As a social media platform, LinkedIn is still one of the most under-utilised tools in the world, especially when compared to Facebook, YouTube, SnapChat, WeChat, Weibo and Instagram. I still meet people who think that LinkedIn is still a platform that is only used for job searches/by HR people (and even then some feel that as long as their LinkedIn profile is up to date that they don’t really need to manage and develop every day, missing the whole link with search on Google and LinkedIn which always surprises people..).
But they miss the point of LinkedIn. That's the Old LinkedIn, welcome to the New LinkedIn. The largest publishing platform in the world, the most effective sales and marketing platform in the world, the best employer platform in the world.
Several top leaders in the industry are missing out on LinkedIn action – Sundar Pichai doesn’t even have a photo on his profile, hasn't updated his title and has less than 250 connections, which I think is amazing for someone who’s in charge of a tech company with so much clout. And has anyone seen Elizabeth Holmes’ LinkedIn page? No? Neither have I, because it doesn’t exist!
I’ve built my business Black Marketing - enabling LinkedIn for you around extolling the virtues of LinkedIn. I often get told by skeptics that LinkedIn is limited in use and rigid, with zero room for creativity. Not only do I passionately disagree but time and time again my Singapore based team delivers results for our local, regional and global clients using creativity on LinkedIn.
One of the easiest ways to get creative often starts with changing the way one thinks, views and approaches things. I’ll share with you why and how you can get creative on LinkedIn and bust a few myths while am at it. Regardless of the stage you’re at – be it as a fresh graduate looking for a job, an MNC CEO/CMO enhancing their thought leadership status, an SME owner looking for leads, investors or partners or an SME looking to compete with the big boys on employer branding and retain/attract talent, these tips will all help you.
For the Job Seeker
Myth to bust – LinkedIn is only for professional job seekers and I should only update my profile when I’m on the market for a new job.
Why you should change this – Because it’s untrue, you are "always on" regardless of whether you think you're active or not. I have news for you 24/7 people are looking at your profile/company page and finding you on Google whether you like it or not. What's the first thing someone does when/before they meet you? Google you and your LinkedIn profile comes up first or LinkedIn you and find you immediately. Profile not ready? Um, too late, you're being found.
One of the quickest and most credible ways to build up your personal brand is through LinkedIn. In house recruiters and external headhunters often look at top profiles on LinkedIn before they even list the actual job. They also search on keywords to find people, no keywords, no luck being found, no job.
How you can get creative - First, by realising that you need to start a “conversation” and engage with people (recruiters, industry leaders who are potential bosses, peers etc.) regularly, before you actually need a job. Invest in your personal brand and like any investment it will pay off months/years later.
Your personal profile page allows you to enter your own information such as a summary, a great profile picture that captures your personality (I showcase my signature mohawk hairstyle in mine for example), a great background photo and several media files to help illustrate or support your experience.
Think of your LinkedIn profile as if it were a magazine about you. Illustrate your achievements with photos, videos, graphics, bring it to life. Mention your awards and associations that go beyond your job but are still work-orientated from AmCham to CMO Council, blogging platforms to voluntary organisations you lead at the weekend, non-exec directors and non-profit organisations that you're part of. Build your personal brand values here creatively.
Next, ensure you keep up your LinkedIn account and build your brand up with relevant and consistent content – it’s a lot like Facebook in that respect (not that I would know as I'm not on it but people tell me...), where you share and post updates but in a business context, always in a business context.
Ensure that you list all your achievements and past experiences clearly in chronological order. Also think about where you wish to go an who you wish to be found by. If you wish to change industry or change role, change your copy, images, weblinks, blogs, key words to reflect this. No point putting your current role/keywords up if you wish to change. Be creative but never lie, there's loads of scope to think creatively here without fibbing.
Choose a professional photo (a selfie with you and five friends or facing the wrong way or with a mask on or blurred image of you out last night or being dressed as a panda/gorilla/dog/duck is not a hot professional look). I have a purple/LinkedIn blue Mohawk which brings across some idea of my personality. Express yours in a business context to communicate your personal brand powerfully in one image, think creatively and impactfully.
