Using LinkedIn To Build Your Personal Brand

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As a social network aimed primarily at business professionals and skilled specialists, LinkedIn has become the internet’s primary source of professional branding. Used effectively, LinkedIn can connect online MBA students to influencers in their field and help smooth the transition to a business career.

Too many people, however, often shortchange themselves by posting inadequate personal summaries, not making full use of connections (or having too many connections that aren’t helpful), filling their profile with clichés and buzzwords, and not making the most of recommendations.

LinkedIn is essentially a marketplace, which makes each professional’s profile a product that needs to be nurtured and promoted. The tools provided by LinkedIn are designed to let users maximize the salesmanship of their professional product.

To truly maximize LinkedIn’s usefulness, a profile must be looked at as an ongoing brand promotional campaign. Qualifications, achievements, relevance, and personality must come together to create a likable, trustworthy brand worth investing in.

Leverage LinkedIn the build your personal brand

Beginning with Academics

LinkedIn has evolved into a professional/educational storyline designed to nurture an e-persona over time – and serious users of the platform are starting earlier and earlier.

High school students are “creating elaborate profiles on LinkedIn,” according to a November 5, 2016, article in the New York Times, “and bringing them to the attention of college admissions officers.”

For online MBA students, detailed academic accomplishments can bolster their profiles and provide a complete picture of their accomplishments.

In many industries, a simple résumé may not be enough to get noticed, especially for recent graduates and academics. LinkedIn profiles, when done appropriately, enhance the quality of a résumé by allowing recruiters to interact with the information you post. Recent graduates can publish academic work, giving potential employers access to summaries of their work without needing a paid membership to online academic libraries. LinkedIn lets you do a lot more than just list your work, so take advantage of the opportunities.

“Include why [your academic results are] significant and important to the world at large,” Peter Kiske, chief executive of PAX Water Technologies, advised in Nature: International Weekly Journal of Science. “These synopses will greatly help non-experts, such as industry recruiters, to understand and appreciate your research contributions.”

A concise presentation of academic publications and educational achievements adds to a LinkedIn user’s personal brand by painting an image of a well-rounded professional.

Be Your Own Head Marketer, Sell Your Personal Brand

Diligent time and planning are required to develop a truly beneficial footprint on the internet. Promoting one’s best self means striking a balance between presenting qualifications and offering a personality-rich narrative.

The first elements people see are the profile picture, headline, and summary.

LinkedIn Content Marketing Manager Alex Rayne, writing in LinkedIn’s Marketing Solutions Blog, suggested using a high-quality profile picture that presents a friendly, professional, and approachable persona. Too many LinkedIn profile pictures look like selfies because they are selfies. Taking the time to post a professionally photographed picture will make your personal brand stand out above the rest.

The profile headline is, by default, the user’s current position as listed in the employment history section – but it can be edited. From the profile view, click on the headline. When the window pops up, you can rewrite the headline to highlight your specific details, accomplishments, or skills.

Doing so allows you to stress the main selling points of your personal brand by highlighting impressive qualities and responsibilities.

The profile summary needs to strike a balance between professionalism and likability, Content Strategist Kate Reilly wrote on LinkedIn’s Talent Blog. The summary tells a story, and stories should flow smoothly and be memorable. Those who read summaries in search of job candidates want to be hooked and impressed by what they see. Summary elements that can help a profile stand out include:

• Demonstrating expertise by listing specialties and accomplishments
• Using a friendly, approachable tone and discussing who you are, not just what you do
• Mentioning personal interests and anecdotes to establish rapport with connections
• Talking about why you love your career field and what you love about your employers (past and present)
• Occasionally using humor
• Leaving a unique call to action, luring people to connect with you in a creative way (e.g., “share workplace stories with me,” or “ask me anything and I’ll have to answer”)

Avoid overusing buzzwords, industry jargon, clichés, and slang when writing your summaries. They’ve been used so much they have lost their meaning and strength. Some of the most overused terms according to LinkedIn Global Content Marketing Lead Maria Ignatova, are: strategic, organizational, motivated, driven, passionate, track record, responsible, extensive experience, dynamic, and creative.

Completing a headline, personal summary, and impressive employment/educational history is only a part of personal branding. “Media can no longer be viewed as traditional producers and consumers, as we have all become our own news channel, facilitating in the conveyance of content and information,” personal branding consultant Maeve Ahern O’Neill wrote in her thesis, “How to Maximise Your Digital Footprint as a Personal Brand.”

Active participation in groups and regular profile updates can add an element of participation and enthusiasm to a LinkedIn profile. Instead of an image of isolation, group participation paints the picture of a team player. Also, constructive contributions can make a personal brand stand out as an authority and expert in a certain field.

“Being present and engaging in the activities of the platform are most important,” Maarit Gratschew’s academic team writes in “Netnographic Study of How Professionals Perceive Personal Branding in LinkedIn.”

“Engage in discussions and respond to comments in order to convey a professional impression.”

Connections and Recommendations

LinkedIn connections are more about quality than quantity.

“With an enormous collection of friends or followers on a network, you lose the benefits of intimacy, discoverability, and trust, all of which can work better when you have fewer connections,” Alexandra Samuel, author of Work Smarter with Social Media, wrote in an article for Harvard Business Review.

LinkedIn itself suggests limiting your connections to people you know personally. Close friends and associates will be more willing to write recommendations and facilitate professional introductions.

Being introduced to the right people is why most people join LinkedIn. Keeping your connections to people who know you and care about your success (and whose success you, in turn, care about) can be the best way to achieve the goal.

A recommendation that highlights your particular skills, work ethic, or experience is more valuable than a general “attaboy,” according to golf pro turned productivity guru Bill Faeth, president of Inbound Marketing Agents. His advice for securing relevant recommendations includes:

• Make your ask personal – A recommendation request is more likely to be answered by a connection.
• Ask your teammates – Current coworkers are more likely to take the time to write a LinkedIn recommendation for one of their own.
• Collect a variety of recommendations – References from a wide variety of sources paints one as well appreciated.
• Look outside the workplace – Personal, non-professional recommendations can be as beneficial as professional ones.

Leverage Your LinkedIn

To get the most out of LinkedIn, maintain a small yet strategic number of connections. Collect professional and personal recommendations from other LinkedIn members.

While you are in school, update your profile regularly and take the time to participate in groups. Consistent activity and attention add depth to your personal brand. Networking in business is never a bad thing, and the more interactions you have online, the more people will remember you when the time is right. An updated profile becomes even more important as you near graduation because it can serve as a foundation for marketing yourself to employers.

Spend the requisite time perfecting all of LinkedIn’s various profile elements, including the headline, personal summary, profile picture, publications, employment history, and educational/academic achievements. Then network and participate actively in LinkedIn activities. Your preparation may pay off, as your profile will sell itself.

University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Online MBA Degree Program

By utilizing advanced internet technology, the University of Alabama at Birmingham offers an online MBA program that combines traditional education with the convenience of an online university. The program offers MBA concentrations in growing economic sectors – Health Services, Management Information Systems, Finance, and Marketing. For more information, visit the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s online MBA website.


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