Thursday, August 2, 2012

Build Your Personal Brand on LinkedIn

Remember Adrian Monk in his detective series? He was a tidy freak, but it was his obsessing over details that helped him solve those murder cases. Like Mr. Monk, I’m feeling persnickety, and just as Monk wisely points out that the dead guy in the dark room couldn’t have turned off the lights, it bugs me that people using LinkedIn don’t take advantage of the ability to have a personalized URL for their profile. To me it seems obvious and it’s so easy to get one!

When you sign on to LinkedIn, you get an elongated URL that’s automatically generated. You — yes, you — can customize this URL so it is simple to remember and supports your personal brand. In my opinion, claiming your name here is key, but my preference shouldn’t stop you from inventing something else. Like coming up with a personalized license plate, you just need to think it through. If you were a tattoo artist, you might use “inkbeneaththeskin” or if you were the CEO of a bakery chain, maybe you’re “dollars4donuts”.

For a straightforward solution, take my LinkedIn URL as an example. At the time I set up my account I was able to customize the last text to "marionguthrie", my name. If you have a common name like Tom Smith or Cathy Jones, you may need to add a middle initial or a code, or you may decide to go the customized route with a word that reflects on your competency. Then you can use your LinkedIn URL in your signature line or any place where you want to direct interested people to a summary of your professional accomplishments; i.e. your LinkedIn profile. It’s a value added! 

While we’re talking about LinkedIn, another pet peeve of mine is this: please try to get at least three recommendations. Three is LinkedIn’s suggested minimum. Recommendations are your ad; your third-party endorsement. They humanize your profile and make you more appealing and credible. Superman’s list of jobs outlining him as a reporter and sometimes superhero become so much more colorful and engaging when there’s a recommendation that says, “He leaps tall buildings in a single bound.” Don’t you think?

Also be “in with the in-crowd” and take advantage of the three website links on your LinkedIn profile. Include links to your personal website as well as your company’s. Be creative. Since I haven’t finished my company website yet, one of my links provides a list of my Talent Zoo articles written to date, which gives me a chance to showcase some of my writing. If you’ve joined Tumblr or Gust or any other community, you can use that URL too. (With Facebook, use with caution; ask yourself, "What would Mary Poppins say?") These links help build up your persona as a business executive who is participating in the digital age, not just standing on the sidelines.

Last but not least, there is great value in generating content on LinkedIn that can also be published (if you check the birdie box) on Twitter. Why bother? Aside from the fact that you might learn something (oh, I sound like my Mom), the updates you write and post in that little LinkedIn box at the top of your profile are a great way to stay top of mind with your LinkedIn contacts and it helps build your credibility when you share interesting news stories or blogs or opinions. In addition, when you check that Twitter box, your LinkedIn update will post automatically to your Twitter. And voila, you’ve amplified your message’s reach.

It’s not like Facebook, Twitter, About.Me, or Google+ (although I’m not sure any one has figured out Google+ quite yet). LinkedIn is a distinctive social media tool and it’s all about business. So use it to find opinion leaders in your field, to locate your next speaker for that association meeting, or to uncover the heads of those companies you’re targeting for your next sales effort. Or use it to discover who to network with to find that next project or that next job. Just do me a favor and personalize your LinkedIn URL. When you attach that URL to your communications, you’re creating a link to your profile where folks can see just how good you really are.

As far as being a bit compulsive, it gives me solace that Mr. Monk was far worse. Here’s some proof!