“I’ve used LinkedIn for years, but I’m not sure what benefit I’ve gotten from it.”
That’s a quote from the vast majority of people who have used LinkedIn.
Does getting on LinkedIn seem like a waste of time? Do you feel like it’s a mystery and somehow everyone else has a clue, but you missed the memo?
What if a few easy tweaks could change all that?
What if you could turn your LinkedIn profile into a machine to bring you new career opportunities?
What if LinkedIn started sending you speaking and consulting gigs?
What if you could use LinkedIn to generate leads and sales for your business?
What if you could start seeing tangible benefits after just five minutes of optimizing your profile?
Use this checklist to perform a self-audit of your LinkedIn profile and get it in shape. I promise you’ll see immediate benefits.
I’m confident about this promise because it wasn’t long ago I was asking myself what the point was of using LinkedIn. I couldn’t point to anything tangible I had gotten from the network, despite being on it for several years and investing significant time and effort. But a lot of my efforts had been working in the wrong direction. Once I made a few tweaks, I immediately started to get better results. I began to share what I was doing on LinkedIn, and as others did what I did, they came back with stories about how these tactics worked for them, too.
how to use this checklist
The first action items in this checklist require just a few minutes, are easy to make, and produce big benefits. The later items take a bit more time and are still beneficial, but they’re not as critical. I ordered things this way so that even if you only complete the first item on this checklist you’ll still get tangible results.
You may be tempted to think some of these optimization tasks are so simple, so easy, that they can’t possibly help, and you may as well skip them. Don’t fall for this temptation–sometimes it’s the small and simple changes that bring the greatest results.
…by small and simple things are great things brought to pass… ― Alma 37:6, The Book of Mormon
As we get started, I assume you already have a LinkedIn profile set up with basic information filled in. Ready for the first task? Let’s go!
1. profile photo
Users with a photo in their profile receive 21 times more profile views. ― LinkedIn
Upload a photo, and make sure it’s a good one.
It should be at least 400 x 400 pixels.
Getting a professional photo is nice, but not at all necessary. A few minutes prep, your phone, and some decent lighting is enough.
Bad LinkedIn Profile Photos
To paraphrase Tolstoy, all good profile photos are the same. Every bad profile photos is bad in its own way. Bad photos may be blurry, faded, poorly cropped, overly serious, a logo rather than a person, shot from too far away, or include only someone’s eye.
Good LinkedIn Profile Photos
Smiling, happy people. Crisp, bright, clear.
If we were not impressed by job titles…we would demand that financial advisors show us their personal bank statements. ― Mokokoma Mokhonoana
When you send a connection request your title is one of just four pieces of information the person you want to connect to will see first (the others are your name, profile photo, and mutual connections). The keywords in your title also affect how you show up in searches on LinkedIn, so make your title count!
what not to include
Words like creative, team player, experienced, innovative, guru, influencer, thought leader, visionary, and successful do not make you sound like any of those things. Leave out the self-flattery. Also, don’t put “Actively pursuing job opportunities.” This does not make you an attractive candidate.
what to include
If you do keynote speeches, put “keynote speaker” in there. If you’ve written a book, put “author” in. Go beyond the simple “Admin at XYZ Company” and follow Sally Hogshead’s example–instead of a traditional title she includes the results she delivers:
To become more successful, don’t CHANGE who you are, become MORE of who you are. I’ll show you how, in 3 minutes.
If someone researches you before they accept your connection request or share your content, one of the first things they’ll see on your profile is your banner image. People do business with people they know, like, and trust, and your banner is an excellent way to build trust through imagery and social proof.
An attractive banner image may be enough, but if you’ve got it, adding social proof can increase your credibility. Social proof is made of details that make people think “Well, if other people trust this guy, I suppose I should too.”
We view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it. ― Robert Cialdini, Influence
Example: I’ve received recognition from Forbes, Inc., Success, and other publications, so I’ve included their logos in my banner.
Others, like author and podcaster Robert Rose, include images of books and other media that demonstrate their expertise.
