Beth Kawasaki is VP of Marketing at ReBoot Accel and teaches social media, personal branding, and how to develop an elevator pitch that delivers desired results. She recently taught an “Above the Fold” LinkedIn Growth Hack session for ReBoot Connect Silicon Valley. Here is Installment #1 (of two) of Beth’s top tips for how to audit and growth hack your way to a great first LinkedIn impression, including six “Take Note”s: special advice for those returning to their career or pivoting to a new kind of work.
“The opening screenshot of any individual profile on LinkedIn is considered “above the fold” – it is what we see first. In the media, “above the fold” is the headline that entices a reader to pick up the publication, buy it and read more. If you don’t engage the reader quickly, they move on.” – Mark Amtower
Quickly is an understatement. We live in a Tinder world and recruiting experts suggest we have 3 seconds to grab a harried HR exec or hiring manager’s attention before they swipe right, or swipe left. If this is true, any of us involved in a job search or personal brand and business building enterprise better set aside (temporarily) our “below the fold” obsessions (balance of summary, experience, etc.) and address our “above the fold” with thought and intent. Here are tried and true tips to audit and growth hack the first six elements of your above the fold LinkedIn presence. Stay tuned for the final three (#’s 7, 8 & 9) next week.
- Profile Headshot
- Background Banner
- Intro Info
- Contact and Personal Info
- Articles and Activity
- Summary: the critical first two lines
Hit Pause. Before you start your audit and growth hack, you’ll need to answer three questions that should guide any of your personal branding efforts. Takes time upfront, but avoids efforts that miss the mark.
- What is my goal? Are you re-entering the job market within your current area of expertise? Pivoting to a new sector or area of expertise? Selling a service or product? Advocating and fundraising for a cause? Starting or building a business and brand? Then, get clear on what “success” looks like to you today vis a vis your stated goal.
- Who is my audience? Who are the specific groups of people you need to reach with your messaging to reach your goal/s? Your college alumni contacts? Past business networks? HR recruiters and hiring managers? Influencers and thought leaders in a particular sector? Current customers? Future prospects? And what ‘professional language’ do they speak?
- What unique benefit do I bring to this audience? How do I solve their problem better than anyone else?
“You should never go to a meeting or make a telephone call without a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve.” – Steve Jobs
Now. Let’s begin the audit and growth hack.
1.) PROFILE HEADSHOT: This is the first profile element your viewers will focus in on. Do you appear likable, competent, and trustworthy? Social sage, Guy Kawasaki says those are the three criteria for any LinkedIn profile headshot. These goals can be met through a photo taken by a pro or a good amateur on a mobile phone in flattering light against a neutral background from shoulders up. Headshot styling can vary by industry, position, and goals. An investment banker’s headshot may look different from an indie film producer’s or rising restauranteur’s. Bottom line, in whatever sector you inhabit, ask yourself, “Do I look likable, competent, and trustworthy?”
Take Note! Returners and pivoters, many of you are ‘re-branding’ in the minds of your closest and most fruitful current networks. What image do you want to project to them with your new goals in mind? How can you communicate that image and currency through your profile photo? The reality is, talented seasoned women (and men) starting a new life or career stage can face obstacles of preconceived notions and ageism. What tweaks could you make to your personal presentation that feel authentic and features the best you to your intended audience?
2.) BACKGROUND BANNER: There is a large blue parcel of personal branding real estate right behind your profile photo. This is an oft-ignored opportunity to signal your story and skills in a visual way. Using an app like Canva, you can create a custom LinkedIn profile background banner using your original or Canva stock photography. The custom specs I used in working with the new LinkedIn redesign are 1536X768. When building your banner, keep in mind where your profile headshot will lay on top of your photo or graphic and then upload. I use my banner real estate to showcase the ReBoot brand and reinforce my positioning as a marketing expert. Lisen Stromberg, author, journalist, and speaker uses it to visually extend her LinkedIn headline messaging and keynote speaker skills.
Take Note! Want to stand out on LinkedIn? Take the time to develop a background banner that complements your profile story and supports your professional claims and goals. If you do, it demonstrates you are resourceful, current, and creative; and it builds credibility and trust.
3.) NAME: This matters more than you might think. Who are the audiences (plural) you want to engage and by what name will they search for you? Family name? Current married name? Prior married name? Both? All? You have 40 characters available in your last name line. Don’t waste them on education acronyms. You can cover that in other sections.
Take Note! For people returning to the paid workforce following a career pause, this is even more important. You will be re-igniting networks that may have started in high school, college, business school, or earlier jobs. You may have survived multiple marriages and career moves. Make it easy for people to find you. Most of the ReBoot team uses family and married names to do so.
4.) HEADLINE: Writing LinkedIn headlines can humble the best of us, and those 120 characters can be memorable, enticing, and help the right people find you with your next opportunity.
