Having a LinkedIn profile is a necessity for anyone today, but business leaders also need to utilize the platform to showcase their thought leadership. Getting started with thought leadership and establishing yourself as a credible professional to the world can seem daunting. How do you build relationships with other experts across your industry, create a public presence and craft compelling content that people will respond to? And how does a busy executive find time to do it all?
Thought leaders are experts in their field. They are credible advisors in their industry, and they know how to connect with their audience and share their insights. LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for increasing your visibility, establishing connections with decision makers and advancing your career. We’ve outlined how you can become a thought leader on LinkedIn in these ten steps.
Make a good first impression with your profile
The first place to start is creating a strong profile. JMA’s Professional Resume Writer Paula Nothstine, MRW, CPRW is extremely familiar with crafting LinkedIn profiles and has written hundreds to date. Although she writes both resumes and LinkedIn profiles for our clients, the two have very different strategies.
Here’s how to tackle each section of the LinkedIn profile:
HEADLINE: A lot of people simply list their current position in the headline section of a LinkedIn profile (and some online guides actually encourage this!). But Paula says that section, which only allows 120 characters, should be a high-impact, concise, compelling statement that will grab people’s attention. Think of it as your own personal billboard!
SUMMARY: You have a little more room to play with in the Summary section which allows up to 2000 characters, but this is completely different than a summary you would find on a resume, which focuses on what you’ve done and how you’ve done it. Instead, use your LinkedIn summary to focus on why you’ve done what you have in your career. Think of this as a sales page rather than a resume. Paula says this is the area to focus on your passion, and it is best practice to write in first person and a conversational tone rather than using the business language of a resume.
Keep in mind that the reader is busy so draft a summary that can be easily read or skimmed for main points in just 10-15 seconds. Also remember that your LinkedIn profile will appear in Google search results for your name.
EXPERIENCE: Another difference between resumes and LinkedIn profiles is what you share in the Experience section. Where a resume may have a summary paragraph and 4 to 6 bullets of accomplishments for a position, Paula uses a strategy to create what’s essentially a tease in this section. She may only include a short sentence summary and one accomplishment. “The idea is to grab someone’s attention but don’t give them all of the information so that they are left asking why or how. If they have questions, they are more likely to reach out to you to request your resume or even schedule an interview. If your entire resume is on LinkedIn verbatim, you could lose the opportunity to create a connection with someone because everything they need to know is already there,” said Paula.
EDUCATION: This same strategy should also apply to the Education section on LinkedIn. Put the highlights but not all of the details. Also be sure to select your companies and schools from the LinkedIn list so that logos appear in your profile.
OTHER SECTIONS: There are other places in the LinkedIn profile where you can highlight your accomplishments, volunteer experience, interests, skills, licenses, certifications and even get endorsements from colleagues. Click Add Profile Section to choose a section and complete it for your profile. Include links to e-books, videos and presentations you’ve created that highlight your knowledge in your field.
The Publications section is one of the most underutilized features in LinkedIn profiles, and it’s ideal to showcase your credibility as a thought leader. Any e-books or blog posts you have authored should be included here. Finally, be sure to also change your vanity URL to be www.linkedin.com/in/yourname so that it’s customized instead of randomly assigned by LinkedIn.
Strategize how you want to show up
JMA Career Coach Anna Bray works with a lot of clients on job search strategy, which includes utilizing the LinkedIn platform. Her advice to clients is to be very intentional with your actions on the social media channel. “Everything you do should be consistent with your personal brand, whether that’s posting an article you’ve written about your industry or sharing a colleague’s post,” said Anna. You should even think about your profile picture and your background image. Do these convey the right message to the public? If you are the owner of a company, use your company’s website banner for branding consistency.
Create compelling articles
Just like you should include all content you author in your Publications section, you should also publish articles to showcase your expertise. These articles are searchable by both LinkedIn members and Google. Be sure to use keywords relating to your industry as you share compelling content your audience will find valuable. Close with a call-to-action so that the reader knows how to take the next step with you if needed. However, you want to be careful not to write articles that are simply a pitch for your company or services. Instead, focus on timely industry conversations that you have a unique perspective on or topics that relate to your business but wouldn’t be considered sales pitches by readers. If people think you’re just trying to sell to them, they will ignore you.
Just like any good content, strive for quality over quantity but also be consistent in your posting. Aim for one a week but no more than one a day. Remember you can repurpose your existing blog posts or articles published elsewhere on LinkedIn. Just be sure to include some wording that says “This article was originally posted here” along with a hyperlink so Google recognizes that you aren’t publishing duplicate content. While there are over 645 million LinkedIn members, there are only one million users who have published an article on the platform. The LinkedIn algorithm gives native posts published through the platform more visibility than external links, so there’s a huge opportunity here. Right now, only a small group of thought leaders is taking advantage of this opportunity to reach the audience, and you should be one of them.
