We’re often asked by our students for our top tips for LinkedIn profiles and our response is always the same – do everything you can to create an immediate impact with users who visit your profile. This will maximise the chances of that LinkedIn member following you or sending you a connection request. In this blog, we show you the elements ‘above the fold’ to focus on to create a strong and lasting impression on profile visitors.
Your LinkedIn profile is no longer a CV – it’s your personal branding website
LinkedIn profiles are no longer just your online CV. Instead they’re your own personal branding website where you can control your online identity.
LinkedIn search results are usually the top result when someone google’s your name:
- If you’re going for a job, people are googling you and reading your LinkedIn profile
- If you own your own business and you’re looking for a better supplier, that supplier is googling your name
- If you’re trying to land a new customer, that customer is checking you out on LinkedIn
- If you’re trying to move departments at your work, your new prospective boss is googling you
LinkedIn is the world’s top professional network where users go to have professional conversations and updating your LinkedIn profile means you’re in control of your online identity.
Research has shown that people who take the time to update their LinkedIn profile generate 2x more profile visits – other things being equal, that means 2x the number of career opportunities, 2x the number of potential business deals, 2x the amount of success you can generate.
If you’re posting content from your LinkedIn profile as individuals, as opposed to brands, you’ll generate roughly 10x times the amount of engagement. So maybe your business’ LinkedIn profile is up to date, but the profile of your CEO, Directors or Founders isn’t. Once you update and send it from them instead, you could generate a much better return on your investment.
So what are the steps to develop a complete, kick-ass LinkedIn profile? We’ve outlined them below.
Our top tips for LinkedIn profiles: focus on the elements you see first, called ‘above the fold’
First impressions last and nothing can be more true than your LinkedIn profile.
So the first thing you need to do is update all the elements that you see first when you arrive at a LinkedIn profile. These elements, called ‘above the fold’, are what you see before having to scroll down. There are:
- Your profile picture
- Your background photo
- Your number of connections
- Your contact info
- Your current role and latest education
We’re going to step through each of these in detail.
Select a great profile picture and background photo
Andrew Ford, the personal branding expert here at Social Media College, and author of bestselling book ‘Creating a Powerful Personal Brand’, says that:
“Your profile picture and headline are the two most important elements, as they are the first thing you see on LinkedIn”.
When shooting and uploading your LinkedIn profile photo, adhere to these principles:
- Got a friend who has an iPhone with portrait mode? Get them to take a high resolution, high quality photograph of you.
- Ideally, the picture should be of your head and shoulders only
- Make sure the light is shining towards you by facing the window
- Ensure it is only you in the picture – LinkedIn is a professional network so it’s not the place to have a profile picture of you and a mate hanging out
- You should wear your work attire. If you work in a mine, it’s ok to wear your mining gear. If you work in a corporate job, wear a shirt and suit jacket. Ask yourself – would I wear this to work?
- Make sure you’re smiling! Your profile picture is the first thing that people see and they’re going to make subconscious assumptions about you in a split second based on how you look in your profile photo. Ensure you present yourself as friendly, welcoming and positive.
Next, try to find a unique, interesting picture to use for your LinkedIn background photo. There are many free stock image sites, like Unsplash, Pixabay and Pexels, where you can search and download royalty-free image to use.
Nathanial Bibby is Social Media College’s LinkedIn experts and has nearly 40,000 LinkedIn followers. He was voted #1 LinkedIn Marketer in 2019 in also won Best Use of LinkedIn. He has carefully thought through his background image:
- He has consistent colours to his profile picture
- He has a picture of himself presenting to a large audience – this immediately establishes credibility with anyone who visits his LinkedIn profile.
- He promotes a piece of high value content that profile visitors can download in exchange for the user’s email address. This allows him to commence email marketing which generates the highest return on investment of all digital marketing channels
If you want to design a background image like this you can use image editing software like Canva. It’s super easy to use and the starting plan is free. Canva also offers a ton of LinkedIn banner template for you to choose from.
Use a headline that instantly captures the attention of the reader
Ok so now that you have your profile picture and background image sorted, it’s time to focus on your headline.
This is the line directly below your name. You only have 120 characters to work with so you’re going to have to make it short and to the point.
There’s no right or wrong answer and if you have a good look around LinkedIn you’ll see there’s a variety of different headlines that people use.
Some prefer to just have their current work title and company because if it’s not in your headline then people can’t see if until they scroll down to your work experience.
However, many people prefer to write a headline that talks directly to their target audience. If you don’t have a target audience then you need to define one. This is the group of people who are you trying to attract to work with you. If you’re looking for a new job, your target audience is your prospective employer. If you work in sales or business development, your target audience are the customers you’re trying to win. If you’re a business owner, your target audience may be the employees or suppliers you’re trying to attract.
Once you have your target audience then you can use this simple framework to write a great 120 character headline: A helping B to C.