Put up posts as you would on Facebook – this is a professional site, not a place for you to rant or share mundane things or cute things. No baby pics, weddings or religious stuff unless that is your business, then of course share to your heart's content! If your using the term Darth Vader or worse a Darth Vader photo, it's only relevant if you are actually a Darth Vader impersonator or actually Darth Vader..... not just because you were inspired by Star Wars and felt like it.
Use fluffy terms such as “Sales Evangelist” or “Business Ninja” – they may sound harmless or work for certain industries, but they often aren’t good for anything other than to induce eye-rolling. Push it as far as you can, test your words out with other people and see what their perception is. I used to use Serial Entrepreneur until someone pointed out it just sounded like I'd had a lot of jobs...
For the Non-Job Seeker / Industry Leader/ Lead generator
Myth to bust – LinkedIn has no value for me if I’m not looking for a job; it’s all about who I know personally.
Why you should change this – Yes, while it’s true that it’s about who you know in the industry and beyond, (especially when you reach a certain level in your career), LinkedIn has the ability to increase, enhance and accantuate who you know, give you a broader, deeper, professional reach and the ability to “namedrop” without really doing so. You can also reach beyond your network, beyond your industry, beyond your country, really extolling the virtues of who you know through your connections and then 2nd and 3rd connections, locally, regionally and globally.
How you can get creative – Approach LinkedIn as your digital networking platform. This is great news particularly for the introverted bunch who prefer correspondence to share ideas, as opposed to face-to-face interaction. Lay your foundation and “qualify” your connections before adding them to your network.
I do passionately believe that LinkedIn is though a catalyst to meet people in real life or on the phone or on Skype, it's not the be all and end all.
Further to the do-list of the “Job Seeker,” you should also up your game with the following:
Ensure that your summary is up to date with your latest achievements and current industry or business interests – this makes it easier for you to connect with the “right” people. It is also the first place someone will find you on Google, right at the top of page 1, your LinkedIn profile.
Spend time on choosing keywords to appear in your header so you climb up the rankings under organic searches. It also ensures that you are found by the right people. For example if you wish to attract a certain target audience think about what keywords that they would be using to find you on LinkedIn.
Join relevant groups and start discussions – if you’re a top contributor/wish to be a thought leader, people are more likely to listen to you and view you as a thought leader if you do share engaging content not always just about your own company and its services. But make it interesting, make it relevant to people at work.
I love sharing articles from the FT, Economist and The Guardian about work, about health at work, about communications at work, leadership at work, work/life balance, emails, sometimes the simplest thing get the most amount of traction and engagement. Example ones below, neither of which has anything to do with Black Marketing or LinkedIn but they are relevant to professionals on LinkedIn and interesting and have been viewed and share and commented on many times as a result.
Write blogs and bring your opinions and ideas across. But please think creatively and don't just write about your company all the time. I don't write about Black Marketing very often and I actually don't write about LinkedIn all the time.
Both from a curated and created blog post point of view I always try and vary what I share to engage on various levels with peers, executives, experts in different fields, people I know, people I don't, to attract different people to my profile to find out what we do, to inspire people to engage and join in discussions/share and to just enhance what someone does and inspire them or just make them think for a moment.
Creative content marketing is best practised without selling your services directly. People should be able to pick up tips, learn something from your blogs/curated content shared that doesn't involve them, be interested, wish to share, follow and you will enhance your personal brand through it.
All of the above should help in ensuring that you get viewed by your target audience – whether you’re looking to recruit, be recruited, engage in business with potential clients, media, investors, future employees – with groundwork that is set, solid, completed and inspiring.
Build relationships, send creative messages using open link messages, use sales navigator, use introductions, use group messages, use premium, be creative in what you message and how you message socially sell don't hard sell. This applies to everyone.
Whether you like it or not we're all "socially selling" on LinkedIn in some context or format or another. You're socially selling your personal brand every minute every day, you're socially selling your company to current employees, to future employees through employer branding on LinkedIn, to your peers, to potential clients, existing clients, potential investors, future investors, the media, you name it they can all find you on LinkedIn. You are socially selling, make it a creative social sell. You're in charge of it.
Naturally the don’t-list of “Job Seekers” also applies here, as does the following:
Spam groups with out of context sales pitches – there’s a certain decorum that’s expected to be adhered to in order to maintain professionalism on LinkedIn.
Footsteps to follow – Sir Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington and James Caan. These leaders have managed to seamlessly integrate their LinkedIn with their high level PR game.
