How to Build Your Executive Presence on LinkedIn
As an executive leader, your LinkedIn profile is your personal and professional brand. A strong presence on LinkedIn can set you apart as an authority in your field, it can open doors when you are looking (or not looking) for new opportunities, and it’s one of your best tools for marketing your company and yourself.
The payoffs of time and energy into your presence on the social media platform are well worth the investment. From carefully building the profiles of more than 100 executives — including the entire leadership team at six different startups, CEOs, VPs and other senior leaders — I’ve learned exactly how to create a profile that makes a good impression, tells a compelling story, represents your best work, stands out for all the right reasons and is a source of credibility.
Here’s how you can build a strong profile and then leverage LinkedIn’s platform to successfully market your brand.
First Impressions Matter
Consider who will be looking at your LinkedIn profile: future employers, future customers, future partners, maybe even people who can book you on their podcast or as a keynote speaker. Then think about what you want them to know about you: your background, your character, why you’re passionate about what you do and the opportunities you’re looking for.
The header is your first chance to make a good impression and establish your personal brand. It is the most visible section of your LinkedIn profile and includes some key pieces of information that can be used to create a memorable and accessible brand. Here are things to consider.
Headshot: A good headshot communicates that you are approachable and trustworthy, and it can increase your chance of response and referrals. Use a profile headshot — yes, of your head, neck and shoulders. Keep in mind that on mobile this image gets really small, so aim for high-resolution pictures, ideally 400 by 400 pixels.
Background Image: Your banner is a simple way to show off your personality and build brand awareness. Pick a banner image that tells something about you (e.g. the city you’re from, a hobby you enjoy or the company where you work). Programs like Canva and Photoshop are great tools for formatting your banner or crafting a company template image.
Headline: Ensure people see your most impactful titles and accomplishments by customizing your headline. Include your current title, company tagline, secondary titles, former companies, gender preferences, awards you’ve won, how you help people and your most important credentials. Here are some examples of how to customize your headline:
- Chief Marketing Officer | Startup Advisor | Board Member | Investor
- Chairman of VaynerX, CEO of VaynerMedia, 5-Time NYT Bestselling Author
- Senior Director of Customer Experience Transformation | Board Advisor | TEDxSeattle | Top 100 Global CS Strategist
- CEO & Founder at Codoxo | AI Solutions for Healthcare
Contact Information: This ensures companies, customers and prospective partners can reach out to you and that you never miss a great opportunity. Always include your company website — and, if you’re customer-facing, include your work email to allow customers to easily contact you.
Customized URL: Create a clean, professional URL that is easy to read and strengthens your personal brand. Customize your LinkedIn URL (remove the random numbers at the end) by navigating to your profile page and clicking “Edit public profile & URL” in the top-right corner.
Define Your Narrative
LinkedIn lets you tell your story in the “About” section. This gives people a glimpse into who you are and how your background, character and interests might serve them. Write it in the first person to humanize yourself and keep your audience in mind. This section doesn’t have to be limited to your current role.
Here’s a helpful template for your “About” section, paragraph by paragraph:
- Paragraph One: Describe your professional self in a nutshell.
- Paragraph Two: What are you doing now, and why did you join your current company?
- Paragraph Three: Share a bit about your professional background and schooling.
- Paragraph Four: What do you do outside of work? This could be where you include volunteer work or board service and what you do for fun.
- Paragraph Five: Call to action. What do you want them to do? Are you hiring? Are you looking for speaking or board opportunities?
You may also want to include a list of specialties. LinkedIn is a professional search engine, what keywords and skills would you want to be found for? List them here.
Here’s a sample approach I helped the director of engineering at Codoxo put together:
“A technologist at heart, I love exploring new technologies. With a 20+ year track record of delivering innovative technology at startup, mid-size and large companies, I’ve had the opportunity to work in healthcare AI, cloud, mobility, networking, telecommunications, robotics and security.
