What's Missing from your LinkedIn Profile?
One of my particular passions is to help the executives I work with become stronger storytellers. I always advise them to make sure that the first place an influencer or conference organizer looking for an article source or a speaker will go to "check them out" is LinkedIn, so it's really important that they have an effective profile. I then proceed to audit their current profile and tell them the missing elements they need to fix to help them stand out from the crowd.
There have been posts on how to put together an effective LinkedIn profile, including this one I noticed while Tweeting during Sunday's less than scintillating Super Bowl. They include basic recommendations such as clearly listing your name, your title, your company, your actual location (as close as you can get) up front, along with your key industry. Industry can be tricky for IT professionals who participate in other industries such as Financial Services, Health Care or Manufacturing because you can only choose one industry on LinkedIn. However, you can highlight Skills in other sections of your profile if you determine that it's important that you are associated with your core industry first and your IT expertise second.
The biggest missed opportunity on LinkedIn for most executive spokespeople, in my humble opinion, is the Summary option in the Background section. Most people list their chronological job experience in this section without a Summary. A good Summary is a few short paragraphs that describe what you do today for your company, threading in the key messages or themes you can talk about and demonstrating the strengths you bring to the market, your company and your customers. If done right, the Summary definitely is about the individual, but it also provides goodness and positioning for your company.
Here's an example of a great Summary that Mark Bernardo, GM of Automation Software for GE Intelligent Platforms, includes in his LinkedIn profile:
"I have worked in industrial automation as a supplier from every angle—engineering, new product introduction, quality and customer support. With over 25 years of experience, I help customers optimize their processes and increase business performance. To remain competitive, to keep their municipalities or shareholders happy, I believe facilities will need to find ways to empower today’s workforce—a workforce that wears multiple hats, has increased responsibilities, and needs to do more with less at a faster pace than ever before.
Knowledge workers are critical to the equation; we need to help them use technology to free up their time so they can work smarter. At GE, we are working to change the game through the use of SCADA, mobility, integrated analytics, collaboration and high performance solutions. Through an enhanced paradigm called Real Time Operational Intelligence (RtOI), we can marry these capabilities together and provide the right information to the right people with the right context when and where they need it so they can make the right decision for their operation. I’m proud to lead the Automation Software division here at GE Intelligent Platforms and add our thumbprint to the innovations taking place in this space."
Mark is a very effective spokesperson and this Summary makes it clear to anyone who checks LinkedIn what his expertise and views are before they contact him. He also does a good job of highlighting what his company does for customers.
Beyond the Summary, your Experience should include not just a litany of jobs you've held and timeframes for those positions, but a short description of what you did for each job that highlights your expertise that would make you a good spokesperson. Only the most recent positions that are relevant to your current position and thought leadership platform need to be fully fleshed out.
Another missed opportunity is the Contact Information section of the LinkedIn profile. Most of these include links to corporate websites or blogs, Twitter handles, and possibly email. What's usually missing is a brief sentence or two that describes your passion or interest, such as "Contact Sam Smith to discuss how the Internet of Things is impacting the semiconductor industry" or "Mary Jones is always interested in a lively discussion of all things mobile, especially related to how companies need to make sure they are balancing the security of mobile devices and the need to address employees desire to BYOD." You see the difference?
Overall, LinkedIn is not just an online public resume repository. And it's not just a place you can use to find a new job. It's a place for someone to get a feel for you and your background and to sample your thinking and your knowledge. They can learn more about you with a more thorough LinkedIn profile that has you telling them what you do and why you do it, backed up by any relevant blog posts, articles or white papers you have written, as well as video interviews or podcasts. We recently were able to secure a keynote speaking opportunity for one of our clients based on the strength of a video clip we shared with the conference organizer. Having that kind of work sample on your LinkedIn profile is a great resource that may create great results like that for you.
Because LinkedIn is also a living breathing profile, it should be refreshed and updated regularly with new content that makes sure that any new aspects of your work or your thinking are appropropriately represented. If you purchase a higher level participation in LinkedIn, it will guide you (in some cases, to an annoying degree) to make these updates frequently. They are worthwhile, even if you do have to spend some time "turning off" the helpful reminders.
Last point: I personally am not a fan of the Endorsements on LinkedIn. This does not imply any disrespect to anyone who has endorsed me for any of the skills I have listed. I just don't find this section helpful so I don't use it at all. Recommendations can serve as more powerful third-party endorsements to help learn a bit more about a person. However, I still firmly believe that the best way to represent who you truly are on LinkedIn is to use your own words in the Summary and Contact sections in particular, as well as the links to published materials or videos. Don't miss the opportunity to make LinkedIn an effective way to position you as someone who would be a great source for an article or a white paper on the key themes or issues you care about. If you skip this step, you may not make the cut for the busy editor or show organizer who is moving fast.