5 Ways to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile

Tips to forge stronger connections on LinkedIn from the B2B Institute

On Tuesday, November 12, Women’s Media Group descended upon the LinkedIn offices for a brown bag lunch with Afiya Addison, Education Lead at the B2B Institute.

Addison works with both individuals and companies to help them get the most out of LinkedIn and shared some of her best practices with the members and guests of Women’s Media Group. And we’re happy to pass along a few of her tips!

Find the right photo

If you don’t currently have a photo associated with your LinkedIn, now is the time to change that! According to Addison, LinkedIn members with photos on their profile receive 9x more connection requests, 21x more profile views, and 36x more messages. And for everyone wondering exactly what kind of photo they should be using, it depends on your industry and your role. An investment banker will need to present a very different kind of professional image than a freelance children’s book illustrator. It also depends on your role. If your work is creative or visual in nature, let that shine through in your photo. And, finally, it depends on the kind of company that you work for or want to work for. Do you work for a fully remote tech company or a traditional corporation with over 100 years of storied history? Match the tone of your photo to the tone of the company you work for (or are hoping to work for).

If you’re not sure exactly what kind of photo is best for your industry or your position, you can always search for other people in your same industry or in your same role on LinkedIn to see how they are presenting themselves. 

Profile photos should show the human behind the resume. Use discretion, but don’t be afraid to be a bit playful. And, of course, make sure it actually looks like you!

Tell your story

LinkedIn allows you to fill in a brief “About” section in your profile. Second only to having a picture in your profile, Addison told the WMG audience that this section is the most important part of your profile. It is your opportunity to weave together your experience and interests into a coherent narrative; an elevator pitch for yourself. It’s where you can show off your individuality. If you’re actively searching for a new job or looking to change industries, the About section is the place to say so. And, especially important for the publishing industry, it’s where you prove your writing chops. Can you condense your whole work experience – plus indicate how you want to grow – into a handful of sentences?

Addison suggested a length of 1-2 short paragraphs and using the STAR format: Situation, Task, Action, Result. Be sure to hit what industries you’ve worked in (Situation), your responsibilities in those industries (Task), how you get your work accomplished (Action), and your successes (Result). She recommended including relevant metrics for your roles. For example, if you worked on the publicity team for 10+ bestsellers in the past 2 years, if you are a publishing industry veteran with over 15 years of experience, if you exceeded your growth goals for 5 consecutive quarters, etc. She did, however, note that while many industries value years of experience, ageism in the workplace is real and advised discretion when talking about how many years you’ve been in a field.  

Make it media rich

There are several opportunities within a LinkedIn profile to add media like photos, videos, articles, or your portfolio. After encouraging the audience to add in a profile photo, Addison also recommended adding in any other relevant links to make your profile more engaging and to give anyone looking at it a fuller picture of your work. This is most intuitive for professionals whose work is already visual; graphic designers, illustrators, etc. But, Addison reminded the audience that all kinds of professionals have materials that they can – and should! – add to their LinkedIn profile. For example, articles you’ve written, links to presentations you’ve given, big media coverage that you earned for a project, and more.

If you are sharing articles or writing articles on LinkedIn, include images or videos when applicable.

Give endorsements and recommendations to get them

LinkedIn connections can endorse one another for relevant skills, plus provide written recommendations that are available on their profile. Recommendations and endorsements are great ways to demonstrate that, not only do you think you’re a whiz at developing strategic partnerships, for example, but your peers and colleagues think so, too. The best way to encourage your contacts to endorse you or give you a recommendation is to first endorse or recommend them. Addison suggested first making your recommendation or endorsement for a contact, then reaching out to them to ask if they would be willing to do the same for you. She told the audience not to be shy about asking colleagues to cover specific topics or skills in a recommendation, especially if they are in a more senior position.

But, you’ll need to keep these skill endorsements fresh. Your skillset when you first got a LinkedIn account might have changed as your career has grown and changed. You’ll want these endorsements to reflect your current skills. Addison recommended going through your LinkedIn connections every six months or so to endorse them for the most relevant skills to their current positions and asking them to do the same for you.

Share your voice, build your audience

LinkedIn is a powerful platform for building your voice as a thought leader in your chosen field. The simplest way to start sharing your perspective on LinkedIn is to share articles, links, or quotes on your profile as status updates. But, whenever you do post content you find elsewhere, make sure that you’re making it clear to your followers exactly why you’re posting it. Frame any shared quote, or article, or tip with your own viewpoint and your own voice so that everything you share becomes a part of your own branding on the site. The other option for sharing your opinions and building an audience on LinkedIn is through their in-site publishing platform. You can publish an article on LinkedIn directly, which will then be promoted to your followers as an update, rather than just as an item in their newsfeed if they happen to be scrolling. These articles are opportunities for you to reflect more deeply on something you’re interested in. For example, Addison wrote an article called “Silent Reflection” about losing her voice. It was more personal than professional, but positioned her as someone who thinks deeply about communication, accessibility, and interpersonal skills needed to succeed at work.

Use your posts to start conversations – if someone comments, respond! This is how you demonstrate that you are engaged in a conversation and invested in moving discussions forward. Engaging actively in the comments on posts – yours or others – creates an opportunity for reciprocity between you and whoever you are in communication with.

Use hashtags to reach a broader audience. Hashtagging is still relatively new on the platform, so some of the more general hashtags (#marketing, #professionaldevelopment, etc.) are able to broaden your reach without getting entirely lost in the shuffle. Once you’ve started to share content on your profile, start to think about scheduling it so that your followers know when to expect regular updates from you. For example, every Tuesday afternoon. It’s best to stay away from posting on Fridays, but a surprising number of people are active on LinkedIn during the weekend, so feel free to post on Saturday or Sunday! The whole audience was surprised to learn that LinkedIn is not just for Monday-Friday, but Addison explained that because so many people are using LinkedIn to find a new job, they might not want to be on it while at their current job.

Bonus tips

  • Check in on your security preferences in case you want to be able to look at other members’ profiles without them being notified. Check this by going to your Account, then Privacy, then How Others See Your LinkedIn Activity.
  • Unless you are in a very public-facing role or give lots of workshops or talks where you are meeting new people and inviting them to connect with you, Addison recommends keeping your LinkedIn contacts just to people you’ve actually met or corresponded with.
  • Include your Volunteer experience. It’s a great way to show who you are holistically. Plus, you might find that you share non-career interests with a hiring manager or recruiter.  
  • Use the first person in your profile. Third person tends to read as awkward and too formal for the platform.

Learn more about Women’s Media Group here, and check out our recap of their Beyond the Book panel last spring.

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