How Can a Professional Build a Strong and Recognizable Identity on LinkedIn?
A strategic approach to Personal Branding starts with analyzing, building, and optimizing one's online presence: enhancing what makes us unique.
“The good news is that everyone has a chance to stand out. Everyone has a chance to learn, improve, and build up their skills. Everyone has a chance to be a brand worthy of remark”. "Personal Branding" took shape in 1997 with Tom Peters' piece “The Brand Called YOU” in Fast Company, an American business magazine about technology, business, and design. Tom Peters, an anonymous and frustrated employee at Hewlett Packard, introduced a new way of communicating one’s professional uniqueness. Nearly thirty years later, Personal Branding means engaging online in a rich, complex, and competitive context. There are many communication opportunities (websites, information portals, social media) and numerous tools to enhance one’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
For instance, communication on social media is mainly about creating and developing meaningful relationships. Through dialogue, interaction, and listening, one establishes authority in their field, generates trust, and creates opportunities. This article focuses on the use of LinkedIn because it is a social tool that allows, through its community of professionals and the tools it provides, to build one's personal brand and weave valuable relationships. To quote a statistic, 79% of Italian managers are on LinkedIn.
Analyze, build, optimize are the three keywords to construct a differentiating and valuable strategy through social media, even when talking about personal profiles.
Analyze the analysis is two-fold: the first part is a snapshot of your current online presence. The analysis should be both quantitative and qualitative regarding social activity (number of posts produced, comments, reactions, growth rate of the follower base, demographic segments, etc.). Asking Google “who I am” is not enough to understand where to start. Instead, considering what content you would want to represent you, what could harm your online reputation, or what is the added value of your professionalism, is essential. The second part is benchmarking: identifying aspirational models and competitors, their strengths, tone of voice, tools, content publication frequency, engagement, and potentially interesting audience segments.
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Evaluating your Unique Selling Proposition is crucial, and through Personal Branding, it can be enhanced by differentiating yourself from other professionals. Here are some points to consider::
Your profile should accurately represent who you are, including your experiences, skills, and values. Transparently communicating your professional journey increases credibility and builds a strong foundation. Even sabbaticals, when properly communicated, are a valuable choice.
- Relevant Contacts
LinkedIn, being a network of professionals, plays a crucial role in building a relevant contact network. Investing time and energy in identifying and connecting with industry professionals and opinion leaders is essential.
- Experience and Sharing
Personal Branding is about demonstrating your expertise by creating or sharing valuable content such as articles, posts, videos, and presentations. Contributing to a good reputation also includes sharing, commenting, and reposting content produced by others that align with your vision.
- Visibility Opportunities
LinkedIn's algorithm offers better visibility opportunities for complete profiles, as indicated in the platform's guidelines. Being proactive or participating in online events, webinars, or conferences means taking advantage of communication moments.
- Trust Relationships
Recently, feeds have been marked by an increasing factor of "humanity" and more personal-level content. Finding value in connecting with others on a personal level, in addition to professional, and showing a more human and familiar side can help establish more meaningful connections between professionals.
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Optimize Your Profile
Once you've defined who you are and how you want to be perceived, it's necessary to optimize your information, content delivery, and interaction to ensure your efforts are commensurate with the results. Below are some tips for optimizing your LinkedIn profile.
- Professional profile picture
Your face should be clearly visible, and wearing attire appropriate for your sector increases empathy from profile visitors. Often underestimated, the profile picture is the first point of contact. Even a poorly chosen background can significantly impact the overall image assessment.
- Cover Image
Since this image resizes depending on the device, placing text here requires careful consideration. Adding a custom image reflecting your professional activity or the company you work for can be a winning choice.
- Title and Summary
Your professional title should be clear, indicating your role, skills, or professional goal. Merely indicating your job position does not utilize the high visibility these sections offer. Using keywords in both title and summary helps in being more easily discoverable.
- Professional Experience
Provide a comprehensive overview of past and present work experiences, describing roles, responsibilities, and achievements. Using relevant keywords improves the discoverability of your profile.
- Skills and Abilities
Add a list of skills and abilities relevant to your sector. These keywords help make your profile more visible in searches.
