content is scannable and use parallel construction (which I'm using in this list by telling you to do this and do that). Use action words up front, and if one action starts in past tense, they're all in past tense.
6. Be prolific.
Stay active on LinkedIn by liking, sharing and commenting on people's posts. Write your own articles and post status updates. Write recommendations for people. Request your own by asking your clients or colleagues, "Would you mind giving me a LinkedIn recommendation? I'd be happy to do one for you."
Hopefully, these tips will help you and your story shine on LinkedIn and beyond.