The potential value of social media for both personal and professional reasons is hard to deny given its ease of access and billions of global users. Through social media, people can connect easier than ever, share ideas and content at a massive scale, and build their professional brand to unlock new business opportunities.
But, all too often, content marketing professionals join a social network with the best intentions and eagerness tap into these benefits, are active for a week or maybe a few months, and then let the account sit for eternity (or until the site deletes it like Twitter does.)
You may never think twice about those inactive accounts, but they can actually hinder your personal brand. At their best, outdated profiles are confusing and potentially annoying for customers, clients, or colleagues that were hoping to reach you on that site. At their worst, these dormant profiles can lead to lost connections and business opportunities.
While it’s not necessary—and probably not recommended—for you to be on every social media channel, it is important for you to at least maintain your brand on the channels you are on. And many business professionals find LinkedIn to be most beneficial for personal branding, given its unique profile elements that are meant for showcasing professional roles and achievements.
With that in mind, let’s explore how to put your best foot forward on social media, the core elements of a LinkedIn profile, and how you can use each section to maximize your branding potential.
Every Social Media Account is a Personal Brand Account
Any online account you have can be considered a business account (or could have professional ramifications) unless you take steps to edit your visibility settings.
That means if you don’t want bosses/clients/colleagues/strangers seeing your Instagram or TikTok, we recommend locking down the visibility of those accounts.
Toggle your account visibility in your privacy settings to change whether or not users can see your content before being accepted into your network.
If you want to take extra precautions, consider using a non-identifying profile image and/or username to even further decrease the likelihood that someone will find it. This is a viable option if you want to engage on channels purely for entertainment reasons, but always remember that anything posted on social media could have professional consequences.
The Universal Social Media Profile Elements for Branding
Regardless of which channel(s) you choose to invest in, there are some core elements seen across social media sites that can carry implications for your brand. When reviewing/updating your profiles, take extra consideration when addressing these elements:
- Your Profile Image: This acts as an identifier that carries with you across your activities on a site. Usually, your profile photo is viewable regardless of if another user is “connected” with you on that site. To make sure that this image is the best professional representation of you, we recommend that you:
- Use a photo that was taken within the last three years
- Ask yourself: “Would someone who has never met me be able to recognize me from this photo?”
- Post a photo of only yourself, not a group of people, your child, a random cute animal, a celebrity, or an image of just scenery. If you need to crop people out, ensure there are not miscellaneous appendages in the photo
- Avoid inappropriate backgrounds, such as a bed, bathroom, or scantily clad people, unless that is somehow relevant for your brand
When in doubt, ask a friend to snap a quick photo of you against a brick wall or by your company logo. Whatever image you end up with, we recommend using it across all your channels to maintain consistency (and make things easier on you).
- Your Header Image: In addition to your main profile image, there is likely a spot to put a header image. These can be custom made to spotlight your business, or you can simply choose to showcase a cityscape, nature, or some other neutral image. Ensure you have the right to use any images you choose. Do this by either taking the photo yourself, purchase the rights to an image or get permission from its original creator, or grab royalty-free images over at Unsplash.
- Bios: Most channels have a place (or multiple) to describe who you are and/or what you do. Your character count may be limited in some areas, so use a bio section to at least give a quick, one-sentence pitch about what you do so that users can best decide if they want to engage with you. These are especially important to update whenever you switch roles or employers, so it is a good habit to review your profiles when your position changes.
- Contact Information: While every channel has its own messaging system, your connections may want to reach out via email or another channel. When possible, provide an alternate way for folks to reach you, be that through a contact form on your site, by listing your email, or pointing to other channels that you prefer to communicate on (i.e. DMs open on Twitter @Username).
Keep in mind that these are just the critical areas to update, and you’ll want to revisit these once or twice a year to ensure they reflect your current branding and that of your employer. And, again, any time you switch roles is a smart time to revisit your social footprint.
Update Your LinkedIn Profile for Better Professional Branding
LinkedIn is arguably the most popular channel for professional reasons, especially since its original purpose was for networking and job searching. It can also be a bit more “difficult” to update because it has so many useful sections that are easy to overlook.
When updating your LinkedIn profile, don’t miss these key areas:
LinkedIn Profile Headline
Capped at 150 characters, your headline is what appears immediately below your name on your profile, and is what appears alongside your name on any searches on the site. There are two ways you can approach this:
- List your current job title and company
- Use a short descriptor of the type of work you do, such as “Content Marketing + Design” or “Marketing Consultant | Social Media Expert.” This helps from an SEO standpoint so prospective employers or customers can more easily find you.
Check out these examples for inspiration on the ways that you can approach your LinkedIn headline, as well as your profile image or header image:
Provide your country/region and zip code to then be given a drop-down list of locations to choose from. People can search for you based on this information, so it is beneficial to include.
Contact Information and Websites
As mentioned above, you should give users an alternate way to reach you. For LinkedIn specifically, your “contact” section also allows you to include a few website URLs. You can use this to link back to your company site, your own blog or portfolio, or to the other channels that you encourage folks to connect with you on.
This is what users see when they click on your contact info. Notice that Tod is driving people to his company’s website and blog to showcase his work, and he directs people to Twitter if they’d like to reach out to him.
LinkedIn Profile Summary/About
This section appears immediately below your overview section, which includes your name, headline, location, and a snapshot of your current employer and the school(s) you attended. Many people forget to complete this section, which is a huge missed opportunity. Use the headline to provide a teaser of who you are, then expand upon that in your summary, starting with a quick elevator pitch to give people who don’t know you a good idea of the work you do. If you’re having difficulty with section—don’t worry, most people do—check out this post on how to write a killer bio.
Check out how some of our #ContentChat community members approach this section:
This is what LinkedIn started as, a glorified resume. You’ll want to keep your work experience updated, including adding end dates for employers when you no longer work for them. Additionally, it helps to describe the work you did for that company. Focus on high-level accomplishments and core responsibilities, and ensure that any information you list is not confidential.
Although this section appears pretty far down on your page, adding any schools you attended can help you to easier network with other alumni.
While this is not a profile section to edit per se, LinkedIn is arguably the most important community to think through who you do/do not accept as a connection.
- By accepting someone into your network, they then have greater access to your network with 2nd and 3rd-degree connections.
- Many seasoned pros prefer to accept invites only from familiar faces, or from people who take the time to explain the mutually beneficial reason why they are requesting to join your network.
- If you’re not careful, you may find over time that your feed is filled with activity from people you do not know, and you could become spammed with sales pitches if you’re too open with your invite acceptance.
- You should review and clean up your connections once or twice a year, but be sure to remove folks at a steady pace versus a mass removal so that LinkedIn doesn’t lock your account.
- Note: You can always “unfollow” a person if you’d like to stop seeing their posts, which keeps them as a connection but removes their updates from your feed.
Stay Active for Sustained Social Success
With your social profiles updated, you’re ready to unlock the professional benefits of social media.
Regularly revisit the areas we explored above to keep your profiles updated, and consider expanding to other social networks after you feel you’ve got a hang of one and are able to make the time commitment.
Keep your accounts active by sharing relevant news or industry articles, liking or commenting on posts from your network, or by sharing news about your company. If you need tips on how to stay active, check out this post on how to share company content (or, really any content) in an authentic and meaningful way.