A really good headline increases the number of people that read what’s under the headline. And there are three places on LinkedIn where a headline is critical to your success:
- Your profile
- Your InMails (sometimes referred to as Subject Lines)
- Your posts
You may not post on LinkedIn, and you may not use InMails, but you do have a LinkedIn Profile, so we’ll talk about that first.
The purpose of your LinkedIn Profile’s headline is to get people to read your Profile.
And the profile headline has the distinction of being the most under utilized part of most people’s profiles. Why? Because most people just list their title.
I reviewed the LinkedIn Profiles of 500 sales and marketing people. These are people who should know how to sell themselves. The results? 492 headlines consisting of the person’s job title, or their job title and company.
So what’s wrong with listing your job title? It’s a waste, both for someone seeing you in search results and for someone looking at your profile and deciding whether to read it or go on to the next person.
If you are in a list of LinkedIn search results, the following are shown to the searcher:
- Your photo
- Your name
- Your headline
- Your current job title and employer
Typically, someone will be scrolling through search results, and deciding which profile or profiles to open and read. When you use your job title in your headline, you are just saying something that is already listed there. And you have lost an opportunity to use your headline to give the searcher a reason or reasons to choose your profile to read first.
Your headline is an opportunity to sell yourself, to tell a story in 120 characters (including spaces and punctuation). A story that makes the profile viewer want to stop and read your profile.
How many words can you get out of one hundred and twenty characters? Well, there are twenty-one words in these sentences
…and exactly 120 characters in those sentences.
Ask yourself: who is my ideal reader? And what does that person want? What result are they looking for? Then imply, or flat out tell them in your headline that you can deliver those results.
InMail Headlines (aka Subject lines)
While your InMail message will have three parts – the headline or subject line (which I will refer to as the headline for the remainder of this post), the body of your message and your call to action – the headline is the most important of the three. Why? Because the greatest message in the world and most compelling call to actions won’t work if the headline doesn’t work, and the reader doesn’t bother opening or reading the message.
There are a lot of things you can do and a lot of things not to do in an InMail headline, although if you take the classic advice of keep it short, keep it mysterious, don’t give too much away and allude to someone you both know, the logical ultimate headline…
“God sent me”
…would still come out wrong.
There is no one headline formula that works every time. There are lots of ways to write headlines and you should experiment with them. Is it worth the effort? Definitely. If you send ten messages to prospects every week, improving your response rate from one to two means one new lead every week. Over a year you have added fifty prospects. Combined with a decent sales process and close rate, that’s a lot of extra business.
Remember that they can’t read it if they don’t open it. The headlines only purpose is to get them to open and read your InMail or message.
There are a ton of resources out there for post headlines (just google “how to write post headlines”. See you in five hours. Maybe ten). But the fact that there are that many resources shows how important headlines are to posts.
When I write, the writing is actually pretty easy. My rule of thumb is that one of my posts takes 3 hours.
- One hour to write. This is the easy part. I will jot down my main ideas and just start writing till I’m done. Sometimes it’s a long post like this one, but even then, the first two parts of this post were largely based on parts of “how-to’s” I send to clients.
- One hour goes to editing, though it is usually not all in one go. I will edit a post two or three times before I publish it. The first edit is big, the second smaller and the third just minor things. This will surprise some people who I am sure don’t think I edit at all.
- One hour goes to the headline. That’s right, one hour. I will write down three or four headlines and then four or five variations on each. Then I will start dropping the ones that are mediocre or don’t work. I sometimes end up with two or three I like and just go with one of them. I look for a hook if I can, and I look for a fit with the photo I will use. I like to have fun where I can (like today), but I want my readers to have an idea of what they are going to read.
With LinkedIn’s current notification system, a good post headline becomes more important. A good headline can make your post stand out on a crowded homepage news feed.
But like a lot of things on LinkedIn there is no magic shortcut to writing good headlines. There’s a bit of psychology, then a lot of work and trial and error and experimenting. And it’s worth it.