Make the Most of Your LinkedIn Headline

When you scroll through your news feed, what grabs your attention? A great headline, of course.

It’s the same with your LinkedIn profile. You can – and should – create a personal headline. Otherwise the default is your current job title.

This is a lost opportunity on prime real estate in your profile. Not only does it display prominently in the mobile version of your profile, but it also appears in a Google search that displays your profile. It helps you stand out when people are searching.

You have 120 characters to describe yourself in a unique and compelling way. You should use every one of them, says personal branding expert William Arruda.

Your headline should share both what you do and how you benefit your target audience. That goes back to your goals for LinkedIn. Do you want to build your professional brand? Develop a reputation as a thought leader in your field? Position yourself as a candidate for your next job?

LinkedIn expert Donna Serdoula outlines two approaches to headlines in her book on LinkedIn Profile Optimization. (Even as the LinkedIn algorithms evolve, this is a great reference book with underlying concepts that are invaluable for personal branding.)

The first is using keywords – words or phrases that describe you and are likely to be used in an internet search. Serdoula suggests asking, “What are the keywords a person might type into LinkedIn search to find you?”

The second is a benefits statement — what you can do for your target audience. Here Serdoula suggests asking, “How do I help individuals and businesses?” and “What benefit do others receive from working with me?”

If you can accomplish both keywords and benefits in 120 characters, that’s even better.

Keyword-Rich Headlines

From my own LinkedIn network, here are some standout keyword headlines:

Shel Holtz – Communication Strategist, Public Speaker, Author, Trainer

Lisa Skeete Tatum – Entrepreneur | Investor

Allison Long – Professional Networker | Career Matchmaker | Connector of Dynamic Teams and Great Talent

Rene Dufrene – Innovative Business Development Executive | Team Leader | Alliance Design, Negotiation & Operation | Cloud Services

Erin Gollhofer – Global Corporate Social Responsibility Professional

Debbie Storey – Published Author | Speaker | Consultant on Leadership, Diversity & Inclusion, Customer Service, Resilience, Courage & Confidence, and Women in Business

Anthony Mirenda – Global Communications Leader | Corporate Reputation | Crisis & Issues Communications

Benefits-Focused Headlines

Also from my LinkedIn network, here are some compelling benefits headlines:

Michael Ambrozewicz – Engaging AT&T employees in how we deliver a mobile and entertainment experience in the U.S.

Amy Posey – Creating powerful leadership development experiences and making work more productive and effective at Peak Teams

Gary Zucker – Helping marketers and researchers make sense of customer feedback to test ideas, build loyalty and grow revenue

Catherine Fisher – Helping people build their professional brand on LinkedIn

Glenn Llopis – Disrupting the status quo and reinventing the way we work

Anat Mahrer – Creating a compelling and unique employee experience

Jon Lara – Delivering employee benefit strategies that enrich participant lives while optimizing company financial results.

How A Headline Evolves

Before writing this post, my headline was “Communications & Marketing Leader in Entertainment & Tech.” My goal was to highlight my functional areas, my level and my industries. Brevity and fitting a headline on two lines for mobile viewing were also priorities.

Then I edited it into a benefits statement that included my employer’s newer industry. “Communications & Marketing Leader in Tech, Media & Telecom helping people and organizations tell their stories.” (Opinions expressed in this blog are my own.)

But that repeated the opening of my summary statement a few lines below the headline. So I went back to what Serdoula calls “a keyword-saturated headline.”

Now my headline has my “VP” title to be more specific than “leader.” It includes AT&T as the name of my employer – a company I’m proud to say was recently named to FORTUNE’s 100 Best Companies to Work For. And it showcases this blog about social media savvy for corporate professionals.

Perhaps this highlights the most important thing about any social media presence – always be changing, evolving and improving. Just like the platforms themselves. And just like life.

What’s Your Strategy for Accepting LinkedIn Invitations?

When your LinkedIn app fills up with connection invitations, what’s your strategy for deciding yes or no?

If you set a general framework for which you’ll accept, it will save time and result in a better network.

LinkedIn’s Catherine Fisher recommends in Business Insider connecting only with people you know and trust.

If you want an even higher bar, try Alexandra Samuel‘s “favor test.” She recommends only connecting with people whom you’d be willing to ask a favor of or do a favor for. Check out more in Harvard Business Review.

If someone takes the time to personalize an invitation to me with a well-articulated reason for wanting to connect, however, I will generally accept it.

