LinkedIn is the largest professional networking social platform. With more than 467 million users, and a little over two new users signing up every minute, it is the place to be to build your professional brand and expand your network of influence.
Give yourself a good foundation on LinkedIn by creating a complete, custom profile tailored to your target audience. This means taking advantage of the following five profile features that most users overlook or do not think through properly.
1. Professional Picture
Putting a face to a name is one of the greatest features of social media. It’s wonderful to be able to see who you are speaking with via email or phone. LinkedIn says that members with a profile photo get up to 14 times more profile views.
Adding a photo to your profile is simply a no-brainer. But the type of photo you add is not. Here are a handful of tips to help you choose an image that will make a good first impression:
- Use a professional photograph. LinkedIn is not the place to show off your latest vacation or goofiest smile. It is the place to make professional connections, build your brand, and grow your business. You can only do this with a photograph that captures who you are as a professional.
- Look like someone people would like to meet. Dress as you would on a normal business day, make sure you are looking straight at the camera, and give a warm, genuine smile. A serious, stern, or skeptical look will turn away most users.
- Use a high-resolution image. You want your picture to show clearly no matter the size of the device being used to access it. Ask your professional photographer to provide you with high-resolution images for you to use freely.
- Crop your photograph. The picture should show a clear image of your face. You can either pre-crop your image before uploading it, or you can use LinkedIn’s built-in editing tools.
- Don’t break LinkedIn’s photo rules. LinkedIn will remove your photo if it does not include your photo or a likeness of you. Photos will also be removed if they include a logo, landscape, animal, or image of words or phrases.
PRO TIP: Update your photo often. This is incredibly important for in-person networking. Folks who have never met you before may pull up your profile to see your face in anticipation of spotting you in a crowded coffee house. If you have lost a lot of weight, completely changed your hair, or got a new pair of glasses, your picture should reflect the current you.
How to Update Your Profile Photo
LinkedIn recently underwent a design update, which changed how you access your profile. To get to your profile, you must now click on the Me icon in the top navigation, which will then allow you to choose View profile.
Once on your profile, click the pencil icon to edit your picture:
You’ll need to once again click on the pencil icon to add or update your image:
Once in the image editing window, you can remove, update, re-center, and otherwise edit your profile image.
Click Apply in that window and then click Save.
2. Engaging Headline
The headline, usually used as a job title field by the uninitiated, is arguably the most important feature of your LinkedIn profile. Next to your name and picture, it is the most viewed item of your profile. People see this whether they are connected to you or not—in their news feeds, in a search, or in comments in shared groups.
When you first create your LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn auto-populates this field with your current position, which is often “Attorney (or Lawyer) at [Law Firm].” This doesn’t tell anyone how you can help them or why they should click on your profile to learn more. Use those 120 characters to tell a story that captures attention and encourages LinkedIn users to visit your full profile.
Keep these tips in mind when writing your engaging headline:
- Use keywords. If you want to be found on LinkedIn for more than just your name, you want to incorporate keywords that apply to your practice and clients.
- Say what you do. Instead of solely using “attorney” or “lawyer,” consider what type of legal help a person may be seeking when on LinkedIn. If you file patents, talk about protecting entrepreneurs’ copyrights and trademarks. If you handle bankruptcies, talk about helping homeowners get out of debt.
- Say who you do it for. You aren’t here to help everyone—there’s only one of you! Speak to your ideal client in your headline.
PRO TIP: Use dashes, pipes, or other punctuation marks to allow you to call out certain features or separate distinct thoughts. These visuals will help attract the eye in search result listings.
How to Update Your Headline
Follow the same steps you did for updating your profile picture to update your headline. The Headline section falls directly after your name:
Update the section (with no more than 120 characters), scroll down to the bottom of the window, and click Save.
3. Targeted Summary
The Summary is the highest visibility space within your profile where you can write specifically about your area of specialty or niche practice. But you want to be smart here—even though this is your profile, the Summary is the perfect place for you to speak to your target audience. Focus on your prospects, saying “you” wherever you can to show you are speaking directly to your audience. Leave the “I” statements for your Experience section.
With 2,000 available characters, you have a fair amount of room. Here are a few ideas to help you optimize what you include in your Summary:
- Laser-focus your copy. Your Summary is not the place to recite your CV. It is not the place to provide a laundry list of your services. Instead, it is where you write about your most preferred cases or clients. The more focused you are, the better able you will be to communicate your unique offerings.
