What is the point of LinkedIn? Some might see its value as a recruitment platform. Others as a tool to secure a new job. Many sign up just because everyone else has a LinkedIn profile, so they believe they should too.
These ideas are valid, but they sell LinkedIn short. The real power comes when you start seeing LinkedIn as your reputation manager.
Your LinkedIn profile is your very own personal landing page that you control. You can influence how (and if) others think of you, whether that’s stakeholders, peers, your boss, partnering businesses, or most critically, current and prospective clients.
How you are perceived as a professional on LinkedIn starts in your About section.
Wait! Do people actually read About sections on LinkedIn?
This is a tough question for me to answer, but as I’ve become more comfortable speaking uncomfortable truths (got to practice what you preach), I’m ready to answer it.
No. Most people don’t read your About section word for word. They aren’t taking screenshots or highlighting every typo. Don’t think this means you don’t need an About section. Instead, embrace the process. Publish your work in progress. Allow your profile to evolve, to become stronger over time.
Trust me, it’s much better to have a half-finished About section than none at all. You know how the saying goes:
If you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing.
If you don’t shape how you are perceived, others will do it for you. Hands up who’s had a boss re-write your work history in their head. It happens.
A blank space makes you immemorable. As expert Kevin D Turner says, not writing anything isn’t personal branding. It’s personal blanding. If that’s not enough, here are some numbers: 75% of B2B buyers and 80% of executive buyers use social media to make purchasing decisions.
Ever Googled your name? It’s likely your LinkedIn profile is one of the top results. Your About section is your opportunity to make the right impression.
How to write an About section for LinkedIn
While you probably don’t read every word in every About section on every LinkedIn profile you visit, chances are you’ve at least scanned a fair few. Do you remember any? Did any stand out, make you smile or think? Did any inspire you?
Or, have all the LinkedIn Abouts you’ve ever read blurred into one boring mess of buzzwords, cliches, and puffery? You know what I mean:
“Highly talented senior executive with over 20 years of senior management and experience in various markets. Exceptional skills in…”
A question posted on my first Newsletter touched on this issue. The commenter wanted to know how to avoid the “blather of current unauthentic ‘it’ words and phrases that seem mandatory.”
To start, consider who you are writing for (HINT: it’s not yourself). Define your goal. Set clear objectives. If you are writing to attract new clients, put yourself in their shoes. What are they searching for on LinkedIn? What keywords are they using?
(A quick aside: how high you appear in search results is about so much more than keywords. Influencing factors include how many ‘hard clicks’ your profile gets, how active you are on LinkedIn, and how connected you are to the person that’s searching.)
Once you’ve identified the who, it’s time to write. Donald Miller’s seven-part process, as outlined in his book Storybrand, is a great formula to follow. In summary, it works like this:
- Identify the client’s (or whoever you’re trying to attract) goal.
- Talk to the client’s problem.
- Position yourself as the trusted guide.
- Explain what the plan is. I.e., what is your process? Most experts love what they do – show your passion.
- Call the client to action. I.e., what is the next step? In the About section, the CTA should be about connecting. Go for the hard sale in the Experience section (more on that in my next Newsletter).
- Describe what the client’s failure could look like. No fear often means no action.
- Describe what the client’s success could look like.
If you want to see what this formula looks like in practice, check out the profiles of Kirstie Klein-Hunter and Martin Richardsons.
Finding the sweet spot
I know I’m hammering just how critical it is to write for your target audience, but that’s because so many people miss the mark. They write to make themselves look good in their own eyes, which just doesn’t resonate with clients, partners, stakeholders, and so on.
But that doesn’t mean your About section should be completely devoid of you, what makes you who you are, what you value, and what you’re interested in. It’s about finding the sweet spot between being authentic and acknowledging what your readers are looking for.
A good way to start is to ask yourself this: why did you pick your career over all other options? Even if your path has been varied and somewhat accidental, what’s the common theme that ties it all together?
The why – Simon Sinek style – is seriously powerful. People connect with people (please do not use third person in your About section); they want to know that you genuinely care about what you do. I talk more on the importance of why in this video from a few years ago: https://bit.ly/2NVVxzh.
Seven practical tips for writing a LinkedIn About section
Now, let’s get specific. Here are seven tips to help you craft a compelling, authentic About section that’ll boost your industry authority and inspire your target audience to take action.
1. Start with a hook
Open your About section with a philosophical statement or question, something provocative that’ll reel your readers in. Mine starts with two questions:
That “see more” link is a hard click that tells LinkedIn that people find your profile interesting. This could boost your ranking position in searches.
2. Avoid too many statements that start with “I”
LinkedIn is a networking platform, and the same rules apply as they do when networking face-to-face.
Would you carry on a conversation saying, “I did this…” and “I did that…” and “I am the best at…”?
Probably not. So, don’t brag on LinkedIn either.
3. Don’t be grandiose
If you’re truly good at what you do, there’s no need to exaggerate or oversell. Remember, the client is the hero. You are the trusted guide.
Like in most forms of writing, it’s always better to show rather than tell. Remove unnecessary adjectives. Write about the difference you deliver. Explain the why. If you haven’t watched Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on the subject, open this video in a new tab now. It’s a must.
4. Know who you are writing for
This is arguably the most important step. Get your audience wrong, and your About won’t be effective.
If you can show your target audience that you understand their pain point and have a solution, you’ve struck gold.
5. Don’t use passive language
Sure, my husband has the “ability to” unpack the dishwasher and is “responsible for” picking up the kids on time, but does that instil confidence in me? Not really.
While you shouldn’t be over-the-top, you don’t want to sound like you are apologising, either. Language is powerful. Use it to your advantage.
6. Think about your About section visually
Big walls of text without line breaks are tricky to read, so be sure you space out your About.
Emojis, used sparingly, are another way to add visual interest to your profile. A colourful little icon placed about two-thirds the way down your About can wake up the reader and re-capture their attention.
You can also use YayText to create bold or italics, like I’ve done in Nikesh’s profile here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nikeshl/.
7. Make it easy for your reader to contact you
A clever digital strategist, Tim Hyde often tells a story in his webinars about a furniture retailer that had $450k sitting in unprocessed shopping carts. When they surveyed the people who didn’t go through with the transaction, they discovered they abandoned their cart because they had a question and couldn’t find a quick way to get it answered.
The lesson: remove friction. Make it easy for the reader to take the next step. Include a high-impact call to action and your contact details.
Using LinkedIn as your reputation manager
An excellent LinkedIn About section can be an extremely powerful reputation builder, but a good one is better than none at all. Don’t fret if your About is a work in progress – save yourself the stress and go ahead and publish it now.
Remember, there is help available!
Getting your LinkedIn profile and strategy right can seem overwhelming, but with the right advice, it is relatively easy to achieve. Please hit subscribe to my newsletters and consider putting #toptisdelltips into the search bar and clicking ‘follow’ so that you don’t miss any of my videos and short-form posts where I share tonnes of advice.
If you really hate writing, and the time difference between us is not too significant (I’m based in Sydney) please get in touch and I’ll be happy to help with a done-for-you service that includes coaching on using LinkedIn.