A LinkedIn profile is a critical piece of any professional's digital footprint. In truth, you've probably already got one, but what do you think of it?
Have you gone through a systematic and robust process to create a good LinkedIn profile, or did you stitch something together from whatever was available by cutting and pasting from your marketing team's generic “about X” blurb on your website?
In this guide I'm going to take you through a step by step process for conceptualising and creating a great LinkedIn profile. We'll look at your LinkedIn profile picture, your background image, your headline and summary, and the other sections that make for a better LinkedIn profile.
Most importantly though, we're going to consider it from the perspective of your client. What is it you want them to see, think, feel and react to when they hit your LinkedIn profile page? How to you want to seem? These are the things that most people don't pause to think about, but they're also the things that will help your LinkedIn profile stand out from the crowd.
So let's get started.
Creating the Ideal LinkedIn Profile
Contrary to popular opinion, a LinkedIn profile is actually not about you – it's about your potential clients.
Once you take that perspective and run with it, every word, image and concept you decide to include on your LinkedIn profile is going to make a lot more sense.
After all, what you generally want to say about yourself is probably very different from what your clients care about and want to hear. So conceptually the first place to start is to get your head around the idea of creating a page that's kind of about you, but really about someone else. And that's not so easy.
What that also means is you'll need to be prepared to niche down – focus on an industry, area or client type who you believe offer the greatest opportunity to your particular practice. This is at odds with the practice of many, but unfortunately diluting your profile to be attractive to everybody will ultimately make it not attractive enough to anybody.
Do This Before you Start Editing your LinkedIn Profile
Before you start editing, we need to make sure you don't accidentally get a whole bunch of mistaken “congratulations on the new role!” messages from people. To do that, we go to our privacy settings (click on “me” in the top menu, then “settings and privacy”) and find the bit below – ensure it says no.
Your LinkedIn Profile Picture – Looking Pretty
The prevailing quality of your LinkedIn profile picture is that is should be recognisably you.
After that, everything is pretty much secondary. However that means your profile picture should be:
- a headshot – if you go for full body then you'll be zoomed out too far on little screens;
- recent – habitual changes of hair colour or quantity are going to require regular updates I'm afraid;
- alone – having two people in the shot is just confusing.
Beyond that, I personally believe you should be looking at the camera, and if not actually smiling then at least have a pleasant look on your face. I see a lot of pictures that are more on the mug-shot side of the spectrum, and they make me concerned my new connection is more likely to be a serial killer than a professional.
Finally, simple is best here. Plain background, your face, looking pleasant – it's not that hard. Pictures taken at parties with busy backgrounds, you engaging in some kind of arm-waving activity, awards ceremonies and whatever might all be great for other contexts, but probably not here.
Your job is simply to pick (or take) a picture that looks like you, doesn't have distractions, and is appealing enough that people wouldn't run screaming from you in the street.
Making the Most of Your LinkedIn Headline
Repeat after me:
My LinkedIn headline is not the same as my job position.
This should eliminate the awful use of meaningless and wasted LinkedIn headlines such as:
- senior associate
- director (including “managing director”)
Aside from your profile picture, your LinkedIn headline is the thing that people will see more of than any other element of your profile. Wasting it with generic meaningless text is just a terrible idea.
So why are these kinds of labels so offensive from a marketing perspective? Because they give precisely zero information to your potential clients. If you're engaging with people on LinkedIn, they will then have to actually click on your profile to read more about what you do (if they can find it). Most people won't, of course, because their time is valuable and why should they bother?
The role of your LinkedIn headline, much like any newspaper headline, is to catch people's attention and give them enough information about what you do at a glance that they want to read further.
Now that's not an easy task, and we don't need to get caught up in our own brains on this, but at least approach it from the right mindset – how can you explain what you do and who you do it for in a few words? I say “a few words” because while you have a bunch of characters to play with, go too long here and much of your headline can't be read easily.
What might that look like? Perhaps it's:
- I Help Subcontractors Get Paid What They're Owed
- Lawyer Protecting Women from Domestic Violence
- Wrongly Accused? I'll Help you avoid Jail
- Rebuilding Companies in Financial Distress
Now it's your turn – what kind of headline can you rummage up to inspire and inform your connections?
The Background Image – Optional?
Lots of people seem to glide straight past a background image for their LinkedIn profile, and I'm not sure why.
Well, now that I think about it, it's probably because you don't have a handy image lying around in the bizarre dimensions that LinkedIn wants your background image to be, so you chuck it in the too hard basket and never get around to coming back. Let's fix that now.
So the first question is… why both putting a background image in your LinkedIn profile?
Answer: it's about emotions.
Before someone gets to your full profile, most likely they'll see your profile picture, name and headline. So they've got a little information but not much.
When they hit your profile (if you're lucky) they're going to be immediately faced with a few main things before they start reading any other part of your profile:
- your name (again)
- your headline (again)
- your profile picture (again)
- your background image.
So use your background image to support what you're trying to say to people in your headline. But more importantly, use the background image to communicate something emotionally (a picture speaks a thousand words, remember).
Should it be artistic, or angular, or “professional”? Is it you doing something, or a solid colour? It is a stock photo or a piece of artwork? What colours are going to cause the reaction you're hoping for?
Imagery is designed to provoke a visceral, emotional reaction. So don't just ignore your background image.
That said, don't obsess over it too much either.
Don't Waste your LinkedIn Summary Section
After the initial whack of headlines and images, your LinkedIn profile summary section is probably the next most important piece of the puzzle. Unfortunately, most people waste it completely.
Let's go back to rule number 1 for a minute: your LinkedIn profile isn't about you, it's about your clients.
The problem is that writing a “client-facing” summary section without sounding like a complete idiot is actually fairly hard.
