Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Creating a Better LinkedIn Profile: Start at the Top

One of the most important elements of an effective LinkedIn profile is the "Professional Headline" -- the short description appears immediately under your name in search results, in contact lists, and in your own profile. After your name, it is probably the first thing that people see about you in LinkedIn, so if you are interested in building a better LinkedIn profile you should "start at the top" and choose a headline that has just the right impact.

A lot of people on LinkedIn go for the "Widget Quality Manager at Amalgamated Widgets" style headlines. I think that's fine, as far as it goes. It's specific and functional, very nicely targeted at people in the widget industry, in the quality control function, and among those interested in Amalgamated Widgets. But maybe the person with this headline is trying to connect with people outside of those three groups. Is it still a headline that has "just the right impact?"

I wrote yesterday about how your activities on LinkedIn should all flow from your answer to that one key question: Why Are You on LinkedIn? That leads to other questions: What are your goals? What audience do you want to reach? What do you want them to know about you? Without a good answer to these questions, you will find yourself floundering on LinkedIn, never quite getting it to perform the way you think you should.

So, the headline that has the "right impact" for you will be the one that will get you noticed by your target audience and help you accomplish your goals.

I looked through my connections and a few of the "Professional Headlines" jumped out at me as being noticeably different, and I thought I would share them with you as examples of what you can with your own LinkedIn professional headlines.

The first is from James Chan of Asia Marketing Management, who you may remember from my blog posts about Spare Room Tycoon and the Mid-Atlantic Consultants Network. Note that the lead phrase is not about what he does but rather about the value he brings – forging business relationships in China! If I was looking to do business in China, James' headline would certainly hook me.

The second comes from Mike O'Neil of Integrated Alliances. I found Mike through his networking on LinkedIn and his activities on the Web and in face-to-face networking. I "pitched" him on connecting with me, and he went for it. Mike packs a lot of information about himself into a very small space. I like his use of symbol characters to make his headline easier to read. Mike's target audience is people who want to do more networking and get more out of LinkedIn. Every word in his headline is targeted at that specific audience.

My final example is Todd Cohen of Sales Leader LLC. Todd insists that anyone who is networking should know their "personal value proposition," so it's not surprising that Todd's headline hits hard on his own value proposition. You get an excellent sense of Todd as a person when you read this, and you can bet that it will be noticed by Todd's target audience of CEOs and senior executives.

How do you develop a personal value proposition? Well, that's a subject best left for a future post.

(I have to admit that my own professional headline looks a little prosaic by comparison. I'm going to have to rework my profile.)

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