Your bio is the main block of text under your photo, banner, title, and other basic information. Viewers only see the first two lines of your bio unless they click “See more” so those two first lines better count! Lewis Howes shows us how:
I am a lifestyle entrepreneur that teaches small business owners, freelancers, and entrepreneurs how to make a full time living doing what they love. Most of my students make 6 and 7 figures a year by applying basic online marketing p…
Lewis’ bio gets cut off here, but by this point he‘s already captured the interest of his target audience.
Don’t leave it blank. Don’t write in the third person. Don’t post a company description. Also, don’t tell us how awesome you are–show us with facts!
If you have received recognition or awards list a few here, but keep it brief, you don’t want your bio to be the written equivalent of a selfie stick. Make your bio relevant to your audience and include a few personal details, like hobbies–sometimes these can create a connection that makes all the difference.
Pro tip: And make sure to include keywords so you’ll show up in relevant LinkedIn searches.
Your bio can be long or short, the goal is to give your audience what they want, whether that’s a sense of trust, or useful information.
Here‘s the short bio author Dave Asprey uses:
I’ve traveled the world, from Tibet to private brain upgrade facilities outside the US, to try out all the biohacking techniques I’ve been able to find in order to discover:
What are the simplest things you can do to be better at everything?
All Bulletproof content is free on bulletproofexec.com. Or, try out Bulletproof Coffee made with butter and Brain Octane Oil.
BTW, LinkedIn doesn’t activate links within the bio (dangit!) unless you’re on mobile (yay!) so Dave’s link isn’t clickable on the desktop, but even in that case a portion of his visitors will copy and paste it.
Your bio could be longer than this, but is it necessary? Again, it’s all about what your audience wants, and there is no rule that will fit everyone’s needs.
This bio from podcaster Pat Flynn is longer than the previous one, but still effective:
In 2008, I was laid off as a Job Captain in the architecture industry. Since then, I have built several businesses online that have now allowed me to make much more, and work much less.
I currently blog at The Smart Passive Income Blog which has recently become one of the fastest growing blogs in the online marketing and blogging industry. I also host The Smart Passive Income Podcast, which was at one point the #3 overall business podcast in iTunes, ahead of podcasts from well-known public figures and authors, including Oprah, Suze Orman and Jim Cramer.
My blog and podcast is about how I experiment with making money online and what I’ve learned along the way…
You get the idea? That’s only half of Pat’s bio, but the important part is how he establishes his credibility quickly by talking about the success of his podcast. If a reader doesn’t finish his bio, at least they’ll walk away knowing Pat isn’t any slouch.
5. employment history
People will never scrutinize your employment history as much as you think but they will check to make sure it’s there. An empty employment history area is commonplace with fake LinkedIn profiles.
Many include a list of jobs, companies, and positions, but make sure your most recent employment includes a write-up describing your experience, like Dave Asprey does here:
I’m Trend Micro’s cloud computing and virtualization evangelist, responsible for thought leadership and strategy. I work with press, analysts, customers, partners, the Cloud Security Alliance, and the cloud and virtualization community in general to bring more cloud knowledge into Trend Micro, and to share Trend Micro’s innovative new cloud and virtualization strategy.
If you know me personally or look at my career history, you can tell I wouldn’t have joined Trend Micro if I didn’t actually find differentiated and interesting cloud (public and private) things happening here! I’m really excited.
I blog about cloud security at http://cloudsecurity.trendmicro.com. You can also follow me at http://www.twitter.com/daveasprey where I tweet all of my blog postings, along with commentary on a mix of cloud and virtualization.
This description provides a great insight into Dave’s time with this employer and the value he added while there. Where possible, list factual accomplishments, especially those that include 3rd party recognition.
Yeah, I use Dave’s LinkedIn profile as an example a few times in this post because he does several things so well. When it comes to his employment history, it’s the best I’ve ever seen.
Pro tip: Include keywords in your employment history to increase your visibility in LinkedIn searches.
6. contact and personal info
Completing this information isn’t mission-critical, but it’s super easy, so let’s take care of it real quick. To edit your contact and personal info, which includes your email address as well as links to other social profiles and website, go to your profile and click on “See contact info,” like this:
Then when your contact info pops up, edit it using the pencil icon, right here:
Recommendations are like references or testimonials. Ask for them from your current employer, past employers you have a positive relationship with, clients, customers, and partners. Get at least five recommendations, but the more the better.
