This article is one of the last ones in a series of LinkedIn tutorials, and as such it focuses on concepts, ideas, and options which are the finer points in the process of elevating your LinkedIn profile and creating a personal brand. If you are looking for a good place to get started on LinkedIn, my previous articles offer guides to setting up pages, sharing habits, tips for networking, and more, and all are written from my own personal experiences and knowledge gained over the many years I’ve spent running marketing and promotional campaigns on LinkedIn.
Anyone can Google the “top 10 things you should do to brand yourself on LinkedIn” and get an endless list of results which will adequately teach how you to get started on LinkedIn. But that is all you’d be getting, a way to get started. To really and truly brand yourself as an individual, either an industry veteran or a young professional, you should dig deeper and aim to take your LinkedIn presence to the next level. Not taking these extra steps is the equivalent of going to the doctor’s office, filling out the medical history pages, and then staring at your doctor silently hoping that she/he will accurately guess what is wrong by just looking at you.
While I firmly believe that everyone should take each of the extra steps I go through in this article, the approach that an industry veteran would take in comparison to a fresh college grad is notably different at times. So, as I go through each step, I will also break the step down in two sections: one for established professionals and one for those just stepping into the role of a young professional (where applicable, of course).
Over the course of my career, I’ve had to re-position and re-brand myself a few times, and I have also had the privilege of being in charge of branding and re-branding several projects and businesses. No matter the size or the scope of the re-branding undertaking, I always started from the same point in the process, defining my personal brand.
WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL BRAND AND HOW TO DEFINE IT?
Let’s start by defining Personal Brand: it is a widely-recognized and largely-uniform perception or impression of an individual based on their experience, expertise, competencies, actions and/or achievements within a community, industry, or the marketplace at large. (source: personalbrand.com/definition)
Now on to the definition of Personal Branding: The conscious and intentional effort to create and influence public perception of an individual by positioning them as an authority in their industry, elevating their credibility, and differentiating themselves from the competition, to ultimately advance their career, increase their circle of influence, and have a larger impact. (source: personaldbrand.com/definition)
TL;DR: Personal Brand is your audience’s perception of you and Personal Branding is your pathway to reaching a desired perception.
While no checklist can really cover all aspects of your brand, nor can it anticipate all of the changes and adjustments you’ll have to make down the road, it is a great idea to have a checklist of questions and exercises to guide you as you define yourself and uncover the pathways to creating a bespoke promotional strategy.
What are your goals or purpose, and what values are guiding you?
As a professional, a job seeker or a recent grad, in this exercise you are defining your future goals. It is important that you do not make these answers generic. As I mentioned above, differentiation is one of the top guiding principles in self and brand promotion, so make sure that your answers go a step further, that they are sincere, and truly representative of what you are seeking to achieve. Although we are talking about promoting yourself on a social network, the core of this process is a thorough assessment of yourself as a professional brand.
While this is something I will touch on a little later in the article I wanted to briefly mention it here since it is very timely. When creating these types of answers, if you choose to add them to your profiles, portfolios, or resumes, feel free to tailor each to the specific client, potential employer, and so forth. Catering your answers to a specific target doesn’t make you a fake, it just makes you someone who is willing to spend a little time to go the extra mile. Targeting your audience as precisely as you can is a small investment in time that truly pays off.
The guiding values you list in this part of the self-assessment are the principles behind your goals and purpose you stated in the first part of the exercise. Do not list your soft skills in this section, they will be needed later. Instead focus on the core values and principles which drive you to achieve and be who you are. Once you answer both of these questions, you will have built a strong foundation of understanding of yourself on which to further build your LinkedIn brand.
Do not rely on searching online for examples of terms to use for your guiding values. This is the moment of honesty in your assessment and you should come up with terms which truly and honestly define you.
What is your long-term plan?
The answer to this question is as equally important to yourself as it is to a potential employer, a partner, and even a client. Having a two- or five-year detailed plan and path that leads you towards the completion of that plan shows great vision and dedication.