A = your expertise, e.g. digital marketer
B = your target audience, e.g. ecommerce businesses
C = the benefit that you offer to your target audience, e.g. increase website traffic and online sales.
So putting this headline together it would be: Digital marketer helping ecommerce businesses increase web traffic and online sales. This comes only 83 characters, so if you’ve got the space you may also want to consider adding your current title and employer.
“Marketing Manager at RDM Digital | Digital marketer helping ecommerce businesses increase website traffic and online sales”
Whatever you do, make sure that you use your target audience’s language.
And voila! You have a great headline that will instantly capture the attention of the profile visitors.
Work hard to get to that magic 500+ connections
Once you have more than 500 connections on LinkedIn it stops showing how many you have and instead shows 500+. If someone visits your LinkedIn profile for the first time then it is an instant credibility boost to see that you have 500+ connections. For this reason you should get to the 500 number as quickly as possible.
While the profile picture, background banner and headline can be updated instantaneously, generating 500+ connections is going to take a bit more time.
LinkedIn is somewhere between Facebook friends and Instagram followers. Like Facebook, a LinkedIn user has to accept a connection request in order for you to be in each other’s networks. However, unlike Facebook, it’s relatively common for LinkedIn users to accept connection request from people you don’t know. In addition to this, LinkedIn users can follow other LinkedIn users (like Instagram) without being a connection.
First it’s important to know about the different groups of people you can invite to be part of your LinkedIn network. At SMC, we divided these into personal and professional.
Personal include family, friends, personal interests groups, school friends, university colleagues, and so on. Some people think that you shouldn’t add these people to your LinkedIn profile, however the exact opposite is true. Your friends and family members are the most likely to support you as you develop your LinkedIn profile, so they should be the first people you ask.
Next connect with your professional network. These can be co-workers from current and existing jobs, your customers and your suppliers – basically anyone you meet while working in one of your jobs.
A great tip is to connect your work email to LinkedIn. Anytime you send or receive an email from a new email address, then that person will appear in your LinkedIn recommended connections if they use that email to login to LinkedIn. Similarly, you can connect your phone so that if you add someone’s phone number, they appear in your recommended connections as well.
If you click on My Network, you’ll also see that the LinkedIn algorithm suggests members who they believe may be worthwhile and relevant to you. These may include people:
- from the same educational institutions you studied at;
- from the same companies you worked at;
- in a similar location to you;
- who work in similar roles to you; or
- from the same industry.
You should regularly browse these recommendations to find people you already know or may wish to be connected with.
When sending a connection request, you should ALWAYS write a note when you send a connection request. This will maximize the chances of someone accepting your request. If they accept, then the note will be the first direct message to that connection, helping you to remember why you wanted to connect with that person in the first place.
An example of a connection request is:
Hi [first name], I’m trying to grow my network in the [xyz] industry and I’d love to connect with you to see your content in my newsfeed.
Don’t take it personally if people don’t accept. Social media marketing is a numbers game.
Be aware that when you send a connection request to someone they choose Ignore then ‘I don’t know this person’. If this happens too many times then LinkedIn may curb the amount of connections requests you’re sending, or worst case remove your LinkedIn profile. This is why it’s essential to always send a note with your connection request. If you’re polite and friendly then they’ll just ignore your connection request.
Update your contact information to boost your credibility.
The other element that’s above the fold is the Contact Info. This will only be shown to your 1st level connections and is a clickable link that can include the following:
- Your LinkedIn profile URL – your dedicated, unique link to your LinkedIn profile that you can share with people
- Up to 3 website links – link to any web pages that present you in a positive light, such as a company website, personal website, blog, online portfolio, etc.
- Your phone number
- Your email address
- Up to 3 instant messenger – choose from Skype, Google Hangout, ICQ, WeChat or QQ
- Your birthday, which can be visible to only you, your connections, your network (1st, 2nd and 3rd level connections) or all LinkedIn members.
Our advice is to fully populate your contact information to allow your first level connections to see it. You never know when someone may be looking to reach you for a new career or business opportunity, so make sure this information is fully populated.
Showcase your current position and latest education on your LinkedIn profile
By default your latest experience will be shown on your profile to the right with the logo of the company or education institution. In addition to this, you can also select to have your most recent education shown. You should definitely do this! It’s a great way to quickly share some more details about yourself and create a lasting impression on first-time profile visitors.
Click on the pencil icon to the right of your profile. If you have multiple current positions, you can select the one that you want to showcase on your profile. If you haven’t added any experience yet, click ‘Add new position’.
Next tick the ‘Show education in my intro’ and select from your education institutions. You can also ‘Add new education’ here.
With both your current position and education you should always have your target audience in mind and present the best possible image of yourself.
So there you have it. Follow these top tips for LinkedIn profiles and focus on ‘above the fold’ to instantly create a strong first impression on any profile visitors you have. This will substantially increase the chances of them following your profile or sending you a connection request, as well as improve the likelihood that they’ll scroll down below the fold.