Pro tip: Don’t ask for recommendations, give them. When you give recommendations, people tend to reciprocate by giving recommendations back.
8. skills & endorsements
You can list up to 50 skills on your profile. It’s better if you choose what they are rather than allowing others to, so use all 50 slots.
Make sure they’re relevant. Make sure they’re real skills people care about. “Microsoft Office” is not a skill anymore–that’s so 2001.
Once you enter your skills, make sure your settings match mine so that LinkedIn will invite others to endorse you for your skills.
First, click on that pencil icon to the right of “Add a new skill,” right here:
Then look all the way down at the bottom and click on “Adjust endorsement settings,” like this:
Then make sure the two top settings look like this:
If they’re switched to “no” then…well, you won’t get any endorsements of your skills, and you know it’s all about the skills.
9. public settings
Sometimes your privacy settings get mixed up somehow, like what happened to a friend of mine.
He was setting up his LinkedIn profile, got it just right, threw it out there, and…nothing. After a few months he thought “Either this social network stinks, or I’m doing something wrong.” A little bit of checking around and “Ah-ha! Found it!” Turns out his settings were such that when he visited someone’s profile his visit showed up as “Anonymous” and they were also set so that nobody could find his profile.
Make sure your profile is public so that people can actually find you. First, go to Settings & Privacy, like this:
Then click on Privacy, then “Change” next to “Edit your public profile,” like so:
Then LinkedIn will take you to a new view of your profile, like you see below. Make sure the settings on the right are set like mine, and make everything public all the way down so anyone and everyone can see everything.
Choose a customized URL, rather than a default one. It looks more professional. Mine is linkedin.com/in/joshuasteimle. Go ahead, click it, but I’ll apologize right now–if we’re not already connected you’ll have to “Follow” me because I’m already maxed out with 30,000 connections. Yep, that’s all LinkedIn allows.
To edit your URL, go to your profile page and click “Edit public profile & URL” from the link on the right:
Then it’s going to bring up…oh, look familiar? That’s right, this is a shortcut to get to those public settings we went through in the previous tip. Click on the pencil icon next to the URL on the right:
11. education & groups
If you haven’t done so already, add your educational experience and join a few groups you’re interested in. This makes your profile more complete, alive, and credible, but it does something else even more important.
When you send someone a connection request, especially someone well-connected, they often scan your profile to quickly see if your profile is real or fake. If they see that you both went to the same school, this is often all it takes to put their mind at ease. Common group memberships provide similar reassurance.
Since people can also filter their searches on LinkedIn by school and groups, joining these groups can also increase how many connection requests you receive from your peers.
This is where we switch from one-time actions to activities that are still part of optimizing your profile, but need to be done on a regular basis.
Now, we all love zombies, but we don’t love zombie LinkedIn profiles. When you produce fresh content it makes your profile look alive, rather than like Ashton Kutcher’s.
Ashton isn’t just a tale…err, succ…um, well-known actor, he’s also pretty active as an investor in the business world. He could be absolutely crushing it on LinkedIn. I mean, he already has over 20,000 followers and he’s not even active. If he got active and started talking about what he’s up to he could have a few million real quick and leverage those connections to better serve his business interests.
Compare Ashton’s profile to Shama Hyder‘s, now this is what an active profile looks like:
There are five primary types of content on LinkedIn:
- Text posts
- Image posts
- Link posts
- Video posts
To create any one of these you go to your feed and use this box:
Articles aren’t getting the traction on LinkedIn that they once did, so don’t expect to post an article and have it go viral–the other types of posts are much better for producing viral content. But since the articles show up in your Articles and Activity area it’s still a good idea to have three or more up. This will make your profile look more legitimate and alive, and more people will accept your connection requests as a result.