- Remember keywords. Sprinkle the same keyword(s) you used in your headline throughout your summary.
- Include a call to action. If people read all the way through your Summary, they’re interested in what you have to say. This means they may also want to hear more. Tell them how to get in touch with you for further information (e.g., message you via LinkedIn, call you at a listed phone number, or email you at your listed email address).
- Think mobile. Write in a way that allows users on mobile devices to digest your content easily. Write short sentences and short paragraphs. Use short headlines to break up the text. There is little you can do from a formatting perspective here because your format is constrained by LinkedIn, but you can get smart about how you lay out your copy.
- Add media. Upload two to four visual items to help capture greater attention and better highlight your expertise. Media includes links to external sites (e.g., your blog, a video you created, a news interview you participate in, an article of yours that has gone viral, or a published court opinion of one of your cases).
PRO TIP: Write your summary in first person instead of third person. This makes you sound more approachable, which is fitting since this is a social media profile. It is also the better voice to use when writing to make a connection with your audience, as it automatically feels more like a conversation than a speech.
How to Update Your Summary
As with your picture and headline, you will need to visit your profile and click on the pencil icon toward the top of your profile. Then scroll down to the bottom of the pop-up window to find the Summary section. Write your copy directly in the open field or copy and paste content written in a document file.
Add images and links to external websites under the Media header. Then click Save.
4. Background Photo
While you are quite limited in what you use as your profile picture, you have more freedom when it comes to your background photo. In fact, this is the prime image location to reinforce your brand. Here are tips and tricks for making the best use of this profile feature.
- Use the proper image type. LinkedIn accepts the following image types: JPG, GIF, or PNG.
- Create an image of the right size. LinkedIn recommends the photo you upload fit the specific dimensions of the space provided. Those dimensions are 1584 pixels wide by 396 pixels high. Also, LinkedIn does not accept images that are more than 4MB.
- Brand it up. Use the space to reinforce your business brand by creating an image that incorporates your logo, tagline, or brand promise.
- Get personal. Give users insight into you who are by uploading something that is personal to you. It can be your favorite motivational quote, a picture of your favorite vacation destination, or an image of your workspace.
PRO TIP: Use a free social media image creation site like Canva to create a custom LinkedIn background.
How to Update Your Background Photo
At the top of your profile page, there is a small image with the words “Update background photo” next to it. Click on the text or image to open the background photo dropdown. Choose Upload photo from that dropdown and follow the prompts.
5. Custom URL
LinkedIn’s default URL assignment is first name-last name-alpha numerals. That means that the default URL will not be just your name and may make it look like you do not care about personal branding.
Whether you are looking for new clients or seeking new professional relationships (or even looking for a new job), your URL needs to be personalized to you.
- Use your name. This may seem obvious, but it is not. You want your URL personalized to you, and you want it as short as possible. Simply use your first name and last name without anything in between for the optimal URL.
- Add letters, numbers or symbols slowly. If your name as you want it is already taken (which you will figure out when you try to update your URL via the instructions below), you will need to get a little creative. Start first by adding a hyphen or underscore between your first and last names. Then add a middle initial or full middle name. Then add a certification (e.g., JD or ESQ). You will eventually find a combination that sticks.
- Don’t get hung up on capitalization. URLs do not differentiate between upper caps and lower caps, so don’t give this a second thought.
PRO TIP: You can change your URL up to five times in any six-month period. If you don’t love what you have, or if your name changes, or if you decide to rebrand yourself in a new way a few months down the line, you can change your URL.
How to Update Your Public Profile URL
Follow these steps to create your custom LinkedIn URL:
- On your profile page, click Edit your public profile in the right-hand column.
- Click on the pencil icon next to the URL under the “Edit public profile URL” header.
- Enter the new URL you’d like to use (between 5-30 characters—numbers and letters are allowed, but spaces are not). Click Save.
Final PRO TIP: Turn Off Network Updates
When you make changes to your profile, LinkedIn automatically publishes those changes to your network’s news feeds. Unless you are making a new announcement or adding a new service, newsfeed updates are unnecessary and might annoy your network. To turn off this function, make sure you switch the lever from “Yes” to “No” on “Share profile changes” at the bottom of the profile update window.
Following these five suggestions will greatly improve your LinkedIn profile and hopefully help you make better connections.