How to Tell a Better Story with Your LinkedIn Profile

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LinkedIn Profile - Guess Who?

If you’re still using your LinkedIn profile just as an online résumé, you may be missing an opportunity to tell a very important story: your own.

LinkedIn is no longer just a digital CV platform. Increasingly, it’s being seen as the primary space, at least online, for telling the story of who you are as a professional. Indeed, it’s a widely used, business-focused social media community that appeals to professionals at all levels, including executives and senior leaders looking to hire, partner, or simply research the people with whom they want to do business. And it’s a powerful broadcaster, too, for those with insights to share.

Why LinkedIn Is Important

Today, if someone wants to find out about you online, they’re likely to come across your LinkedIn profile—especially if you’ve completed your profile, added relevant keywords, customized your vanity URL, and added some connections. It’s not terribly hard to optimize your profile so that it’s indexed by Google and so that your name or business is listed as a top SEO result; articles like this one and this one from Fast Company can provide you with a great start.

In addition to the value of your profile, though, LinkedIn has become important as a publishing platform. The content marketing specialists among us here at ECHO Storytelling almost always include it among the primary channels we recommend that clients use to connect with their audiences.

When we’re asked to provide strategy on professional online storytelling, we often recommend that business leaders create and publish their insights and thought leadership articles on LinkedIn Pulse, both to help tell their own brand story in a dynamic way and to support the brand story of their organizations.

And we use LinkedIn for recruiting, too: I personally research a lot of contractors through my network on LinkedIn, and generally do some digging around, after I meet someone in person, to find out who they are (and what story they’re telling). Just this week I asked a colleague for a recommendation for a screenwriting specialist who happened to dabble in production, and got a name—and then promptly Googled that name to find out more about him. The top result was his LinkedIn profile, where I discovered that we were connected through two former colleagues, who both spoke of him very highly. Reason enough to book a meeting. We’re now set to work together on an upcoming project.

And speaking personally/professionally, I of course update my own professional profile, too, so that my network has a good idea of what I’m working on, and specializing in. LinkedIn may not be important to you, but it just may influence the opinion of someone you care about impressing.

Quick Tips to Improve Your LinkedIn Profile

Handily, LinkedIn gives you a nice little gauge of your profile’s strength, embedded right in the application. According to the application, the basic elements required to achieve an All-Star Profile include the following:

  • Your industry and location
  • An up-to-date current position (with a description)
  • Two past positions
  • Your education
  • Your skills (minimum of 3)
  • A profile photo
  • At least 50 connections

Get that information in there—today, if possible. (First, though, do take the time to turn off activity updates in order to avoid updating your entire network about every change you make! You’ll thank me for that one later.) Missing any of it makes you look a bit shady or careless, and you want neither.

If you only follow this step, you’re way ahead of some out there. But that’s still not enough … you may not sound like everyone but you may still sound like most.

How to Tell a Better Story About Yourself

For anyone who’s ever faced a stack of résumés and cover letters in the quest to find a perfect candidate or for anyone who’s ever been at a networking event, meeting person after person—it’s clear that being average, like everyone else, is not a win. Trying too hard to be edgy and different is no better.

Personally, I like it when I read a profile and get the sense of a person’s genuine nature and interests. I love hearing about what they’re working on, if they seem passionate about it. I love it when they sound human and real. We all are, after all, human and real. Why try to hide that?

This, in a nutshell, is your story. It’s how you show people on LinkedIn who you are and what you care most about. Here’s how.

Define the Story You Want to Tell

Here are a few questions that might help you identify your narrative. Take 10 or 15 minutes with your laptop or notebook—and do it today. It’s time well spent: in a short session, you’ll have a good sense of the story of what makes you you.

Who is this story for?

This is often the first question to ask when choosing a story to tell for a specific purpose. In this case, ask yourself: who, among your potential profile readers, matters most to you? Even if you’re looking to reach many people, just think of one for the purposes of this activity. This is your ideal reader.

What are the most important things for that person or group of people to understand about you?

Here’s where you’ll sort out what to include, what to leave out, and what to highlight in important places like your headline, summary, and maybe even your photo.

What, ultimately, do you want your LinkedIn profile to accomplish for you?

This is the toughie. Answer the question, then ask yourself, why? Then ask it again. And again. Until you get to an answer that feels like the honest-to-God truth. Honestly answering this question will, hopefully, identify what you want your readers to take away from your profile, whether it’s information or a general feeling about the kind of person or professional you are.

Update Your Headline

One easy way to tell a different story about yourself is to simply update your headline. Looking back to your answers to the questions above, consider what’s most important to convey: is it your current title? The kind of work you’re involved in? This one, noted in this great collection of tips on writing great headlines, we particularly like:

Tireless, caring Registered Nurse who helps pediatric cancer patients and their families feel at ease throughout treatment and recovery.

Consider using these headlines for a bit of creative inspiration, too.

Truly Tell a Story in Your LinkedIn Profile Summary

Your summary is the key place to hook your reader, and convey through voice and tone, as well as through what you choose to highlight, who you are as a pro. This isn’t the place to list your accomplishments; the reader will see all of those again below, in chronological order, and may die of boredom. Speak here in the kind of voice that you’d genuinely use to connect with that ideal reader you identified earlier. Tell them the kinds of things you’d tell them in an email, or sitting down in person. Write in first person. Consider starting with a simple narrative, offering an overview of your passions, professional areas of focus, and career highlights. Above all, sound human—and remember that you’re writing for other humans.

Offer Examples of What You Do and Think

This is such an important step, and a simple one too (hoorah!). Start by simply liking or commenting on the good stuff you see your network sharing. Next, try curating and sharing good stuff you find online. Go further by including anything on your profile you’ve authored. This might include your own blog posts, presentations—ideally uploaded to SlideShare—or anything you’re proud of that you’ve published online. Haven’t published anything yet? Have no fear: it’s easy to publish right on LinkedIn Pulse, from your profile. Hire a writer, if need be, to help you flesh out an article that highlights your original thinking and/or experience. The bottom line here is that people may be impressed by your story, but they will be persuaded by evidence of its truth.

Use the Right Photo

Your photo will tell a story—make sure that it’s in line with the story you’ve identified earlier. And for the love of Pete, don’t give anyone any reason to include you in the list of the truly terrible profile photos out there on the Internets.

Also: read this excellent post by Andy Raskin on getting image feedback from the crowd — and on what a difference the right pic can make.

The Takeaway

Don’t be daunted. You can tackle this bit by bit, without anyone being the wiser (as long as you’ve updated your activity settings!). Take a few minutes, whenever you think about it, to make incremental improvements. And keep updating. Your story continues. We can’t wait to read all about it.