Every part of your LinkedIn profile is an opportunity to communicate your brand, but LinkedIn offers 5 longer sections to really brand yourself well.
It’s one thing to have a LinkedIn profile. It’s another to have a robust LinkedIn profile that is targeted towards your ideal employers and differentiates the unique value you offer.
You need a vibrant profile that communicates who you are and what your personal brand is all about.
And, as much as possible, you need to fully populate every applicable section of your profile with compelling content designed to resonate with your target employers.
The 5 Longer LinkedIn Profile Sections to Brand Yourself
The 5 narrative sections (allowing for at least 2,000 characters and spaces) are:
This gives you plenty of room for brand-reinforcing content. The Recommendations section, of course, will be written by others, but as you’ll see in in my post, Give To Get the Best LinkedIn Recommendations, you can help people write recommendations for you.
More of the right content means your profile contains more of the relevant keywords that will boost SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for your profile which, in turn, helps lead more people to your profile . . . and to you.
Plus, more of the right content helps your target employers and hiring professionals better connect to who you are and understand what you’ll be like to work with.
Remember that, along with search engines assessing the content in your LinkedIn profile, human beings will be reading it too. Your profile content needs to satisfy both, and strike a balance between the two.
According to LinkedIn:
“Your LinkedIn profile is a professional landing page for you to manage your personal brand. A LinkedIn profile is a great way for you to let people know who you are, what you stand for, and what you’re interested in. Your profile will be your personal storyboard where people can find you and stay updated on your activity, so make sure your profile is complete and representative of you.”
I’ve found that many job seekers hesitate putting up anything more than a very bare bones profile, for various reasons. Typically, it’s because they:
- Don’t have time to do anything more
- Don’t know how LinkedIn works
- Believe their profile should be similar to others like them
- Haven’t worked on their personal branding, so they don’t know what to put in their profile
- Are afraid to give a feel for their personality in their profile, or don’t know that it’s okay to do so.
Start with Targeting and Research to Build Personal Brand Content
First things first. You won’t be able to brand yourself with hard-hitting, compelling content without first understanding who you’re targeting, what their particular needs are, and why they need you.
Go back to the targeting and research work you did when you developed your overall personal marketing plan for job search, or get going on this work if you haven’t already.
I strongly urge you to get my personal branding and job search worksheets, to help you uncover and incorporate all the right information into your LinkedIn profile.
How Do You Brand Yourself in Job Search?
In case you’re not sure what branding is really all about, let’s start with a brief description:
Personal branding is a method of defining and communicating what differentiates the unique value you offer your target employers over your competitors.
According to marketing guru Tom Peters, credited with coining the phrase “personal branding” in the 1997 Fast Company article The Brand Called You:
“You’re every bit as much a brand as Nike, Coke, Pepsi, or the Body Shop. Start thinking like your own favorite brand manager. Ask yourself the same question the brand managers at Nike, Coke, Pepsi, or the Body Shop ask themselves: What is it that my product or service does that makes it different? Give yourself the traditional 15-words-or-less contest challenge. Take the time to write down your answer. And then take the time to read it. Several times.
Start by identifying the qualities or characteristics that make you distinctive from your competitors — or your colleagues. What have you done lately — this week — to make yourself stand out? What would your colleagues or your customers say is your greatest and clearest strength? Your most noteworthy (as in, worthy of note) personal trait?”
What personal branding does
Think of branding as educating people about how you can help them.
- Branding is your reputation.
- It gives people a feel for the kind of person you are.
- It helps them decide whether to hire you.
The cool thing is, you already have a personal brand. The people you know and work with know what you’re the “go-to” person for. They know about the personal attributes, values, strengths, and passions you draw from.
It’s up to you to identify those qualities and characteristics within you, integrate your value proposition into all your personal marketing efforts, and communicate a crystal clear, consistent message across multiple channels – online and offline.
If you don’t have my personal branding worksheet, here are some questions to ponder and answer as specifically as possible. Remember that branding is about differentiating yourself. You can’t do that with vague words or content. These questions will help you get going:
- What things do you love most about your work?
- What makes you a good fit for your target employers?
- How do your personality and personal attributes help you do your work better?
- What are your “super strengths” at work?
- Which things about your day-to-day work life are you most passionate about doing?
- How have those things benefitted others at work?
- What makes you stand out from others with similar qualifications?
- What do people you work with say about your performance and contributions?
How to Brand Yourself in Your LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn provides many ways and places on your profile to communicate your personal brand and stay top-of-mind with people who can help you achieve your goals. Here are some strategies to help you:
There’s no single right or wrong way to write personal brand content.
There are probably many ways to approach this that will position you well. Don’t be afraid to do something with your LinkedIn profile that few, if any, others are doing. Branding is about differentiating your unique value. Just the fact that your profile reads a little differently than your competitors could seal the deal for potential employers.
Engage people at the beginning with an intriguing, bold statement.
For example, in the About section you could start with something like:
“I love what I get to do each day at work.“… and then describe what those things are.
Look at the LinkedIn profiles of some of your competitors.
See what they say about themselves. Get ideas from their profiles, but NEVER brand yourself the same way they do by using their content for your own profile. Potential employers are very likely to notice when they’re sourcing candidates. Both you and the person whose profile you copied from will suffer. No one looks favorably on plagiarism. But it’s okay to use some of the same keyword phrases representing your areas of expertise that they do.
