A Little LinkedIn Profile Therapy

iStock_000016659255XSmallHaving a good LinkedIn profile is table stakes these days. But don’t get all bent out of shape. Putting together a good LinkedIn profile is pretty easy.  Just follow these six points and you and your LinkedIn profile will be just fine.

1) Before you do anything think about who you want to read your profile. Not who may read your profile, but who you want to read it. If you are job hunting, this might be recruiters and human resources people. If you are in sales, it would be your ideal customers. For the most part, LinkedIn profiles are read by people that see you in passing on LinkedIn, or have heard your name somewhere outside of LinkedIn. They go to your profile as a quick reference check on who you are and what you are about.

2) Write your profile for your “ideal profile reader”. What is the problem they need a solution to, and how are you positioned to help them with it?

3) Pay attention to what LinkedIn says you should have for your profile to be considered complete – these include a photo, your industry and location, your current position with a description, two past positions, three skills and your education. Profiles that LinkedIn considers incomplete will appear lower in search results.

4) Past the things LinkedIn says you need, everything else is optional. Add things like rich media and publications and certifications judiciously. Too many “profile shouters” tell LinkedIn members to use absolutely everything available and the result is profile bloat. You end up with a LinkedIn profile that makes you look not so much like an expert in your field as an expert at writing about yourself. And “this person is really self-involved” is not the takeaway you were intending.

5) If you need help, look on the web for LinkedIn profile primers. However, may I suggest a more organic approach? Look at what other people have on their profiles for ideas and inspiration, remember your target audience, and you will be fine.

6) Your professional life isn’t static, and your LinkedIn profile shouldn’t be either. Come back to it every couple of months. Does your profile accurately represent where you are now? Add, change, subtract. Add or swap in a new report or company presentation, or change the wording in a section and tighten it up. Don’t agonize over it.

Back in my early days as a sales rep we used to wary not to fall into the “shopping basket” approach with our possible customers. “Let me show you every single thing my product can do, and just stop me when you see something you like.” This approach resulted in much glazing over of the prospect’s eyes and zero sales. Don’t fall into this trap with your LinkedIn profile. Figure out what your ideal profile visitor wants, give it to them accurately, briefly and concisely, and you are good to go.

The Case For a Simple Clean LinkedIn Profile

iStock_000018998035XSmallA short story: When I first got into sales back in the early 80’s, I worked with catalog companies who sold technical products worth anywhere from twenty dollars to a couple thousand dollars via catalog. And these people depended on their presentation of the products in those catalogs in order to make sales. Invariably the question they asked was “what problem does the customer for this product have, and how does this product solve it”. The key then became pointing out and focussing on the one or two features that would mean something to a prospective customer. The old advertising adage was true; “when you emphasize everything, you emphasize nothing.” So just focus on the one or two messages you want your customers to know.

The same idea applies to LinkedIn profiles.

When people ask me about their LinkedIn profiles (“should I add rich media? how about projects? what about that course on making sushi I took two years ago. Would that make me look more well rounded?”), I ask these questions back:

“Who is the target audience for your LinkedIn profile? And what do you want those people to know about you?”

That’s what your LinkedIn profile needs to accomplish. And if you don’t need rich media to do that, don’t include any. Many profiles I see these days are just too plain long. These people can come across as a little…obsessive. The first impression I get is not “wow, this person is some sales manager”, it’s “wow, this person has a really long LinkedIn profile” or “wow, this person comes across as just a wee bit too self-involved”

There are exceptions. For people who write or are creative for a living, the LinkedIn profile provides a showcase for that creativity. But other than those, I am having problems coming up with why a manager or an engineer would need a profile which requires a reader to page-down a dozen times to reach the bottom.

LinkedIn says you need the following for a complete LinkedIn profile:

  • Your industry and location
  • An up-to-date current position (with a description)
  • Two past positions
  • Your education
  • Your skills (minimum of 3)
  • A profile photo
  • At least 50 connections

So rich media, projects, social causes, heck, even a summary is not strictly necessary. Just because you can, does not mean you have to.

You do not need a LinkedIn profile that screams, “Behold the wonder that is me”. You need a profile where your target  reader can quickly see that you can help solve the problems they have.

The (Welcome) Return Of View Recent Activity On LinkedIn

iStock_000018448749XSmallIn the old days (nine months ago), LinkedIn had a tremendous tool for salespeople, consultants, product managers, researchers and anyone looking to engage with other LinkedIn members – those I would call “active networkers” on LinkedIn. This was “View Recent Activity”.

Viewing someone’s activity on LinkedIn allowed you to see what someone had done on LinkedIn in the past two to two and a half weeks. It was prominently displayed as the first section in someone’s profile. As LinkedIn is constantly experimenting with adding and removing features, having activity disappear should not have surprised anyone, but as it was a useful tool, it was sorely missed.

Last month, View Recent Activity reappeared. It wasn’t announced, and it is semi-hidden. For your first level connections, it will be in the drop down menu titled “Endorse” to the right of the blue “Send A Message” button. For second and third level connections plus fellow LinkedIn group members, it will either be in a drop down menu titled either “Send Message” or one titled “Send xxx InMail” to the right of the blue “Connect” button.

When you click on “View Recent Activity” for a LinkedIn member, if that person has done any of the following in the past two weeks, it will be displayed:

* posts in LinkedIn’s long form publishing format

* status updates

* status updates and other people’s posts they have “liked” or commented on

* their activity in open LinkedIn Groups

So how can you use this information?

For your level 1 connections, being able to view their activity allows you to see how  they are using LinkedIn. As a connection, all of this information already shows in your status update stream on your homepage, but it will be interleaved with all of your other connections’ updates. View Recent Activity collects it all in one place. This is a great way to keep up with conversations your connections are involved in, or updates they have shared or published.

You can also view  recentactivity of your level two and level three connections, plus the activity of fellow group members. How you can use this is best viewed by turning the tables. Which of these people would you be more likely to start a conversation with: someone introducing themselves as a fellow alumni of your college, or someone introducing themselves by commenting on the status update you posted two days ago? This is the difference between just using someone’s LinkedIn Profile to find a “hook” and using someone’s LinkedIn activity to find one.

Activity is a great networking “indicator”. In general, the more activity someone has the more interested in networking they are, and the more receptive they will be to meeting new people on LinkedIn.

And some things to keep in mind:

LinkedIn members can set their permissions up such that only their connections can see their activity, only their network can see it, everyone can see it, or no one can see it. On the other hand, someone who does not want people to see their activity probably is not publishing or saying anything anyway.

As you can see the Activity for those people in your network (Level 1,2 and 3, fellow LinkedIn Group members) this is another reason to have large network. The more people you are connected with, the more people whose activity you can see.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, LinkedIn Activity came back unannounced. Does no fanfare from LinkedIn suggest a lack of commitment to it’s return? Is this just an experiment? Maybe it’s not shaken out yet and will assume another form (if I was LinkedIn and found this feature  had limited acceptance, I would make it a feature of the premium subscriptions so quickly it would your head swim).

But for now at least, LinkedIn Activity is back. So instead of just looking at LinkedIn Profiles and seeing what people have done, click “View Recent Activity” and see what they are thinking.