Here's a rough framework you can follow which might help you get the necessary information in there:
- An opening paragraph designed to either ask a question that provokes interest or summarise your expertise in a few words (similar to a second stab at a headline).
- Make a personal connection – say a couple of things about yourself, focusing on the things that people in your target market might care about
- A sales line – why you’re the solution to problems that people have had in the past
- How you’ve helped people in the past or a benefits statement of some kind about your services
- Call to action with your contact details
Now that sounds easy enough, right? But how can we make your LinkedIn summary section more client-centered and less me-centered?
Before you start, have your client in mind – what kind of information and connection are they looking for? What kind of language do they use? Based on your existing clients, what do you know about why people choose you over someone else?
Next, do things in first-person not third-person. This will inevitably be more likely to sound normal to the reader, and in the process not sound aloof and off-putting.
So, here might be an example of how you could do it:
I help large construction companies resolve major disputes quickly, efficiently, and effectively.A Made Up Linkedin Summary
As a company owner myself, I understand the disruption that litigation and claims management can have on a company that wants to grow. Beyond the immediate cost, disputes can distract from your overall strategy, take time from your key staff members, and ultimately take you off your main game.
My job is to help you finalise your dispute and get back as quickly as possible into what you do best. Along the way I ensure that you’re fully informed about what’s going on, what’s happening next, and the ups and downs you’re likely to experience along the way. That way both you and I can ensure that your dispute is managed in a way that minimises disruption to your business, and that we keep our focus on the things that matter to you.
In one major dispute recently we managed to reach a fast resolution, recovering more than $2.5m for our client by ensuring we made good, strategic decisions right from day 1. Happy client, happy lawyer.
If that’s the kind of lawyer you need, then I’m ready to help. Feel free to reach out directly to me on 0000 000 000 or connect with me here on LinkedIn.
An Important Note about Tone in your LinkedIn Profile Summary Section
Once we get past images and into writing, most people forget about impression. What kind of impression are you trying to create? Forgetting this step means that your profile, and that of most people, is going to end up extremely bland. So bland, in fact, that there is really no reason to read it at all.
So, although you'll be delivering some information about yourself, try to use a style and tone that is authentically and uniquely you. Are you:
So do that.
How can People Contact You?
Make sure your contact details on your LinkedIn profile are up to date please. Otherwise it's just embarrassing if I go to get in touch and you've got your email from 3 firms previous and a phone number that doesn't work.
Get a Personal URL for your LinkedIn Profile
Sorry if your name is John Smith, because I suspect its taken. But if you can come up with anything at all, personalising your “vanity” URL for your LinkedIn profile is a good idea and can make it a bit more memorable if you're trying to point people to it without the benefit of cut and paste.
Best LinkedIn Profiles – Examples to Consider
So here are a few snapshots of LinkedIn profiles that I like. They don't all follow the above pattern strictly, but that's because it's not supposed to be a one-size-fits-all system.
If you can find a way to be yourself, write like a human, show some engaging imagery then you'll be a long way towards having a great LinkedIn profile.
LinkedIn has its own list here, but here are a couple of examples from professional realms that are worth poking into.
Example 1 – James D'Apice
If you're a lawyer there's a good chance you've seen James' coffee and a case note series. But that aside, James' LinkedIn summary section is worth a read (but James, brother – update your background image!)
Example 2 – Matthew Hudson
Now strictly Matt isn't in private practice as a lawyer, however he's in the right realm so thought his profile was worth mentioning. Matthew has put a big effort into his LinkedIn look and feel, and I strongly suspect it's paying off for him.
Fleshing out the details in your LinkedIn Profile
Truthfully, the elements we've set out above form the main foundation of your LinkedIn profile in a marketing sense. If you get them right, you're the majority of the way “there”.
However, there are obviously a bunch of other sections in your profile that you can put stuff in, so here are my thoughts on the ones that matter.
Of the many areas that lawyers neglect in their LinkedIn profiles, the recommendations area is high on the list. Even just a couple of recommendations can provide a significant social proof element to your LinkedIn profile and are worth pursuing. The fact that a real person is willing to say something nice about you should never be taken lightly. Read a bit more about that here.
After a few years, most people don't really care where you went to University in terms of your expertise. However, Education can provide additional avenues for connection – perhaps you did the same degree, graduated around the same time, went to the same place. These small tendrils of overlap can help a bit.
There are a few places (including your summary) in your LinkedIn profile that you can add media. This can be a good idea if only to make your profile look a bit more filled out and show that you have stuff going on. If you have a great promo/intro video or some brilliant presentation or download on a relevant topic, then absolutely whack it in there.
That said, for me personally the number of times I've actually viewed media embedded in someone's LinkedIn profile is in the single digits.
LinkedIn Profile – Top Tips
OK so you skipped to the end or it all got too long and you've forgotten everything? No problems. Here are my top tips for your Linkedin profile:
- Before starting work on your LinkedIn profile, consider who your desired client is and describe them in detail
- Make your profile client facing – it's not about you, it's about them
- Get the foundations right – images, headline, summary section
- Don't forget to think about impressions and emotion – how do you want someone to FEEL when they hit your profile
- Get a vanity URL
- Use your headline space to describe how you help people, not as another field for your job description
- When writing your summary (which you should), do it in the first person and make it client facing – what do your clients actually want to know about how you can help them (which usually isn't which school you went to or how long you've been in practice). Have your ideal client in mind and don't try make friends with everybody here – focus on the most important clients to you.
- Flesh out the other sections as and when you can – recomendations, media, education and the like.
Over to You
You have the tools now to create an awesome LinkedIn profile. It's now up to you to follow the process, give it the attention it deserves, and then use it to best advantage.