Guide to Personal Branding on LinkedIn

 

Join us as we outline how to create and communicate a personal brand on LinkedIn. We’ll be discussing content marketing on LinkedIn Pulse, LinkedIn profile best practices, and how to gain social proof by interacting with other users.

Personal branding theory

Before we get started on your LinkedIn profile, we need a clear handle on what is meant by personal branding.

The point of personal branding is to use brand strategy techniques to give yourself a strategic position that your clients will recognise and take to heart.

Like an organisation’s brand, your personal brand should combine the hallmarks of your profession with an element of uniqueness – a unique selling point – that defines your niche in the market. We can take celebrities as a useful example of personal strategic positions in action:

  • Heston Blumenthal is a celebrity chef who makes wacky signature dishes with liquid nitrogen
  • David Beckham is a footballer who also models underwear
  • Mary Portas is a TV presenter and retail turnaround expert
  • Elon Musk is a tech CEO and space pioneer

We can take this model and use it to describe “normal” professions, e.g.:

  • Sharon Ells is a digital marketer who’s a leader in the field of responsive email marketing
  • John Bloggs is a landscape gardener who creates gardens in the style of Capability Brown
  • Rob Hughes is a developer who specialises in updating legacy systems

If you can devise a strategic position for yourself that: (A) Defines your profession and (B) Conveys your uniqueness, this will be a great starting point from which to make yourself appealing to employers.

First, decide upon a strategic position like the examples listed above; then you can set to work on communicating that strategic position via LinkedIn.

Creating your LinkedIn profile

It’s likely that you already have a profile on LinkedIn, so ignore any points in this section that you’ve already covered satisfactorily.

The foundation of a good LinkedIn profile is all the same stuff that’s on your CV:

  • An introduction that tells the reader who you are. Use this section to explicitly communicate your personal strategic position, as discussed above
  • A professional/high-quality headshot (profile picture)
  • Concise summaries of your qualifications
  • Entries for your work history – keep them short, and focused on KPIs and projects delivered
  • Charitable activities

Be selective in terms of what you include on your LinkedIn profile. If a previous job doesn’t fit with your personal brand and you have plenty of other experience listed on your profile, leave it out.

LinkedIn uses a profile completion element which will help you make sure you’ve ticked all the boxes you need to.

Building your network

The quantity and quality of connections in your LinkedIn network matter, probably in that order of importance, because they may affect how visitors to your profile perceive you.

A high connection count suggests that you might be a person with an active and flourishing career, or at the very least that you care enough about your work to put in lots of effort on LinkedIn.

Growing your connection count on LinkedIn is a simple case of using the tools provided by the platform to invite people you’ve worked/dealt with to connect with you. Do all of the following to the best of your ability:

  • Invite people individually from their profiles
  • Find email contacts on LinkedIn using the Add Connections page
  • Post your profile on your other social networks and ask people to connect

These are simple tasks, but they take time. Set aside an evening, queue up a few episodes of The Digital Marketing Podcast and listen while you send out your connection requests.

Social proof

The term ‘social proof’ refers to trust-enforcing actions on social media where one person publicly performs an action that reinforces someone else’s reputation, such as:

  • A customer’s review on a restaurant’s Facebook page
  • A retweet
  • Tagging someone’s profile in an Instagram post

Social proof is important, as it provides a way for people and organisations to vouch for each other online, thus offering proof to visitors that the profile accurately represents its owner.

LinkedIn offers several ways to provide social proof on profiles, the most important of which are:

  • Skills endorsements – “votes” to confirm the profile owner’s skills
  • Recommendations – long-form written endorsements about the profile owner

As befits a business-based social network, LinkedIn users tend towards a “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours” attitude regarding endorsements – so if you’re happy to give plenty out, you’re likely to get a good amount back. Even when you don’t get an endorsement back, this is surely good business karma.

Some endorsements are worth more than others – particularly ones from highly respected people. If you’re connected with well-known influencers or senior staff at well-regarded organisations, why not politely request a short endorsement? You can always offer something back if you’re wary of asking.

A few big names at the top of your endorsements list will add up to a compelling seal of approval for your profile.

Content marketing on LinkedIn Pulse

With the advent of Pulse, LinkedIn has defied those critics who disparaged it as an online CV repository and turned itself into a leading publisher of user-generated business-related content.

Publishing your content on LinkedIn can bring lots of different benefits. It’s a great way to develop your personal brand and can help you gain exposure with new followers.

