This is part of a series of posts looking at the key elements of the LinkedIn profile and ways in which you can optimise them to serve you best in your use of LinkedIn.
I will be looking to go through each of the areas that were outlined in the earlier post 10 focus areas on your LinkedIn profile and explaining in greater depth the ways that you might like to look at developing your own. If you do fancy additional help then there is also the LinkedIn Profile Makeover which will provide you with specific advice and information tailored to your own requirements.
The Professional Headline
On the profile page, the professional headline appears just below your name and so, as you can see below, occupies a very prominent and strong position – essentially, it’s always going to be one of the first elements to catch a visitor’s eye, sandwiched as it is, alongside your name and photo.
It also occupies a prominent position in a number of other places across the site and, although this does change from time to time, this is the status as of August 2010:
- when you search for people, the search results display your professional headline alongside your name and photo, as well as ways to connect with them and common connections and groups;
- within the Groups, if you hover over the image of the person posting a discussion or comment, you will see their name and professional headline;
- in the Answers section of the site, when you ask a question or leave an answer, your name and your professional headline appears alongside the text;
- in your inbox, you will also see these details if you hover over the name of the person sending you a message or invitation;
- … and don’t forget that your personal profile is one of the two pages that appears externally to the site as well, so will be visible to those who find your profile via Google.
To make any changes, perhaps incorporating ideas from one of the formats outlined below, you simply go to your “edit profile” page and you’ll find a small “edit” link next to the current professional headline – this will give you the ability to change the text as you require.
What should you put?
While the key rationale really has to be to appeal to the people who have come to look at profile and get a better feel for what we do and who we are, there is a second consideration which is to appeal to the search function within LinkedIn and get a better position for phrases we want to be found for. The professional headline is one of those areas that carries the most weight when it comes to the search so there may be an argument for keeping that in mind when considering what to put. However, that is only one of the ways in which you can approach it and I believe that you need to create it first and foremost for the people who are going to see it.
Here are some differing approaches that I have seen put forward and used with equal conviction:
1. Descriptive Specialisms using keywords
This is perhaps the most effective way of getting across a clear impression of what we do so that readers can take in the information quickly and easily. As the terms are also likely to contain keywords relating to what you wish to be found for (ie. for specialist skills) then this is also appealing to the internal search within LinkedIn without appearing spammy.
2. Description of your general offering
Using this format is akin to giving yourself a tagline where you can get across a simple marketing message encapsulating what you offer. This may be one that you already use on your website or perhaps in your email footer, or one that you have developed specifically for LinkedIn. (As a general rule, I believe consistency in this type of message across different social media channels will help greatly with your personal branding.)
3. Direct marketing offering
Push a “taster” for your product or service and highlight this as the key element in the headline – while doing it “cleverly” can be nice, sometimes there’s no substitute for plain speaking! Make sure that you back up what you are offering though.
4. Push / Promote a particular product
Push something that it relatively easy to monetise using a direct link to the relevant web page – perhaps if you offer an e-book or something similar then that would be a suitable product. Such a direct sales message and approach can sometimes rub people up the wrong way, so make sure that the offering is spot on for who you are looking to attract to your profile.
5. Promote a service to attract interest in your services
Here, again, promoting a single service that forms part of your normal sales process – including an email address or phone number is an additional element which may help from an immediacy point of view. Most people, I believe, would still look at your profile so this may be partly redundant.
6. Job title and company
This is the default setting and just displays your job title and the company name for your latest position. Like all defaults, it serves its purpose but is generic – so if you have a particular goal in mind for your efforts on LinkedIn or a particular skill or product that you wish to highlight, then you should considering changing it to support those goals.
Overall, the Professional headline is certainly one of the key elements in your profile as well as being one of the most prominent. So take the time to decide and craft a use for it with fits with what you are looking to achieve and also how you wish to be viewed by those who come across you.