Share and comment on posts
What you choose to share on LinkedIn should always cultivate your personal brand and genuinely engage you. Think about the conversations you have with your clients and colleagues and let those thoughts drive the content you choose to share from various sources. Don’t just cut and paste a link and leave it there. Add your own comment offering your opinion (or opposing view) to the article to further enhance your expert status. Keep an eye on comments from others (you can set notifications for this) and be ready to respond.
Join groups and participate in the conversations
There are literally millions of different LinkedIn groups available, and each member can join as many as 100 groups. Once you navigate to the Groups section of the platform, use keywords in the search field at the top left of the page to find relevant groups. For example, if you are interested in honing your leadership skills, search for “leadership” and review the groups that appear in the search results. Once you become a member, you can use the LinkedIn share icon to send your articles to all of your groups when you publish with just one click.
Connect with your target audience
Quality should always be top of mind when considering making a connection on LinkedIn. However, the larger your network, the more exposure your content will get so it’s also important to have a strategy to connect with members of your target audience. You can do this by searching for the type of people you want to connect with and sending an invitation. Always include a custom message rather than the default LinkedIn one as it’s more likely to be accepted. Start with people you share a mutual connection with such as a geographic area or alumni of the same school.
Connect with the people who engage with your content or on the content of people you admire. You should think of them as your most valuable client or customer as they are helping you to spread your message. Follow leaders in your industry as well. There are actually two meanings for the term “influencer” on LinkedIn. LinkedIn has its own influencer program called “LinkedIn Influencers.” This is an invitation-only program that features more than 500 influencers from over the globe. Think Richard Branson and Melinda Gates, who were #1 & #2 respectively in 2018. These influencers work with the platform to create thought leadership articles and essays. Outside of this program, there are lots of other people who have experience, expertise and influence who would be worthy to follow or connect with. Find them by searching for keywords relevant to your industry or brand and then reviewing their profile.
Build a network
It’s no secret that networking results in jobs. According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Yale University report, 70 percent of all jobs are found through your network. LinkedIn was built on networking members so take advantage of the “People You May Know” feature on your My Network page. Here, you’ll find people LinkedIn suggests you connect with based on commonalities and mutual contacts. You’ll see people with whom you have shared connections, similar profile information and experiences, as well as people who have worked at the same company or in your industry, or who may have attended the same school. Cultivate these connections to grow your reputation as a thought leader.
Be authentic and aspirational
Being authentic in your LinkedIn profile means more than just telling the truth (which should obviously go without saying). Paula discusses a client’s career journey in their profile summary, but her goal is to give a potential employer a true idea of who they are. “If they are gregarious or outgoing, I want that to shine through. If they are more introverted, quiet or analytical, I write the profile to reflect that personality type. With this strategy, someone can tell if a prospect will fit into their company culture right off the bat, which can help avoid mismatches,” said Paula.
Paula shares one profile she wrote for a recent college grad, who worked two jobs while attending school. She wanted to convey his strong work ethic and show potential employers his dedicated personality. Here’s an excerpt from his profile:
Taking a full course load, holding two part-time jobs and playing rugby requires a certain level of expertise in multitasking. I successfully developed this valuable skill and performed at a high level in all three levels. My passion for work and life is contagious. I can’t be idle. Constant challenges give me the opportunities to learn new things which energizes and excites me.
Look at your profile and ensure it is authentic and positions you for where you want to go next.
How you match
Another way to avoid a possible mismatch is to use LinkedIn’s “How You Match” service which is designed to give you an idea of whether you are a good fit for a job. When you view a job on LinkedIn, to the right of the job posting is “How You Match” followed by a checklist of how your factors, such as education level, skills, years of experience, and current job title, match the company’s criteria for this job posting. Maintaining your profile with your current skill set, location, industry, role, and education will not only help you get the most out of “How You Match” but will also help recruiters find you and help LinkedIn recommend the right jobs for you.
Learn more with InLearning
If you happen to be missing a skill that would help you position yourself as a thought leader, another LinkedIn tool can help you learn it. InLearning has 13,000+ expert-led courses that cover a myriad of subjects, software, and learning paths toward careers in business, creative, and technology fields. It’s a paid service, but the first month is free. There are even multiple courses on how to become a thought leader!
If your LinkedIn profile could use some sprucing up to position yourself as a thought leader, consider a search-optimized option written by a professional. It’s part of our professional resume writing package.