Some of you will already do content marketing via your website. If that’s true of you, you can apply similar strategies to your content marketing on LinkedIn, possibly with a more pronounced B2B focus.

For those of you who don’t, here’s a quick guide to planning content for LinkedIn:

Create a content calendar

Using a content calendar will help everyone on your team work to a smoothly to a schedule – which will be essential to getting content published regularly.

Regularity matters, as many blog readers, check their favourite blogs often to see if any new content has been published. We recommend posting at least once a fortnight, at roughly regular intervals.

In terms of the calendar itself, you’ll need to set up a shared calendar which everyone who’ll be working on the content can access. Google Calendar will suffice for a basic approach, or if you’d like a few more features to play with, we can recommend the project management system Asana.

Planning content

Good content reflects the brand of the publisher and provides value to the reader. If you can bear this in mind whenever you write, you’ll be ready to create focused, effective content that appeals to your audience.

There are all sorts of ways to decide what to write about on LinkedIn. Take a look at our short guide to content planning tools if you’d like some help.

Of course, you may already have plenty of ideas on what to write. Try to keep your subject matter firmly within your field of expertise, and experiment with writing articles on both niche topics AND more general ones – e.g. How to write product copy for cosmetics products AND How to write e-commerce product copy.

In our experience, the following types of content go down well on LinkedIn:

Re-purposing/linking blog content

One of the commonest blockers for businesses interested in publishing content on LinkedIn is capacity. Your content team is already working hard to create content for your website – so how are they supposed to fulfil this new requirement?

For us, the best answer is to repurpose content from your other content marketing activities.

So, if you have a great piece of content on your blog, you can rework it and use it on your LinkedIn profile too. Google can penalise duplicated content, so be sure to make it clear that the content was originally published on your blog, and post it at least a week after the original publication date and provide a link to the full article on your website, so the right signals get made to search engines. Our approach is to cut the original article down to around 400-500 words and tell readers to go to our website if they want to read the in-depth version.

This has the bonus of funnelling LinkedIn readers through to our website. We use unique Google Analytics UTM tracking links in all our LinkedIn articles, so we can see how many visitors reach our site in this way.

Ideally, you’ll be creating some unique content for LinkedIn too – but re-purposing blog content can be an excellent way to plug the gap if you’re struggling for capacity.

What not to do on LinkedIn – common pitfalls and missteps

By this point, you should be able to look upon your LinkedIn profile with pride. You’ll have a snappy and convincing professional history and headshot, plenty of connections, compelling endorsements from influential contacts and a lively content marketing operation, all of which communicate your personal brand. This amounts to a perfect springboard for social selling.

It’s taken a lot of hard work to get here – which means it’s especially important to prevent avoidable mistakes from limiting your success. For this reason, we’re going to round off this article by discussing some common LinkedIn pitfalls and how to avoid them:

It’s better to oversell yourself than to undersell yourself.

Modesty may be a virtue, but it can be severely limiting to your personal brand.

We recommend that you give yourself as much fanfare as you can, without being misleading. Be a ‘leader’, ‘senior’, ‘executive level’, a ‘strategist’, or whatever else describes you at your very best. Flattering personal brands have an uncanny tendency to become self-fulfilling prophesies – and so do modest ones.

Keep professional and personal separate

One of the greatest bugbears with social media is the uncomfortable overlap between the professional and the personal.

LinkedIn is better than Facebook in this regard – you’re certainly less likely to get tagged in an old photo from your uni days here – but it’s still important to bear in mind the need to exclude off-brand personal posts from your LinkedIn presence.

This is a simple matter of common sense. Remove posts and tags that don’t fit with your personal brand, and ask friends to contact you via your personal Facebook/Instagram/email instead.

Interaction is essential

The very best LinkedIn users don’t just create an impressive presence for themselves – they participate in and add value to other people’s conversations too.

Have a scroll down your newsfeed and identify posts where you can add a useful insight that reinforces your personal brand. Try to go a little bit more in-depth than anyone else has in your response.

This may sound like hard work, but it’s an excellent way to raise your profile amongst the people in your network. And to get the most out of your effort, you can also use the comments you write as the ‘seeds’ for new content on your profile.

In conclusion

We hope you’ll be able to take away some useful insights on how to build and communicate your personal brand on LinkedIn. There are different strategies involved with every aspect of LinkedIn, but there’s just one mindset required to succeed: is this on-brand? If you ask this question before every action you take, your personal branding should be spot-on.

 

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