For the Company
Myth to bust – I have a company website, I don’t see why I should have a company page on LinkedIn.
Why you should change this – There are 400 million professionals on LinkedIn, would you like them to find you and see what you do?
You may have a company web page, and it’s great to direct potential client traffic to but there’s an untapped, internal market you’re missing out on. Your staff. And who they know. Imagine the power of them sharing all your updates with your branding in their networks?
Have you ever Googled your company? What comes up? Often it is your LinkedIn company page that comes up first, second or third. If your page doesn't exist you're missing out on an opportunity to be found. If you do have an incomplete or not updated company page then what impression does this give of your company?
Last update 9 months ago on your LinkedIn company page? Has your company gone bust? What does that say about your company? All that work and expense wasted on your website wasted because people have seen your free company page first and gained their first impression through that rather than your expensively put together website.
How you can get creative – People are often extremely private with their social media in general, such as Facebook and Instagram where they sometimes choose to vent about work and life in general. The nature of LinkedIn however, ensures that most people “clean up” their act and pose their professional front as everyone can see who you are and who you work for. This is a market you should tap in on, especially as a business owner.
Ensure that you’re regularly posting quality content – share the latest developments within your company, such as CSR initiatives and events that may be taking place, or a new product or service launch and especially relevant industry insights.
Have Showcase pages – each company page allows you to have up to 10 showcase pages. This ensures that you get more reach and are able to streamline your content into sub-groups, so if your audience only wishes to look at specific content, they can. It also means that your different services get found using search on LinkedIn and when you share content on them the branding of that pages comes up in everyone's timeline of posts. Great branding for your services.
The wonderful thing about both your company page and your personal page on LinkedIn is that everyone gets the same space. You get the same space as Richard Branson, your company gets the same space as Google. You can compete with everyone.
If your competition are not updating their company page or just posting jobs or have no updates or on a personal page have few connections and no updates, take advantage as maximise yours to achieve all of your business objectives, proactively not just reactively.
Make it a team effort – get staff on board to follow, share, like and comment. It’s a numbers game as with everything else. If you’re a small start-up with 25 staff and they each have an average of 500 connections, that’s (in theory) a 12,500-captive audience reach. And if you are good at curating quality content that gets shared, that number is increased exponentially.
If you really feel brave you can go the whole way and create and entire campaign centred around LinkedIn and skills aimed at affluent male executives as 20th Century Fox did with their "Taken 3" film promotion on LinkedIn.
Post only in-house content. I’m not saying post things about your competitors, but rather industry news/insights, to stay relevant with a larger group of people and avoid coming across as self-serving.
Let your page lag with zero or static content. Mix it up. Use infographics, videos and more. Make it interesting for your followers so that they want to engage with you. One of our most viewed posts was actually a team photo of me and some of my amazing team of Black Marketing professionals (95% of my team are girls, all millennials and all from Singapore). Every person that I met over the next few days commented on this and loved it's positivity and visual impact. People wanted to see who worked with me at Black Marketing. It brought the brand to life beyond me.
Footsteps to follow – Marriott, L'Oreal, ANZ, and of course Black Marketing.These companies show you how it’s done by ticking all the right boxes, from engaging with both internal and external audiences, and serving up a plethora of rich content that is both interesting and relevant to professional's every day business lives.
Also again it's worth stressing that if you're an SME you get the same amount of space and share of voice as an MNC so make it work for you. Punch above your weight. Same applies if you're a business leader on LinkedIn, you get the same space as Bill Gates or Elon Musk. Make it work for you creatively.
As I mentioned earlier, LinkedIn is one of the best ways to help you with your personal branding. It’s less fluffy than Facebook, and with the potential to keep growing in numbers, it makes sense for you to jump on the bandwagon and take advantage of its features now.
Be creative in the way you approach and view it, and coupled with the best practices outlined above, you’ll be creatively ahead of the pack in no time. Good luck!
About the Author: Chris J. Reed is an official LinkedIn Power Profile. He is also a serial entrepreneur having created marketing businesses in both Europe and now in Asia Pacific with Black Marketing – enabling LinkedIn for you which now has offices in Singapore (HQ), ANZ, North America, China and Hong Kong, and the UK. Read some more of his articles here.