Stan Robinson, Jr. advises businesses and professionals on how to leverage LinkedIn to advance on all career fronts. LinkedIn is a major personal branding platform that ranks highly online. That makes it an essential online reputation management tool. We interviewed him on best practices for personal brand-building on the popular site, which Microsoft just purchased for $26 billion.
There are reams of resources for using LinkedIn to maximum advantage. But many users still seek your guidance. Why do so many professionals continue to need help with the platform, and what are some of the most surprising questions you are asked by them?
Most people still think of LinkedIn primarily as a place to put their online resume rather than viewing it as a business tool. LinkedIn’s membership is growing by 1 – 2 new members every second so there are new people continually getting started on LinkedIn. Beyond filling out their profile and possibly connecting with some friends, former colleagues and those who invite them to connect, most individuals do very little with LinkedIn.
As the concept of a personal brand and its importance gains momentum, more individuals are realizing that LinkedIn is a powerful platform for online reputation management.
Surprising questions I’m often asked include:
“I’m not looking for a job so why do I need to update my LinkedIn profile?” Answer: LinkedIn is one of the first places people will search for information about you when considering any type of business relationship with you. Consequently, your LinkedIn Profile is often the first impression that others will have of you as a professional.
“Do I really need to include my picture on my profile?” Answer: Yes, visitors expect to see your photo there. Many will simply click away from profiles with no photo.
What makes LinkedIn different from other social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram?
LinkedIn is a professional network. Members visit the platform with a business intent. This could be as simple as expanding one’s professional network, gathering information about a prospect, or keeping up with industry developments. In contrast, people visit other networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Snap Chat in order to be social.
Your professional reputation will not necessarily suffer if you do not have a Facebook Page, Twitter or Instagram account. However, business people and professionals expect to be able to learn more about you on LinkedIn. If they cannot find you or your profile is sketchy, your competitors are only a click away.
Why is LinkedIn an important tool for managing your professional reputation?
Whether we like it or not, when individuals perform due diligence researching us and our organizations they will often use online tools. Google lists your LinkedIn profile high in its search results when anyone searches for you by name. If you haven’t done so recently, please Google your name. The results may surprise you.
You have total control over what appears on your LinkedIn profile. So take this opportunity to present the image and message that you want visitors to see. If there is a large discrepancy between the information on your LinkedIn profile and what others are writing about you or your business on the web, you may need to engage the services of a reputation management expert.
What are the most common ways LinkedIn users underutilize the platform as a personal branding tool?
Most LinkedIn members have a current photo of themselves on their profile. That’s a good start, but they only include their professional title in their headline. Instead they should use the 120 characters of space in the headline for a value statement and relevant keywords describing the solution they provide. A headline stating “CEO of XYZ Tax Service” is less informative than one that reads “We Help Small Business Owners Save on Taxes and Bookkeeping Services | Serving the New York Metro Area”.
The most important section of your LinkedIn profile is the Summary. Most people don’t give this section the attention it deserves and waste a valuable marketing opportunity. In your Summary you have 2,000 characters of space available to describe the market you serve, your products and services, the value you offer, and what sets you apart from your competitors. By including the most relevant keywords in your Summary (and throughout your profile) you increase the likelihood that you will be found in searches by LinkedIn members.
In addition, you are able to include media such as videos, PowerPoint presentations, PDFs and images in your Summary, Experience and Education sections which enable you to tell a more powerful story about yourself and your company.
Is there one piece of advice you find yourself continually giving to your clients?
Structure your LinkedIn profile like an informal sales letter for yourself and your organization rather than a resume. You want to use your profile to position yourself as an expert in your field or at least as a resource that brings value to your professional community. This can help you distinguish yourself and your business from competitors.
Think about your LinkedIn profile from the perspective of your prospects, customers, partners, potential employees and other stakeholders in your business. They are interested in understanding what you can do for them. Take advantage of their visit to your profile to explain how you help them increase sales, reduce costs, manage risks, or any other form of value you provide.
LinkedIn is a powerful publishing platform. Which type of content is most valuable to publish on it, and what kind would you like to see less of?
The best way to take advantage of LinkedIn’s publishing features is to share content that is educational, informative, inspiring and, occasionally, entertaining. In order to do this effectively you need to understand your target audience and what types of content provide value for them. For example, if you offer a product or service for information technology professionals you might share posts on topics such as cyber security, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, big data and similar topics.
I would like to see fewer generic quizzes unrelated to business and less promotional content that offers no additional value beyond a sales pitch.
Remember that people you are connected with are most likely to share your content if it will make them look good in the eyes of their networks.
Stan Robinson has a BA in Psychology from Harvard University and a Masters in Public Affairs, International Relations from Princeton University. He is a sales and marketing expert, a public speaker and consultant.
This is the ninth in a series of interviews with experts whose work relates to online reputation management.