I just finished reading Jan Vermeiren's book, "How to Really Use LinkedIn". It's a great read and I highly recommend it. Most of us know about using LinkedIn to build a professional online resume, to do some connecting with co-workers and peers, and to join some interest groups, but how many really know how to use LinkedIn to promote their personal brand and their business? I'm going to summarizing what I learned from Jan's book and throw in my own advice from working with this powerful social networking tool.
First, let's review what we mean by "personal branding". Dan Schwabel, author of another great read, "Me 2.0", defines it simply as "how we market ourselves to others". How we use social media to define ourselves, become a recognized leader of one or more online communities, and how we conduct ourselves when networking with others - these are the core components of our personal brand. Let's take each of these three components and view how LinkedIn can help us to promote our personal brand.
This is done in LinkedIn by creating an outstanding profile.
- Your profile should include a good picture of you (ideally a professionally done head shot that you can use throughout your social media sites).
- You should include all pertinent details about your career - employers, jobs, titles, dates and experiences. Make sure you include details about how your contributions benefitted the companies you worked for.
- Don't exaggerate, and certainly don't lie about anything - this exercise is all about creating an authentic impression of you as a person and your work experience.
- Spend some time on your Professional Headline - make it brief but descriptive of your current function, since this is what people search on.
- Fill out the entire profile and include any information about networks or communities you belong to.
Becoming a Recognized Leader
This is done by building your network, contributing and leading the way in your field.
- Start by building your LinkedIn connections - search LinkedIn and find people you already know and invite them to connect. Search by companies you have worked for, clubs or societies you belong to and schools you have attended.
- Search Groups and find and join groups in your area and in your industry.
- Connect with people - add discussions and comments on other peoples' discussions in your groups. Always look for opportunities to help your network members - through answers, suggestions or links to resources. They will remember you for it, and hopefully recommend you. Recommendations on LinkedIn are invaluable. Many people will glance at your profile, and if they see those multiple "thumbs-up" for your recommendations, they will instantly want to connect with you.
- Start your own group on a topic upon which you are an expert. Grow the group and constantly provide valuable content, ideas, comments and leadership.
- Ask and answer questions in the Answers area. If you provide the best answer to a question (as evaluated by the questioner) you can receive expert "points" and ultimately receive "Expert" status - which is another way to improve your personal brand and grow your network.
Conducting Yourself Like a Pro
This is ultimately how people perceive your personal brand.
- Think of your LinkedIn profile and daily presence as an extended job interview. It's that important.
- Maintain a professional demeanor. You don't have to be stiff. Be yourself, but focus on what you know and how you can help others within your network. This is not the place to talk about hobbies and fun events. It's about work and adding value.
- Give far more than your receive.
- Participate as much as you can, but don't over-post. Contribute when you have something to say, but otherwise engage people, learn about them and ask and answer questions.
- It's o.k. to ask people you know or have worked with for recommendations, but generally a no-no for people you haven't met. Work with them in the community first, build a relationship, and help them as much as you can. Eventually they will recognize your leadership and reward you with a recommendation.