This week’s blog will wrap up our 2 part series on LinkedIn Branding.  In Part 1 I shared 5 Goals for your LinkedIn Profile or Company Page.  In Part 2 below, I’ll delve into how to achieve these goals. Before you begin it’s important to understand exactly what your personal brand or your company’s hiring brand should be.  To quote a veteran of the advertising world, Joey Dumont, “It must be authentic to be credible.”  He further cautions that “cleverness divides, clearness includes.”  In other words, if you, your product or company can’t actually achieve their online claims your efforts at online branding will prove futile.  Not heeding this advice is probably at the root of why only 20% of consumers believe any given company’s claims about themselves.  With the advent of job review sites like Glassdoor (my post – Glassdoor and the End of Sales Hiring as We Know it) employers must face the reality that transparency in hiring is here.

So what does your LinkedIn presence claim that you or your company excels at (if anything)?  For example, your online brand might speak to having a team that is incredibly responsive to your customers’ needs.  If that isn’t true, it will quickly be apparent and you’ll soon lose that new customer that you worked so hard to sign.  To give a more personal example, your personal brand might boast fantastic problem solving abilities.  If that’s why I’m interested in interviewing you, I’m showing up to that interview with several questions designed to test your claim.  When it comes to claims and branding, I love the adage “say what you do, do what you say.”

In Part 1 I established 5 goals for your LinkedIn profile:

  • Be Likeable
  • Differentiate Yourself (What You Do Well)
  • Provide External Validation
  • Establish Yourself or Your Company as a Thought Leader
  • Gain Followers

I also gave a few examples of LinkedIn Profiles that achieved some of these goals.  To really nail this, it’s time to get crystal clear with what is it that you or your company is authentically good at. This differentiator needs to be clearly expressed and woven through your LinkedIn, Glassdoor (if we’re discussing a company’s employment brand), company website and every other online medium that you use.

Although there are better examples out there, to protect the innocent, I’ll use Sales Talent’s Company Page and my own LinkedIn Profile as examples of how to do this.  As I take you through my own profile I’ll point out various tools within LinkedIn that help me:  a) put forward a consistent message  b) back up my claims (external validity) and c) in my efforts to establish myself as a thought leader with an eye towards gaining followers (and influence).

Take a Professional Photo That Matches Your Brand

In my 1st blog I shared that LinkedIn users with a Profile Photo get 7x the number of views as users without a photo.  In speaking with our Account Manager at LinkedIn he said that the increase is much higher if the photo is professional and well done.  We do have some proof of this working.  In 2014 we gained a very large new client through LinkedIn.  An HR professional at this company was tasked with building a short list of 5 sales recruiters that he was to find on LinkedIn.  On that list was one of our team members.  She wasn’t the most seasoned or accomplished of our recruiters but she had unquestionably the best picture.  This experience was the tipping point that inspired us to upgrade and improve our team’s LinkedIn Brand (and was the genesis of these 2 blog posts).

The 1st step of that makeover was a Sales Talent team photo day.  The picture for my “About Me” picture used in the sales blog section of our company website and for each of Sales Talent’s employee LinkedIn profiles came from that shoot.  Confession time, I hate having my picture taken but we did manage to find 2 photos that the team liked out of the close to 100 that were shot of me that day.  The pic I use for my personal LinkedIn profile is below.

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You can read 13 Common LinkedIn Profile Mistakes for tips.

Improve Your Summary Section

Right below my photo in my profile is the “Summary” section which I use to describe what we do well:

“When it comes to making a career change or hiring a new sales professional we understand what is at stake. On the candidate side, our interview processes are strictly confidential and we strive to accurately represent each opportunity. If the opportunity is not a step up, you’ll know. With our clients, we align ourselves as a true partner in your quest to hire sales reps that will move the needle and stick with your organization. With both sides, our processes are designed to find that perfect fit.”

Most LinkedIn profile Summaries that I read give an overview of their company’s products and services.  Instead think about what problems you and/or your company can solve.

