Do you have a brand?
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that only big companies need brands. Creative entrepreneurs and freelancers do too. But where do you go to build one? It’s easy: Go where your audience spends their time. While there are many social platforms to tap into, consider learning how to use LinkedIn to build your personal brand.
Why? Well not only does it have 546 million global users but the platform is specifically targeted to professionals. Whether you produce B2B or B2C content, the people who need you to create it are in the same place as the people who will be reading it. Heck, they might even be the same crowd.
Becky Mollenkamp, a business mentor for women entrepreneurs, understood how vital LinkedIn is for building a brand, so she developed a course to help other small-business owners. She says, “There are a few ways LinkedIn can help creative freelancers build their brand. The most obvious is that it can help with finding and landing new clients. It’s also a useful tool for showcasing yourself as an industry expert, which can be helpful for anyone looking for speaking gigs or media coverage.”
There are a few obvious things you need to do when learning how to use LinkedIn. Start by including a profile picture of yourself and listing your current and previous jobs. Don’t neglect to complete the headline and choose a cover photo that represents the brand you’re building.
Keywords are especially important when creating your LinkedIn profile. “Think about the audience you’re trying to court on LinkedIn, whether that’s your ideal client or journalists,” says Mollenkamp. “Then, think about how that person would search for someone who does what you do. Come up with a list of five to ten keywords or phrases and then pepper those throughout your profile and in the content you share on the site. It’s not immediate, but doing this will slowly help optimize your profile so it shows up in more search results.”
After you’ve done all that, and you think your profile is complete, it’s time to dive a little deeper.
The only way to earn the attention and respect of your peers and clients is to jump in and get involved. “In an age of social media overload, I’m a big fan of taking small actions that yield the biggest results,” says Mollenkamp. “With LinkedIn, I’ve found content creating and curating to be most effective. Use status updates to ask insightful questions, share trend pieces, and offer helpful tips. Just a couple of these a day goes a long way. Also, writing original content on LinkedIn’s own microblogging platform, Pulse, is a really great way to showcase your expertise and build up a reputation.”
Bottom line: You can’t just set up a profile and forget about it. It’s important to learn how to use LinkedIn so that it works harder than your paper resume would for you, and to do that, you need to jump in and get your feet wet by using it.
One of the easiest ways to get active on LinkedIn is to publish content on Pulse. Think of it as a publishing platform that shares your content with your connections and possibly across the social network. Being a thought leader on LinkedIn is as simple as writing new content relevant to your niche or repurposing content you’ve already written, as long as you give credit back to the original source that published it. Take this as an opportunity to check in with current and previous clients to see if they’d feel comfortable with you sharing the posts on Pulse.
Mollenkamp agrees and shares a few tips on how creatives can take their publishing to the next level. “I love Pulse,” she says. “Not enough folks are using it, so there is a great opportunity there to stand out. Make sure you treat it like you would a blog post on your own site, and really think about SEO. Use the same keywords you use for your profile in your Pulse content, and remember to tag your post accordingly. Also, always include a photo or graphic for your article.”
But don’t stop there. Create captivating headlines to get people to actually click on your article and follow up with a strong call to action to keep them paying attention to the brand you’re building.
Image attribution: William Bayreuther
If you’re the face of your brand, make an effort to show it. This means filming prerecorded or live videos and sharing them on the platform. Yes, I know video content may feel overwhelming—even scary—but the best way to build a brand around your work and expertise is to display it. As content creators, we all know that video is scorching hot in the content marketing world, so why aren’t we using it? Yes, your writing will reveal a lot about your skills, but video can let your personality shine in ways your writing can’t. Not sure what to share? Film yourself giving highlights of recent content you’ve created or discuss your opinion on content you’ve read by other people in your industry.
Mollenkamp agrees. “LinkedIn is really pushing its users to use more video on the site. As with any channel, I think visuals are extremely important on LinkedIn. This is especially true if you want to book speaking gigs. Saying you’re a great presenter is one thing; showing it in a video is far more powerful.”
Don’t forget about the importance of social proof in your branding. If someone is scoping out your profile, they’re going to want to see testimonials from previous clients and colleagues who were happy to work with you.
Mollenkamp agrees: “I think recommendations and endorsements are important. While most of us won’t really sit and read them, we will probably notice if someone doesn’t have any at all. It’s similar to someone who only has a few connections. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but we often make subconscious judgments about someone’s professionalism if their profile seems incomplete.”
So how do you go about getting recommendations and endorsements? First, follow the golden rule: Do to others what you would want done to you. Get out there and write recommendations or click on those little endorsement buttons for everyone you worked with at some point. Chances are they’ll get the alert that you provided a testimonial for them and they’ll return the favor.
You can also be direct and ask for recommendations from your peers. There’s an option built into the platform that will send a message—which you can personalize—to anyone you’re connected with. This will let them know you’re hoping they’ll recommend you. While there isn’t an option to ask for endorsements, you can still reach out with a personal message and let your connections know that you’re working on building a brand and that you’d love it if they’d take a second to endorse you. Just make sure to return the favor.
Building a brand on social media isn’t simply about making sales (though those may come from it). What you really want to do when you’re brand building is to gain visibility in front of the right people. However, when you capture people’s attention, you should resist the urge to immediately capitalize on it. Sure, going in for a sale with a primed-to-buy lead is one thing, but treating people in your audience like dollar signs will turn them off.
Mollenkamp shares a tip on how to manage this: “The biggest mistake I see people making when it comes to trying to convert connections into clients is rushing it. Don’t start spamming new connections with what you do or how to buy from you. Start a conversation. Look at their profile and find a common bond or something they wrote that you love, and reach out by mentioning those shared interests or by paying a compliment. Don’t even mention what you do. This tactic may take more time, but I can promise that people will respond more favorably. Once they respond and ask about you, then you have an open invitation to share about yourself and your services.”
A little effort goes a long way when you’re learning how to use LinkedIn to build your personal brand. Tell me, are you active on LinkedIn? What tips or tricks would you share on being visible on the platform?
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Featured image attribution: Averie Woodard