Additionally, creating a long-term plan allows you to form a strong strategic spine from which you can continue building as you navigate ups and downs, and twists and turns of real-world execution of your plan. Remember, no plan survives the initial contact with the enemy, but knowing how to get around the obstacles, having a Plan B, or being willing to take a step back in order to make two steps forward is what will make you stand out no matter what type of personal brand you are creating.
Furthermore, most profiles on LinkedIn have a tendency to fill their Summaries or About Us sections (in case of a business page) with self-serving and overused language, telling you in a rather unexciting and predictable way what they do and why they are great at it. But if instead of that you present a cohesive plan driven by ambition to achieve and meet your clients’ needs, it infuses your profile (or a company page) with that extra something which will cause anyone reading it to stop, lift their eyebrow, and nod in approval…you know exactly what I am talking about!
What are your top attributes as a brand?
It is time to start tailoring the answers toward digital branding and promotion. Imagine yourself as a product or a service. Now, list the top 5 attributes which in your mind form a brand built on the top values your offer. I personally recommend including soft skills when answering this exercise. While for all intents and purposes, you are viewing yourself as a brand, making that brand feel personable and inviting is equally important to making yourself look like a well-oiled machine of achievement.
I especially recommend the addition of Soft Skills to job seekers of any level. The use of online profiles as resumes and video conferencing software for virtual job interviews is growing at an astonishing rate, and in next 5 years these tools will most likely become the standard. By the nature of both options, soft skills and interpersonal skills do not always translate as well as they do with in-person interviews, so it is important to bring that “human” element to the forefront and the attention of anyone viewing your LinkedIn profile.
There are many websites, apps and software tools available which you can download to administer the soft skills test. Googling the term “Soft Skills Testing” will reward you with countless options, but here are a few that come to mind first: www.merittrac.com, www.berkeassessment.com, CliftonStrengths Online Assessment.
Who is Your Target Audience?
As a professional I am sure you’ve heard of and are familiar with the term Target Audience. However, in this assessment you are not looking to compile and analyze mountains of data about target demographics, their interests, spending potential, etc. Instead you need to identify who are you trying to reach with your promotional strategies. Who do you as a person want to connect with and why?
On a digital networking platform such as LinkedIn the number of Target Audience segments greatly increases because you are no longer limited to thinking in traditional terms. I recommend that you create segments based on your goals and their priorities. For example, if you are a business owner, potential clients would be at the top of your list, but networking and sharing content with audiences which are immediately adjacent to your primary audience would also be a high priority because of the ever-expanding reach of your content by virtue of News Feeds. The same principle applies to job seekers as well. The idea is to figure out, not just who you can benefit from but how you can benefit from any audience segment you can reach, and to expand your network in multilateral ways which allow you to position yourself squarely and very visibly in front of them.
Most of these types of brand analysis questionnaires end with a “Who is Your Competition?” question. But, in reality, you do not have any competition when branding yourself on LinkedIn. Networking with, and reaching your so-called competition with your content only benefits you. Of course, make sure to reciprocate the gesture. By sharing your networks and content you are increasing your networking reach and accessing an otherwise walled-in content stream which gives you additional insight into the exact thing you are trying to do. After all, you did just connect with your esteemed “competition”.
Consider this something of a Pro Tip with a little bit of personal bias. I don’t really see anyone on platforms such as LinkedIn as competition. That is a very negative way to view what LinkedIn stands for. Instead think of everyone you connect with as a way of expanding your reach and a way of helping each other achieve your goals.
Let’s say that you have 50 connections and I have 50 connections and we are “competing” for a similar or the same goal. If we connect, now we both have 51 connections and access to 49 more potential connections and viewers of our content which ultimately gives both of us a lot better chance of reaching our goals.
Remember that in our little example neither of us is going to make a business deal or get a job from every single one of those 50 people. By denying your “competition” a chance to connect with you, you are only denying yourself a chance to connect to additional potential customers, clients, employers, etc.
Now that you have assessed yourself and created an idea of your personal brand, it’s time to put the real work in by creating content. This is where you truly differentiate yourself and how you get the right kind of attention.
For more articles on marketing and promotion on LinkedIn and other networking platform please visit our company blog: The Abstract, or connect with me on LinkedIn at: www.linkedin.com/in/igoromerbegovic
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