Strengthen Your Summary With Slideshare & Multimedia

At the bottom of the “Summary” section LinkedIn allows you to upload Slideshares that can further speak to you or your company’s abilities and differentiators.  This is a screenshot from Page 1 of my 1st of 2 Slideshares (major points underlined for emphasis):

Candidate Experience

 

My 2nd Slideshare is a “White Paper” that I wrote on “How to Hire (and Keep) Top Sales Performers”.  This further speaks to my desire to “find that perfect fit” that I promised in my “Summary”.  It also helps establish me as a thought leader.

The Slideshare platform also allows you to upload videos or presentations that can help differentiate you and your company.  In fact, we’re working on a few videos here at Sales Talent.  With online attention spans low, it’s easy to overwhelm the reader with too much information.  Videos can replace pages of written content and distill it down to 60-90 seconds.

Get Strong Recommendations

Moving down to the “Recommendations” section of my profile here are my first two recommendations (once again, main points underlined):

Recommendations

It is important to note that you can change the order of your recommendations.  When in edit mode you’ll see up and down arrows that enable you to move your recommendations up or down.  As you can only see the first five recommendations (without clicking the More button) in the public version of your profile this is important to remember.

The best prospects for Recommendations for your LinkedIn profile are your most satisfied customers.  I would also encourage you to have former employees recommend your coaching and leadership skills if you are a hiring manager.  You can request one of your LinkedIn contacts to recommend you by following the path outlined in the screenshots below:

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Click on “Manage” which will take you here:

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Click on “Ask for recommendations” and use the easy to follow prompts to send a request.  In the screenshot above you can see that I have a “Pending recommendation”.  Recommendations do not go live on your profile until you approve them.  You can also ask your recommender to edit or add to a recommendation if desired.  This is especially helpful if there are grammar or punctuation errors in the recommendation.  Nothing kills a strong recommendation faster than poor writing.

Honors & Awards

Moving further down my profile you’ll come to “Honors & Awards”.  We’re especially proud of back-to-back wins as a “100 Best Companies to Work For”.  Although it doesn’t directly speak to treating our clients and candidates well I do believe that the awards imply it.  We’ve also been a “100 Fastest Growing” company which speaks to marketplace success:

Honors

Build Credibility As a Thought Leader

Building on your ability to establish yourself as a Thought Leader, LinkedIn allows its users to share valuable content in the “Posts” section of their profile.  You can also share content on your company page by posting “Updates”.  With my own profile, I have written and shared multiple “Posts” that all speak to how to be or how to select a Top Sales Performer.  In the top right corner of my “Posts” section It also shows that I have 4,169 “followers”.  A small measure of credibility that only shows up on your profile if you publish a “Post”.

Make Your Company Page Authentic

Moving over to the Sales Talent “Company Page” and our other employee profiles I believe that you will find consistent messaging and a similar look and feel.  You’ll also see that our Company Page has an additional 3,496 “followers”.  We’re only a few months into our LinkedIn “Rebrand” but we’ve been very pleased with the results so far as we’ve seen a measurable improvement in the percentage of InMails being accepted and an increase in the # of “followers” for our Company Page and my own personal profile.

Going forward, I’m focused on increasing the amount of “Posts” that I share and “Recommendations” I have on my profile.  As we are currently underway with a major website “Rebrand” we’ll make sure to coordinate this with the messaging and look and feel we’ve established on LinkedIn.  We’ll also be make sure to speak to what it’s like to work at Sales Talent during the website “Rebrand”.  Once completed, we’ll tie that back into our Company Page on LinkedIn.

I hope that these 2 posts helped you understand the importance of your Linkedin presence and has given you a few tips to help improve it.  For smaller companies, it can help tip the scales in your favor when competing against much larger ones, especially since it is much easier for you to control your LinkedIn Brand.  The same goes for sales reps competing for a sales deal or for a new sales position.  There’s a sea of competition out there and only one can win each deal.  With the economy heating up in 2015 here’s to you making the most of it.