But what about the ones with no personal note? The majority of these come from people I don’t know. Short of simply deleting all of them, sight unseen (which is certainly an efficient option), here’s my strategy:

 

ACCEPT

  • People who are fellow colleagues at my current or former employers (opinions expressed in this blog are my own)
  • People from my alma maters – students, alums, professors or staff members
  • People who belong to the same professional, community or civic groups that I do
  • People I attended a conference with, such as MAKERS or  TED
  • People who add to the diversity of my network on various dimensions, including industry, geography, career stage, functional area and so on

Personal branding expert William Arruda recommends diversity in a LinkedIn network, which links to a great perspective on its value.

  • People with an interesting background that catches my eye. It’s hard to articulate this one, but I know it when I see it.

 

CONSIDER

  • People who have common connections. This comes with a big caveat. An underlying rationale for the connections has to be evident.

Recently I declined invitations from people who had a high number of shared connections, but for which I couldn’t discern a compelling reason why. Often it was because they didn’t work in the same industry or even one that could be considered in some way related.

 

DECLINE

  • People with no clear connection to any areas of my work
  • Lack of clarity about what the person or their company does
  • A suspicious-looking profile, such as no last name listed or little information included in the profile
  • Anything appearing the slightest bit sales related. If I’m looking for a new vendor partner, I’ll go to my trusted network first for recommendations, not to random connections in LinkedIn.

 

This is my decision matrix, and it may give you some ideas for creating your own. This lets you quickly go through incoming invitations.

It frees up time to proactively create and cultivate your network by sending personalized invitations to a focused group of people.

What’s your strategy?

Be Bold in Your LinkedIn Profile

What’s one action you can take today to kick-start your career?

Tell a bold story in your LinkedIn profile.

Here are powerful strategies from this month’s MAKERS Conference. LinkedIn career expert Catherine Fisher and Landit CEO Lisa Skeete Tatum led a standing-room-only session on managing your personal brand.

What is a personal brand? The presenters cited Jeff Bezos, who says “your brand is what people say about you when you leave the room.”

To define your brand they asked a key question: what do people want you in the room for? Put another way: what is the best of you?

How you answer these questions will shape the story you tell about yourself in social media and in real life. (And if you’re looking to reinvent your brand, there are great ideas from bestselling author Dorie Clark.)

While a brand – for a corporation, a product or a professional – is built over time, here are actions you can take today for a bolder LinkedIn profile.

They’re from the LinkedIn tip sheet above, along with how I’ve made them work for me. (Opinions expressed in this blog are my own.)

  • Include a professional photo. According to LinkedIn, your profile is 14 times more likely to be viewed if you have a photo. Here’s how to take a great headshot. If you don’t have a high-quality recent headshot, get one done this month.
  • Personalize your headline. Don’t use the default of your current job title. Show what you do and what makes you unique. Look at a variety of headlines for inspiration to see what catches your eye.
  • Add visuals. There are 20 million pieces of content on member profiles. Is your content among those? Post videos and pictures of your best work. Upload relevant presentations that can be shared with the public.
  • Post a compelling summary. Make it 40 words or more. Include keywords for your industry. Read others’ summaries to see what appeals to you. Writing in first person is stronger and bolder than third person.
  • Cover your past work experience. Your profile is 12 times more likely to be viewed if you list more than one position. If you’ve been working for several years, though, you can omit earlier positions that don’t add to your story.
  • Include volunteer experience and causes. This information increases profile views 6 times. If you’re looking for areas to engage, get involved with your company’s philanthropic causes and volunteer opportunities.
  • Check out LinkedIn Learning. We all get to be lifelong learners, and this feature offers hundreds of online courses. It’s a great reason to become a premium subscriber, which I did a few years ago for the analytics.
  • Share your contact information. Make it easy for people to get in touch with you. Include your email address, your blog, your Twitter handle and your company’s website. However, consider omitting your cellphone number.
  • Customize your public URL. Here are easy instructions. For consistent branding, use your name in the URL the same way you use it in other social profiles. Put it on your resume, business card and email signature.
  • Add skills and get endorsements. Be deliberate about skills you list. Your top 3 skill endorsements display in mobile search, so reorder them to show the ones that best tell your story. Give back to your network by endorsing others’ skills.

One of my goals for the MAKERS conference was to meet new people in every session. At the end of each day, I looked them up in LinkedIn. If I only had a first name and a company, I was able to search with that and find the right profile.

Then I sent personalized invitations (don’t send the default invitation!). Now we’re connected and can easily keep in touch as we build on the conference learnings.

How have you been bold in your LinkedIn profile?