Whether you're a power user or a casual participant, LinkedIn is a great place to research people and companies, expand and leverage your network, and find new opportunities. It's also the first place people go to learn about you.
So what does your LinkedIn profile say about you? Are you making a good impression? Here are some tips for optimizing your profile.
- Think carefully about your title ("headline"). Be specific and include keywords.
- Don't skip the summary! Make it detailed but keep it warm, inviting, and in your own voice (first person).
- Include a complete career history.
- Take advantage of the Projects section. This is an area where you can expand on professional work you have done, and it's great for keywords, making you more likely to surface in someone's search results.
- Keep your contact information--email, phone numbers, job title--up to date. This shows you are accessible and active within your network.
- Include original, published content to establish yourself as a thought leader in your field.
- Strengthen your profile with third-party recommendations (as opposed to endorsements) that support your professional efforts.
- Don't over post. Studies suggest a good rule of thumb is 20 posts a month.
- Proofread your content and posts (or ask someone else to help)--typos in your profile will keep people from taking you seriously. A tip: type your information into Microsoft Word first (or any software with a spellcheck function), then copy and paste it into your profile.
Visual components are important, too
Your LinkedIn image is a crucial part of your online presence, and may play a larger role in how your profile is received than you realize. In the MIT Sloan Executive Education webinar, Visual Persuasion in the Digital Age, MIT Sloan Professor Ed Schiappa discusses the importance of visual impressions in today’s digitally based society and how a visual message can often be more persuasive than a verbal one. An expert in the field of digital communications, Schiappa says that different parts of our brain decode verbal and visual stimuli (a concept known as dual coding) and we typically decode visual stimuli very rapidly and without much thought. In other words, "We are hard-wired for quick judgements," says Schiappa.
During the webinar, Schiappa encouraged participants to think carefully about their online profiles and head shots. For example, research indicates that a straightforward angle connotes honesty, trustworthiness, and confidence, while a head tilt is considered a more submissive pose and can imply weakness.
Other tips for your online photo include:
- Smile naturally. A natural smile conveys friendliness and approachability.
- Be thoughtful about your expression, especially your eyes. Studies say squinting your eyes conveys a sense of competence, while a more wide-eyed look can connote uncertainty or vulnerability.
- Avoid dark colors and choose a background that isn’t distracting.
- Dress the part. Wear professional attire, such as a suit, which lends more credibility than a trendy outfit.
Learn more about communication research and the power of persuasion in Schiappa's two-day Executive Education course, Communication and Persuasion in the Digital Age.