- Additional Sections
It's advisable to complete additional profile sections to provide more information about achievements, certifications, projects, and volunteer work. These sections contribute to completing the professional profile picture.
- Links and Contacts
Add links to your website, blog, or other relevant online resources. Ensure that contact information like email and phone numbers are up-to-date.
Recommendations from partners, supervisors, or clients increase credibility. Asking trusted individuals to write genuine recommendations that attest to your professionalism and skills allows you to be seen as authoritative and trustworthy.
- Vanity URL
Modify your profile's URL to include your name. This makes the profile easier to share and remember.
- Privacy and Visibility
Set privacy preferences to still be visible to the right people (recruiters, talents, prospects) while protecting sensitive information.
- Participate in Groups and Interact
Joining groups relevant to your sector or areas of interest and actively participating in discussions can help you get noticed and build relationships within the professional network.
Keep your profile constantly updated with new experiences, skills, and achievements. An updated profile shows commitment and interest in your professional career.
- Technical Tips
Complete all profile data.
Choose between “connect” or “follow”. The choice mainly revolves around the type of relationship you wish to establish with other professionals.
- Consider adopting LinkedIn's "Creator" mode. The MCC provides users with enhanced creation tools and greater visibility, allowing them to build a following and expand their influence on the platform.
- Insert keywords in image names.
Adapt your strategy to your seniority level
From the three key points of the strategy, we have compiled a long list of activities that should be weighted and distributed based on your professional experience. For example, if your profile is new to the platform, the priority will be to build it solidly, share relevant content, and actively participate in groups. For a senior professional, valuing their background by publishing articles and engaging in high-level networking is a perspective to consider. For top managers and executives, proposing themselves as leaders by sharing original insights and strategic visions, participating in events as speakers, and interacting with prominent figures is a desirable dimension.
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Corporate personal Branding
An important consideration when building a personal branding strategy is to decide whether you want to project an image, using a sports analogy, of Pelè or Baresi.
Pelè, an undisputed champion striker, arrives alone in the small area and with an exceptional left foot places the ball in the corner between the crossbar and the post. The lightning-fast and surgically precise goal leaves the opposing team stunned while the stadium explodes in a roar of joy. Franco Baresi, on the other hand, is a libero, a defender. He never crosses the midfield, doesn’t run forward, never scores. Captain Franco Baresi coordinates the men from the backlines to defend the goal from opposing attacks. The captain is not a player, he is the team.
When personal branding is built on company managers, it is advisable to decide whether the professional's story or the company they represent will carry more weight. Is the individual's vision more important, or is it about conveying the identity, values, and culture of the company itself? To answer this question with an example, we can analyze the Forbes 2022 ranking of the most followed Italian CEOs on LinkedIn. The top in terms of followers are Stephan Winkelmann of Automobili Lamborghini, Luca De Meo of Renault Group, and Nerio Alessandri of Technogym. Three great managers with three completely different approaches to personal branding.
Luca De Meo is a "top voice" on LinkedIn. His profile is that of an authentic automotive guru who is currently the CEO of the Renault group. The profile is rich in information, regularly updated with new posts, and the content is always well-crafted and structured. The tone and language are those of a leader. Each post has a very long and detailed copy that mixes professional skills and a personal and authoritative point of view. He writes on Pulse, and the papers are rich in content and value. They tell a structured and authoritative vision of a protagonist with a clear vision of the present and future. He tells his experience and vision through the brand he is CEO of. But the vision is that of a manager through the lens of the brand.
Stephan Winkelmann is also quite active and regularly publishes on social media. The tone is enthusiastic and participative, with short but very passionate texts. Unlike De Meo, the tone and language are those of the brand, not a single professional. He is primarily the voice of the company and its dynamic and enterprising soul.
Nerio Alessandri, on the other hand, is not very active on LinkedIn. He is an entrepreneur with a magnetic and enthusiastic tone. Technogym is his company, his home, and his family. His mission as a manager is to tell the story, vision, and mission of the brand.
With a well-defined personal branding strategy, it is possible to stand out as successful professionals, build valuable relationships, and gain visibility.
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