Maybe you think of LinkedIn as primarily an online resume, or database of potential employees. Take it one step further -- LinkedIn is rapidly emerging as a vehicle for demonstrating expertise and thought leadership, through displaying content that an individual has developed.
Before going further, let me say that I have no relationship with LinkedIn, other than that I have a profile posted.
The idea of LinkedIn as content vehicle works three ways, and professional firms can use all three as a way to boost competitiveness:
1The personal profile should display content that the individual has developed, to show expertise at their work.
2Often, organizations reach out to a professional services firm largely because of the expertise it offers -- and will be more likely to trust it if its principals show that they are credible thought-leaders. So, the firm must make sure its star employees are seen as credible, and a big part of that comes through impressive LinkedIn profiles that demonstrate thought leadership.
3Company pages are a good vehicle for content such as white papers, articles, videos, e-books and other evidence of the firm’s thought leadership.
Take, for example, a consulting firm that wants to help resource companies ‘give back’ to the communities they impact -- through helping those communities build their abilities to meet the food, catering, housekeeping and other needs of the resource companies. This will help build the local economy and also grow local support for the resource companies.
So, the consulting firm hires someone I’ll call Noella, who is an acknowledged authority on trade-not-aid sustainable development. To avoid being accused of greenwashing, it needs to show that Noella is a well-regarded expert in her field, accepted by her peers as an authority on current best practice.
Enter … Noella’s LinkedIn profile.
If Noella is like many people, if you Google her name, her LinkedIn profile is the first result that comes up. That makes it important.
So, let’s scroll through what should be on a thought-leader’s LinkedIn profile.
Start with Noella’s headline, appearing right below her name. Any really significant piece of content she’s developed, such as a book she’s authored, should be mentioned here. LinkedIn offers 120 characters, so use them.
Noella’s summary should mention her accomplishments: professional papers and articles she’s written, books she’s authored or contributed to, and other evidence of thought leadership.
The picture that goes with the profile might not be considered part of thought leadership. But if there’s no picture at all, or it’s clearly a selfie, or if it’s a picture in which the detached arm of Noella’s ex appears (waaaay too much personal information …), this is not a credible image. My simplest answer on getting a good LinkedIn portrait is to just go ahead and invest in a professional photographer. Believe me, if you scan enough LinkedIn profiles, you can see who takes themselves and their career seriously enough to have a professional portrait. It’s just a good business investment.
On to the “Update” section near the top of her profile. It should be renewed frequently -- once a week or a few times a week, if possible. The Update section could have a link to the latest entry in her blog, or to articles she’s written, or to mentions of speeches she’s given. This shows that Noella is continuing to move her profession forward, through knowledge she provides.
There is space for links to websites. Many people don’t know that if they click on “other” they can insert custom wording that invites action: “Subscribe to my blog” or “Follow me on Twitter.”
Noella should add a section on Publications. It’s one of those little-known “Add Sections” aspects of LinkedIn. The Publications section can describe and provide links to articles, books, e-books. If Noella authors an article, for example, it should be listed in her Update but also in Publications. The Update will be replaced when there is new information on Noella, but the Publications section just goes on adding evidence of her credibility.
Noella should also upload slide shows as well as copies of articles she’s written, in PDF form. LinkedIn supports several different file extensions, so use them to provide easy access to evidence of her thought leadership.
Not many people realize that they can click-and-drag to move chunks of their profile around. This is good because it allows you to present key sections of your profile at the top, where searchers will be more likely to see it. If Noella is a recent university graduate, for example, it would be best to have her “Education” section near the top. If she’s had time to develop impressive work credentials, her “Experience” section should get top billing.
LinkedIn is far and away the best public site for demonstrating business-related thought leadership. Not to put too fine a point on it, but when I come across a profile that lacks a professionally-taken picture, or is uninformative, or out of date, with no connections or recommendations, I tend to dismiss that person. But a good profile is an asset that informs and persuades -- and those are good things.