Building your personal brand is a big deal whether you are conscious of it or not. I am now celebrating one year of being active on LinkedIn. It feels as if it went by so quickly. Last year (May 2019), I would have looked at you and said “Eww” at the sound of LinkedIn. For all the LinkedIn warriors don’t kill me just yet, hear me out. I was actually an early adopter of LinkedIn back in the day. I dumped a very basic, unimpressive curriculum vitae on the platform (because that is what everyone did- dropped a resume), I looked around and didn’t see much happening. It just wasn’t appealing in any sense of the word. It was professional, yes, but BORING!
I got bored and stopped using it before I even started. In fact, I don’t even recall ever making a post. I abandoned LinkedIn and enjoyed building my personal brand across Instagram and Twitter instead. While I was on these platforms cultivating an awesome and supportive online community, I didn’t realise that LinkedIn had evolved.
I started using LinkedIn after I hosted a 2-day Digital Marketing Conference in Jamaica. An international speaker, Dr. Ai Addyson-Zhang took a liking to me and asked that we remain in contact; she asked for my LinkedIn profile. My eyes tore open and I retorted “who uses LinkedIn?” She looked at me, and asked “who doesn’t use LinkedIn?”
Later on, I would find out that LinkedIn has 675 million active monthly users and that when people googled your name, your LinkedIn profile is almost always guaranteed to show up as one of your most prominent online profiles. YIKES! A profile with no photo and an outdated bio was out there representing the brand I was working so hard to build. Dr. Ai insisted that I start using it; she was of the opinion that the wider world needed to experience my personal brand online. She assured me that I wouldn’t regret it if I posted with as much energy and expertise as I displayed as the host of the Conference.
I went home, thought about it, and then decided to audit the platform to understand it. I don’t believe in jumping into anything without doing research. Much to my surprise, LinkedIn was appealing. It had become a massive, dynamic, professional platform. I suppose it was always THE professional platform but it had cool features, reaction buttons (like, love, curious, insightful, applause), LinkedIn Learning resources for those who had the premium package and it even had live streaming. Well, to be precise, not everyone gets access to LinkedIn Live and I am not sure when that feature will open up for everyone. After auditing for the week, I updated the profile photo, as well as bio and I started to post. I doubled down and committed to posting twice a day for at least 6 months. When building a brand presence, consistency is key across all platforms.
Opportunities are waiting
It has now been a year and I have been invited to various countries like Grenada, Singapore, Bahamas, Dom Rep, and Barbados as a host or speaker, all because of my online presence on LinkedIn. It works, it really does and I recommend it to anyone who is trying to build a personal/professional brand. The opportunities are endless once, one positions well and has clarity about messaging and niche.
I have had a year to observe, use, learn and grow and these are MY Top 13 things NOT to do if you are thinking of joining LinkedIn:
First impressions matter
If you are coming from TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram etc. just be aware that LinkedIn is THE professional network. It is the only place that you will probably find so many highly, strategic users who are intentional about collaborating, hiring and connecting. Therefore this is not the platform for your bikini line, night out with your crew/squad or stories about your twisted, drunken escapades. Therefore try to avoid duck face selfies as profile pics. It doesn’t mean you should remove your authentic self or your personality. It just means that you have to practice “time and place for everything.” Look the part. Brush up your resume and update your profile and by that, I mean a clear, efficient and well- thought out profile. Outline your achievements and no, that doesn’t mean that you have to include your victory at your Grade 6 Sports Day. No one cares!
Quality over Quantity
When we think of platforms, we think that the vanity metrics (fan/follower numbers) are the order of the day. And I get it! Large numbers play on the human psyche and provides social proof to many, but they don’t always convert. It always comes down to quality over quantity.
Don’t try to connect to everyone hoping that by spreading a large net, you will somehow get more visibility. Linkedin maxes out at 30K connections. So ensure that whoever you are adding as a part of your trusted network aligns with whatever industry or interests you have. Linkedin is definitely about niches and serving a specific purpose for a specific audience. Research industry, key persons in that field and connect accordingly. 20 solid connections are better than 200K who don’t care about what you do. Your personal brand simply won’t thrive. You also have the option of activating the follow button if you want to still have reach without threatening your connection numbers. When I actively joined in May last year, I strategically activated the follow button so that I could leave my connection requests for perfect brand fits.
If you choose to connect with someone via a connection request, don’t just send an empty request, especially if you have had no cross talk online, no engagement under posts or anything. It reads like a cold call and you are more likely to be ignored. Eso no es bueno! Instead, personalise your message and state why you think the connection might be mutually beneficial. You wouldn’t go to a corporate mingle, walk up to a stranger and say, let’s be friends. That usually happens after an introduction and conversation have taken place. Same principle. Connect, engage , explore.