First, you need to revisit your guiding questions: “what is your goal?”, “who is your audience?”, and “what unique benefit do I bring to them”; and add two more: “what language do they speak?”; and then harvest, “what keywords do I need to be found for?”
To write a great headline, you need to identify the search engine optimization keywords (SEO), customer benefits, and calls to action (CTA’s) that are most meaningful to and used by your audience to find people who can solve their human resource and business problems. You can do that by reading relevant job descriptions on LinkedIn (search by sector, company, and/or names of positions you are interested in), Googling articles for inspiration from others, or enter the words “LinkedIn headline images” in your Google search bar for endless examples. Also, look at the headlines of your contacts! See what they have done, making note of what works and doesn’t, and learning from that.
Next, you have 120 characters, use them all. Also, opt for clean professional formatting. I like the vertical bar, with one space to either side, between keywords or phrases. Last, your headline must answer your viewer’s pressing question, “WHY SHOULD I CARE?” Emphasize what you DO for your audience (a targeted customer benefit) vs. what you ARE (your title, that goes elsewhere). And always include a customer benefit or call to action that is meaningful, in their language, and solves their recruiting and/or business pain points.
Take Note! All of your skill sets, whether gained and honed during your first stage careers or during your career pause, can be valuable. Mine all of your work experiences; paid, pro-bono and parenting and excavate what you’ve used and learned; crafting mini-stories about when you’ve applied these skills in concrete examples with measurable results. Then reinterpret them for your audience’s and today’s marketplace needs and opportunities. Carolyn Carpeneti, executive recruiter, and coach, once noted that it doesn’t matter whether a good example is from 15 years ago or last week, talk about it as if it happened yesterday.
5.) INTRO INFO: This subsection to your headline is where you subtly legitimize the claims you’ve made in your headline. It includes opportunities to communicate your current company, education, your geographic location, and how many connections you have. All these tidbits can be used strategically. Here’s how.
Higher ed alumni associations present a powerful search and networking opportunity on LinkedIn; so, if you got to finish college, make sure to list it and join your alumni LinkedIn group. If you like where you live and want to stay put, or your location adds cache to your personal brand, locate yourself. Others, open to the wide world, can signal that by not including that information.
And then there’s connections. This is why LinkedIn exists. You want to grow quality connections with your goals in mind. Yet, the quantitative number of connections you have indicates to many viewers whether you are a serious ‘player’ or not. A rule of thumb? You want to reach 500+, when LinkedIn stops reporting any higher # on the free platform.
Take Note! Reaching 500 connections may feel daunting to returners and others joining the LinkedIn platform for the first time. Take comfort! You will be amazed at how fast your connections can grow when you proactively reach out to friends and family on the platform, join alumni and other interest groups, engage with content in the newsfeed, and begin to post and publish yourself. Does it take intent, work, and courage at first? Absolutely. But there is a tipping point when LinkedIn starts suggesting folks you may want to know, and how you are connected, so you can go to their profile and send a personalized invite and reason to connect with you.
6.) CONTACT AND PERSONAL INFO: On the right bar of your profile page you will find (in very tiny type) the name of this section and a “see more” option. Many of us never click through to “see more” and thus are shocked to discover our personal contact information is outdated. For shame! You want your audience to have every opportunity to get to know you and reach out to you. At the minimum, make sure you have provided your LinkedIn URL (shortened please), current email address, and a direct cell phone number (no kids allowed). If you have a web or blog site, add the URL here. Are you active on social media (of course you are!), promote your chosen professional handle here. Mine is currently LinkedIn, Lisen Stromberg adds Twitter. I think that’s really smart, so I will be doing that soon too. #growthmindset
Take Note! This small section presents a big opportunity for a returner to demonstrate she is current. A shortened LinkedIn URL is a must. A professional ‘gmail’ address is the business standard (no dated Yahoo, Hotmail, forgettable, cutesy or ‘Xxxxxfamily’ shared addresses please). The phone number listed needs to go straight to you. Always. Check out Google Voice if you are uncomfortable with listing your personal cell phone. It can serve as your public front # that goes directly to your preferred private number. And finally, seize the power and proactively list a social handle that works for your professional goals here. 97% of recruiters vet the social media channels of potential employees. They will look and if they find none available (you’ve blocked them), they will wonder what you have to hide. If you prefer one for your profession and one for family. Carpe Diem and make that known.
Now you have the first six of my nine step audit for your “above the fold” presence on LinkedIn. Remember, your LinkedIn profile will require maintenance to ensure it continues to align with your evolving professional goals and accomplishments.
How to maximize the value of your “Highlights” (mutual connections), “Articles and Activity”, and first two lines of your “Summary” sections can be found in PART 2: HOW TO AUDIT AND GROWTH HACK YOUR “ABOVE THE FOLD” LINKEDIN PRESENCE.