How many people have you ever seen at a networking event with a paper bag on their head? It’s not many I’ll bet. After all, the purpose of networking is to meet people and no-one feels comfortable if they can’t see your eyes and face, hear your voice or shake your hand. We learn a lot through all of our senses often without realising it. The way someone speaks or looks may be important to us and a simple handshake can give us a good idea about whether we want to get to know them better. Once we have this simple sensory feedback in place we then gain an innate ability to seek out the people with whom we feel most at ease.
What surprises me is the number of people who seem to think that the same rules don’t apply in the online world. In my opinion they are even more important because after all we are now being represented only by our profile and our activity. Often these people will have no profile picture or they will be using a logo; they will usually have no summary information at all, simply a list of their recent positions taken directly from their CV and they will probably have some connections who are sitting there gathering dust. In other words they have appeared with the online equivalent of a paper bag on their head.
In a social network such as LinkedIn we can learn a lot from someone’s profile and most of it can appeal to those self same senses. We can easily tell how active they are in the network, whether they are networking or just number gathering; we can check see if they look professional and we can get a sense of how they are likely to speak through the tone of the words they have used to describe themselves.
In order to meet the most basic of sensory requirements your LinkedIn profile needs to have the following elements:
- A good head and shoulders photograph of you in a reasonably formal situation; not one of you wearing a bikini or with a harpoon in your hand.
- A brief overview of your skills and abilities in your headline that tells the reader what you value most about yourself.
- Two or three paragraphs of summary information that tell the reader who you are, what you do and what value you add to your clients. This should be focused on the present but be informed by your past; in other words, if you are an accountant you need to show with your past experience and education that you have the necessary credentials to support your summary.
- Your contact details because not everyone wants to connect with you in order to email or phone you.
These small improvements now give your profile visitors the opportunity to ‘see’ you, to ‘hear’ you and to get a ‘feel’ for the person you are in business as well as your values and ethics. They also have the profile equivalent of your business card and as a result you will improve your chances of connecting with them in meaningful way.