Don’t Over tag
A common practice in the social media world is to tag people. Some users are no different on LinkedIn. The platform allows you to tag persons but don’t fall into the trap of tagging Linkedin influencers with the hopes that they will drive traffic back to your post. If they don’t align with your content, chances are they won’t respond. If they don’t respond or engage on your post, the LinkedIn algorithm will punish you. What does that mean? It will basically rank your profile /posts low and that will compromise your content visibility and reach. If people aren’t seeing your content, you can’t build your brand. TIP: If there is a justified reason to tag persons, don’t do it in your captions, do it in the comments section.
A great way to connect and build a brand as a thought leader is to leave meaningful comments on someone’s wall under their post. When you do that, other persons in the network will regard your comment and will more likely review your profile. This doesn’t mean that you should comment randomly all over the place in the hopes of getting attention. It doesn’t mean that you should try to compete to make your comment better than the original post.That will also damage your brand because people will know what you are trying to accomplish. Position yourself and comments in a manner that shows your knowledge in a particular area and give valuable feedback.
Would you typically go to a house party and then convince everyone to leave that party to go to another one? That would make you a rude house guest right? Well it’s the same thing when it comes to external links. If you want to accompany your captions with links of other platforms (e.g. Youtube, IG, your website etc.), place them in the comments section. If you use external links in the body of your post, think of it like this, the algorithm will get jealous that you are trying to send people elsewhere and will reduce your visibility and compromise your reach.
Hard Sells and Forceful Pitches
No one and I mean no one likes a hard sell. We run from ads and salespersons every chance we get. So don’t spam persons timelines, direct messages or comments sections with hard pitches (especially if those persons don’t align with your area or industry). You will come across as tone deaf, aggressive and self-centred. Your personal brand might be perceived as desperate -looking to make a buck, rather than understanding your audience’s problems, listening and offering solutions in an organic manner. Hard pitches hurt your brand and visibility, especially if people start reporting you as spam. Try storytelling instead.
It’s not about you, it’s about your audience
Users celebrate their victories and wins and there is nothing wrong with that. Whether it is a graduation, landing a big deal, learning a new skill etc. we genuinely root and celebrate those milestones. However, the users on the platform are more interested and intrigued by who you help or how you serve or how you solve their issue. They want to know what advice you can offer your network and how they can possibly collaborate. Avoid over indulging in self promotion. The more you help your community, the better brand building you will do. People will lean in to you to learn more.
Don’t embellish your personal brand
Be honest! And this goes for all platforms. You are trying to build brand trust and credibility. The world is infinitesimally small. Users connect across the platform and even across industries. You would be surprised to know how they lean on each other for advice and they also seek valuable feedback about other users’ work ethics. If you embellish or lie to create a false impression, you will damage your personal brand on the most powerful business platform in the world.
Bots won’t beat human connection
Some users utilise automated platforms that allow them to send automated invitation requests or leave automated responses, messages etc. We get that you might want to be more efficient , to cover more ground and the robot tool will get the job done, but users don’t like it. It comes across as disingenuous. After all you aren’t really connecting or engaging, you are letting a robot do that. Scheduling issues can also cause the release of a post with no relevance. It reads as spam and you already know what the algorithm is going to do to your content visibility and connection opportunity.
Resharing Instead Of Creating Content
There is nothing wrong with resharing content that you value. We have all done it across other platforms. We stumble across an amazing post and feel the need to share it with our community. This is cross pollination however, some users’ content only consist of reshares. They don’t even attempt to create their own. If you decide to do that, you will basically send a clear message that your community (the one you are trying to build) should go follow the other people instead. You have to have a nice balance. At least 90% your original content and 10% reshare. (those stats are my concept, I am not sure if there is actually an expert standard). All I am saying is that you can’t build your personal brand as an expert when all you are doing is resharing other people’s expertise consistently.
Worry less about beating the algorithm to get more reach across the platform. Concentrate more on communicating who you are, what you do, what your values are and what value you offer consistently ~ the community, opportunities and conversion will come organically. Your content must be quality. It must be something that is different, thought provoking, interesting, exciting, relevant etc. The better your content, the more engagement you receive. The more engagement you receive, the more the platform rewards you and boosts your visibility. It is saying that your content deserves to be seen by more people. You do this by ensuring that you are knowledgable, effective in your communication and targeted.
It’s LinkedIn not Love Island
We know that where humans gather on or offline, attraction is bound to take place. However, respect is due across all platforms. I thought that this point would have been a given but I guess not. The culture of slipping into the DMs has a different meaning and more serious consequence on LinkedIn. A direct message is really about business opportunities, collaborations, partnerships and recruitment. Avoid inappropriate sexual advances or comments. I have never experienced it personally, however, I have seen screenshots, rightful condemnation and destruction of personal accounts. Try and keep it professional. If you admire someone on the platform, be decent in your communication. You have a lot to lose if you come across as a pervert.
I hope this helped if you are considering using LinkedIn. It will feel strange at first, especially if you are accustomed to the other social media platforms. Pace yourself, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Be mindful of guidelines but don’t leave your personality and uniqueness behind. Those are your superpowers and they will help you to stand out on a very active and large platform.