Be specific about your areas of expertise.
Write down all your relevant skills, the ones in which you do well, and use this information in various areas of your profile. These areas of expertise typically represent your relevant keywords for SEO. They should also go in your Skills section.
Back up the claims you make about your expertise.
Go further than just stating that you excel at particular things. Provide examples. A statement will carry more weight if you include a specific instance when you had a win using your expertise.
Creating the Content to Brand Yourself
Some things to keep in mind as you create the content for your profile:
- Always keep your target employers in mind, and write content that positions you as the problem fixer for them.
- Draw people in and make it an interesting read right from the get-go.
- Your content should be written with both human beings and search engines in mind.
- Use storytelling whenever possible, instead of only flat statements of fact.
- Include plenty of white space so the content is easy on the eye to read, and people will want to read more of your profile.
Regarding the final point above, it’s very important to break up the content. I see too many profiles with dense, tightly-packed text. There’s no relief for the eyes. Here are some ways to build in white space:
- Keep paragraphs to no longer than, say, 5 lines.
- Add blank lines between paragraphs.
- Use groupings of 3-5 bullet points.
- Further improve visual appeal by adding italics, bolding, and other enhancements with a site like Cool Symbol.
- Add “eye candy” by copying and pasting in special characters from other sources
Don’t go overboard with the last two items above. Make sure your profile looks professional, with just a few enhancements here and there. Too much of that stuff can work against you.
Also, you don’t need to do the work of writing content for so many sections all at once. Take your time. Focus on one section at a time, but start with the About section.
The About section sits high on the web page, so both humans and search engines will take notice of it more readily than other sections further down the page.
You know the saying that “people hire people they know and like.” Think of this section as your biography. Here’s where your personal brand content tells your career story, differentiating the value you offer over your competitors. Storytelling allows you to make a more vibrant connection with people than the dry resume-speak too often used here.
Highlight the qualities and personal attributes that make you a good fit for your target employers . . . that is, lean on the “personal” part of your personal brand.
Your goal here is to strike a balance between personal branding and personal SEO, or hard vs. soft skills. Here are a few ways to do this:
- Add one or two short but juicy testimonials. Use something that’s not already in one of your LinkedIn recommendations.
- Include a brief paragraph about why you chose your profession or industry.
- Break down the information into sub-sections, with headers in all caps. The headers should include relevant keywords and phrases for SEO.
- Leave a little room at the bottom of the About section to list misspellings and variations of your name, so that people using them to search for you will still find your profile. This also helps Google and other search engines find you.
Pay close attention to the first few lines (a total of 40 words or so) in this section, the ones that are visible without having to click on “see more” to view the entire section. Make this preview enticing enough to compel people to want to read the whole section. If you’re using desktop instead of mobile, a few more words are visible in the short preview.
Writing in the first person and using the word “I” (sparingly) is the best way to approach this section, instead of writing in third person.
Think of this section as your resume, where you’ll brand yourself and build credibility by highlighting the actual work you’ve done in current and past jobs, and how you helped companies in the past.
One good way to tackle this is to create Challenges, Actions, and Results (CARs) stories. In other words, think of two or three times (for each of your jobs) when you really came through for your employer. The things you did that benefited them. Prompt these stories by writing down answers to these queries for each of your stories. (Use metrics or numbers here whenever possible to really hit it home.):
- What challenge were you, your team or employer facing?
- How were you the right person to tackle it?
- What specific actions did you take to meet the challenge or get that particular thing done?
- What were the positive results of your actions that benefited your employer?
The reason the Challenge – Actions – Results exercise works so well is because it links your hard skills to your softer skills, and it also helps boost keyword density. The “actions” you took will typically represent your hard skills, which are the relevant keywords you need to sprinkle throughout your profile.
As with the About section, as you’re adding in content to this section and making adjustments, pay close attention to what appears to viewers without having to click on “see more.”
This somewhat hidden section is a little-used gem. You’ll need to add it to your profile itself, before you can make use of it. Access it in the “Add profile section” drop-down under “Accomplishments” when you’re in “view profile” mode.
Since each Project is tied to a particular job of yours in the Experience section, a project becomes a powerful way to add more content to that job if you’ve used up all the 2,000 characters and spaces allowed for each job description in the Experience section. You essentially get an extra 2,000 characters and spaces for each entry in the Experience section.
You can get creative with Projects. For example, if you worked on a challenging project, write up a description of it with the details and plop it into a Project. Tell the story of:
- How it all came about,
- The situation you walked into,
- What needed to be done,
- What wasn’t working,
- Exactly what you did to fix things, and
- What the various outcomes were.
Again, as with the About section, as you’re adding in content to this section and making adjustments, pay close attention to what appears to viewers, without having to click on “see more.”
Two Other Longer LinkedIn Profile Sections to Brand Yourself
The character limit in this section is 3,000 (as of this writing). Although these are written by others recommending you, you can certainly reach out to people and ask for recommendations for yourself, and help them write them. I’ve found that people appreciate help and suggestions. Better yet, write recommendations for others first, and they’ll be much more likely to write one for you.
The character limit in this section is 2,000. If you’ve written an ebook, white paper, or other publication, fill out one of these sections for each one.
A tip: You can’t add images in the Publications section, but you can upload the covers (or associated images) for your publications in the About or Experience sections of your profile.
This article was first published, with a slightly different focus, on the Small Business Rainmaker blog.