Tran is a marketer, thought leader, and entrepreneur living in the Bay Area. He was recognized as the youngest Top Voice on LinkedIn in 2015. His profile on LinkedIn, which boasts more than 150,000 followers, helped pave the way for a number of his other accomplishments: being recognized as the youngest Forbes 30 Under 30 recipient in Marketing & Advertising (2016), leading digital and content marketing efforts at both Apple and Samsung, and writing the upcoming book Zero to Infinity.
He shared some advice with me on how to develop a globally recognized personal brand using LinkedIn, and how you can get started today.
Shane: Where's the best place to start, when it comes to personal branding?
Tran: I think it's best to approach it by replacing the phrase "building your personal brand" with "developing and designing your personal brand." I talk more about this is in my TEDx Talk.
The reason for this is simple. The word "build" implies there's an element of certainty in what you're doing: If you write XYZ many blog posts and comment ABC times per week, your personal brand will grow by DEF.
The return from a strong personal brand is often unclear. However, that doesn't mean you should expect anything less than an enormous payout from it in the future.
I like to use the analogy of eating vegetables when explaining personal branding: The benefits of it may not instantly be clear, but will surely rise to the surface in the long run.
The words designing and developing better explain the amount of planning, detailed strategy, open experimentation, constant reevaluation, and downright uncertainty personal branding actually involves.
Thought leadership seems to be an integral piece of personal branding. What advice do you have on this topic?
Don't be a journalist.
As a thought leader (whether established or aspiring), keep in mind that you aren't a journalist. You don't have to be objective in your content.
There are a thousand publications, books, and news sources out there that could give your audience the same information you're sharing with them, but there's only one you. The reason your audience is following you is because they want to hear your opinion on relevant topics.
What makes a great headline on LinkedIn?
For your headline, don't restrict yourself to one company or one title. Instead, let your audience know who you are at your very core.
For example, on Reid Hoffman's LinkedIn profile, his title is simply, "Entrepreneur. Product Strategist. Investor". Nowhere in his headline does it say he's the co-founder of LinkedIn.
My own headline reads: "Storyteller. Marketing Leader. Entrepreneur. Forbes 30 Under 30. LinkedIn Top Voice."
What title explains who you truly are?
How about a great LinkedIn summary?
The main point of your summary is to maximize the amount of common interests you have with your network. This could be with a potential recruiter, client, or former classmate who now owns an eight-figure business.
To do this, you'll want to include what you've done, what you're doing now, and where you're aspiring to go in your career. Also, be sure to put some relevant interests and passions in here. Others want to know you're not a one-dimensional person.
In short, your summary should tell the story of why you're motivated to be doing the work you're doing now.
Lastly, it's absolutely crucial that your summary and work experience back up your headline, otherwise you could lose the trust of your network.
What tips do you have when it comes to your profile picture?
The most important aspect of a LinkedIn profile picture is to portray yourself in your most natural state. Unless you're working in investment banking or consulting, you don't have to wear a suit or expensive blouse. Just be who you are.
Also, make sure your photo is of the highest quality (and no pictures of pictures -- definitely not a good look!).
Do you have to write long-form articles to succeed on LinkedIn?
There are many ways to engage with your network on LinkedIn. If writing long-form articles isn't your thing, try curating content for your audience by sharing someone else's article and providing two or three sentences of commentary on the piece.
If you do enjoy writing articles, though, LinkedIn Publishing is a terrific way for other people in your industry to discover you.
Just be sure your piece doesn't take longer than five minutes to read. Keep it short and sweet to increase shareability.
You can watch Tran's full TEDx Talk on designing a personal brand here: