Social Media 101: LinkedIn

Chris Skaggs • @chrislskaggs


Social media or professional network – that is the question. But, does the answer have to be binary? LinkedIn’s mission is to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful. But how do we meaningfully connect through our social and professional settings? More and more, the line between our work life and professional life is blurring. Instead of the illusive work-life balance, we’re now talking about work-life harmony.

The professional network – which officially launched May 5, 2003 in co-founder Reid Hoffman’s living room — is now operating in more than 200 territories and countries worldwide with over half a billion users and growing. I remember hearing LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner, state, “Just because we’re a professional network, doesn’t mean we have to be sterile.” Whether your goal is to find your dream job or just grow your network, LinkedIn should be many professionals first stop.

It also happens to be a great place to authentically be your whole self. In working with folks over the years on building a truly stand-out LinkedIn presence, I’ve found several quick tips that, when done correctly, can make all the difference. Whether you’ve used LinkedIn for years, or are brand new to the platform, check-out these tips.

Upon creating your LinkedIn profile, the platform will auto-assign you a URL which includes your name and a series of letters and numbers. Not bad, but you can do so much better. To truly stand-out, you should change the URL to a personalized version – bonus points if you can use the same handle across all social media channels to maintain consistency.

  • How To: Creating your custom URL is as easy as going to your profile and clicking on “Edit public profile & URL” in the upper right-hand corner of the page. You’ll then be taken to your public profile setting and again, in the upper right-hand corner of the page, you’ll see your current URL with a pencil to the right of it. Click on the pencil, input your new URL — voila!

The tagline of your LinkedIn profile is probably one of the most underutilized pieces of digital real estate on the page. By default, LinkedIn typically makes your headline, “JOB TITLE @ CURRENT COMPANY”. Boring. This is your opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

“Account Executive at XYZ Company” tells me nothing about you personally or professionally. Make your headline entice the reader. In this short amount of real estate, list some of your key skills separated by a bar ( | ) or a bullet point (•) to make them stand apart. If you’re active on social media (and everyone should be if you’re interested at all in your personal brand), include your handle in the tagline.

  • How To: From your profile page, click the pencil that is to the right of your picture and simply type in your new headline in the space provided. As you evolve in your role, make sure your headline demonstrates the best representation of who you are.

Go ahead, raise your hand if you simply copied and pasted some (or all) of your resume into this section. Lots of people do this and that’s OK, but you don’t want to just be OK — do you?

This section is your chance to be a storyteller. If you edited your tagline correctly, you hooked the reader. Now, you must keep them scrolling. The summary section of your LinkedIn profile is in the coveted position of being above the fold. It’s not always easy to write about yourself, but that’s exactly what you should be doing here.

The summary can be two to three sentences minimum, or two to three paragraphs, tops! Write in prose format and first-person. Think of this section as your personal elevator pitch. Why would someone want to connect with you and add you to their network? What value can you bring them?

  • How To: Just as you did to update your headline, click the pencil that is to the right of your picture on your profile page, and simply start drafting your new summary in the space provided. I would recommend typing up your summary in Word first to get it to where you are comfortable, and then copy and paste it to LinkedIn.

The experience section of your LinkedIn profile is where you can dive into specifics about what you’ve accomplished in each role. Think… what were you responsible for, what deliverables did you bring, who did you manage, etc.

Summarize your major wins and, by all means, do not sell yourself short. Just as you did with your summary, use prose format and write in first-person. Keep the bullet points to your resume (where they belong). Use keywords here to increase your chances of appearing in LinkedIn search results, but be careful to not fall victim to keyword stuffing.

  • How To: To update your experience section, you’ll need to scroll down to this part of your LinkedIn profile. Similar to other edits we’ve been making, find and click on the pencil icon in the upper right-hand corner of this section. There will be a separate section to update for each experience block you add.

The written word will always be strong, but the human brain’s attention span has naturally become shorter and shorter. Video is taking over and as consumers, we prefer watching a short video to reading a wall of text. Many people don’t know this, but you can add media, pictures, videos, presentations and links to the Summary and Experience sections of your profile.

Don’t miss the opportunity to showcase actual examples of some of the accomplishments you just wrote about. You know what they say — seeing is believing.

  • How To: In the edit mode of your summary and experience sections, you can easily follow the prompts and queues to upload media (documents, photos, sites, videos and presentations) and make your LinkedIn profile shine.

Now that your headline, summary and experience sections are beautifully narrating your story, and you’ve included different forms of media to support your message, what’s next? To engage your network, you need to share content. This is where I believe the social aspect of LinkedIn comes into play. Articles and newsletters that you subscribe to, support your personal brand, and provide advice are great things to share, but don’t forget the personal side.

As our professional and personal lives continue to meld into one, it is important that you show your whole self on LinkedIn. Don’t be afraid to incorporate your personality in your posts. Doing so will humanize your LinkedIn and reflect who you are in real life. Your LinkedIn profile should always be a work in progress. The worst thing you could do is follow the tips above, think the job is done and let your story go stale. Make sure that the story you’re telling is the most accurate representation of your authentic self.