Text posts are hot, and an entire blog post or series of blog posts could be written on how to create viral posts that generate real results (say, that sounds like a good idea). Right now the priority is to create enough content to show your profile is alive. Here are some quick ideas for what you might post:
- Career or business questions you have
- Career or business answers you have
- Stories about challenges you’ve overcome
- Why you chose your career, or why you chose to start your business
- What motivates you, your purpose
You’re limited to 1,300 characters, which isn’t a lot of space, but if you craft things right you can get anywhere from thousands to millions of views of your content.
Pro tip: Start and end your post with a question to get a discussion started.
And image post is just like a text post, except it also has an image. These can work well, but often tend to not perform as well as a plain text post.
You would think a link to an article with a well crafted bit of text to go along with it would be great content, but here’s the thing…LinkedIn wants people to stay on LinkedIn, and links take people away from LinkedIn. This is why you often see people say “See link in first comment below.”
Video is as hot, if not hotter than, plain text. But I’m not talking about posting a link to a YouTube video, that doesn’t count. What LinkedIn wants is native video, video that is recorded directly to LinkedIn, or uploaded directly to LinkedIn. Choose one of the quick ideas above under text posts and and make a 1-2 minute video. Yes, right now. Just use your phone. No need to fix your make-up, it’s all good. Just make the video, right now, and post it. Tag me in your post and let’s see what happens.
Pro tip #1: Caption your videos. I use a random guy on Fiverr. Costs me $11 each time. I think I’m going to train my kids to do it for me. 85% of web video is watched without sound, so captions help a lot. Update: LinkedIn now allows you to upload caption files in .srt format and the captions show up without having to edit your video at all. My new process is to upload my video to Rev.com ($1/min for transcription) and then I upload the video and the .srt file, and I’m done, for just a buck or two. And Rev.com has turned around transcriptions in as little as 7 minutes for me!
Pro tip #2: Tag people in your posts. Type “@” and then start typing their name. Don’t overdo this, however. Tag people you know will be interested in the content, or who will have great comments to add, and don’t tag the same people too often or they’ll get annoyed.
Why do we, as human being, connect with one another?
Why do we have friends?
Why do we fall in love?
Why do we have children?
The answer is, of course, content distribution!
Of course I’m not advocating that you connect with lots of people on LinkedIn just so you can spread your content further–that’s just using people. Instead, you should be connecting with others in order to form mutually beneficial, meaningful relationships. While there’s certainly something to be said for the idea that you can only have deep, meaningful relationships with a relatively small number of people, that doesn’t mean you can’t have less deep but still meaningful relationships with hundred, thousands, even millions of people. Sure, Oprah has never been able to meet one-on-one with her millions of fans, but does that mean she shouldn’t have launched her TV show? Does that mean her show was meaningless and never helped anyone? If you have a message that will help others, why wouldn’t you want to spread it to as many people as possible?
If there is nothing else you take away from this checklist I hope you will understand this one key to LinkedIn success–the more connections you have, the more people will see the content you post, and the more connections you have who are part of your target audience, and whose connections are also part of your target audience, the more members of your target audience will see the content you post.
If you want to impact as many people as possible then your goal, when it comes to LinkedIn connections, is to be connected to a large group of members of your target audience, who are also connected to large numbers of your target audience, and who are all active on LinkedIn and will engage with your content. How do you build that kind of network? That’s a topic for another post, which I’ve already written, right here.
the end in mind
What’s your goal on LinkedIn?
Do you want a new and better career? Do you want to sell more? Are you looking for investors? Are you looking for investments? Do you want to become a thought leader, an influencer? What opportunities are you missing out on because your profile is incomplete or set up the wrong way? Regardless of what your goal is, you’re more likely to achieve it, and receive opportunities you may not even be aware of, if you follow this checklist to complete and optimize your profile.
Members with complete profiles are 40x more likely to receive opportunities through LinkedIn. ― LinkedIn
Now that your profile is ready for action, make connections and create content. As you do, you’ll get better at it, and you’ll see real results. I’ve seen people go from invisible to influential within weeks, and you can do it too. Good luck!
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For years I used LinkedIn without getting any real results. It seemed like a waste of time. I was only on it because everyone else was. Then when I began seeing how successful other people were at marketing themselves and their businesses on LinkedIn I got jealous and thought “How in the world are they doing it? Why aren’t I getting the same results?”
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