I joined Codoxo to help reduce fraud, waste and abuse in healthcare and make healthcare more affordable for more people. As the engineering leader, I use innovative technology to like artificial intelligence and significant experience in product strategy, innovating new technologies and execution to make a real difference at Codoxo.
Before Codoxo, I was the VP of engineering at Ventureforth, a cloud mobile company where I built multiple disconnected mobile SaaS products connecting to multiple ERPs. Prior to that, I held leadership roles at Earthlink and 3COM.
I love using technology for good. I started CureMBD.org with my daughter to develop a wearable device to prevent mosquito-borne diseases. I hold multiple patents and love a game or two of squash and ping pong.
If you’re looking to use your technology skills to make healthcare more affordable, reach out. Codox is hiring: https://www.codoxo.com/jobs.”
Optimizing the Rest of Your Profile
Especially if you’re an executive or in sales, customer success or marketing, LinkedIn is your portfolio and resume. The “Featured” section is a great way to highlight different types of media you’ve helped create or that showcase you or your company.
In the “Experience” section — especially for your current company and role — include both what you do and what your company does (unless you work at a recognizable Fortune 500 company). Ensure a clear, consistent company brand by providing a template for all teammates to use: something that is one to three sentences long describing what the company does, why and for whom. This should be in easy-to-understand language with minimal jargon.
There are lots of other sections to consider including, depending on your professional narrative and goals:
- Background: This includes work experience, education, volunteer experiences, licenses and certifications.
- Skills: It’s important to audit your skills section frequently and select which top three skills you want to highlight and which you want to include on your profile. Remember, you can delete outdated skills and proactively add new skills.
- Accomplishments: This is where you can highlight publications, patents, courses, projects, honors and awards, test scores, organizations.
- Recommendations: Your two most recent recommendations will be highlighted here. I recommend proactively asking a key manager, direct report or other colleague to write a recommendation for you at least once every other year. Also, as a leader, it means a lot to recommend others publicly.
As a marketer, publications are very important, whereas patents and test scores aren’t as relevant.
LinkedIn Etiquette and Hygiene
When sending out an invite request, always personalize the invite. Yes, even on mobile. The extra step of adding a note to remind someone how you met or why you want to connect not only increases your chance of reception, but it can open a dialogue and lead to an opportunity down the line. Most people, including me, simply ignore requests that come in without personalization. Stand out by personalizing your messages. Remind people how you met them or tell them why you want to meet them. compliments works well here (e.g. “I read your last LinkedIn article, and this [insert key section] really stood out to me”).
The best way to stay relevant and top-of-mind is to post regularly. While you’re building the muscle, this is as simple as sharing an article you found interesting or reposting a company post. If you want to get real traction (engagement and views), you’ll need to go beyond that. LinkedIn’s algorithm and users love video content — especially raw, self-filmed, authentic posts. They also love photos and images with stats. The algorithm prefers to keep users scrolling the LinkedIn feed, so LinkedIn does not encourage external links. You can use them, but you’ll get more engagement if you pull out the interesting notes and consider putting the link in the comments.
You can include some hashtags, but I don’t recommend overdoing it. To see how popular a hashtag is, type it in the search bar, and it’ll show how many people follow a given hashtag.
Choose who you tag in your posts carefully. I definitely recommend tagging companies and people in your posts. However, pick the people or companies you tag based on who you think will actually comment or like your post. If people don’t quickly comment or like your post when tagged, LinkedIn assumes that it’s spam and drops the prominence of your post.
Connect With People You Actually Know
If you haven’t already, connect with 500 people whom you know ASAP. LinkedIn shows the exact number of followers you have under 500 or simply says 500+ when you cross that threshold. To move beyond rookie status, use the My Network tab to search through people LinkedIn thinks you may know and add those you do.
There are different philosophies around who to connect with on LinkedIn. No doubt, lots of vendors and industry folks are reaching out to you. My rule of thumb is to connect with people I know or have at least vaguely met.
Why? Frequently when meeting new folks, they will look at our mutual connections and ask how I know them. If I didn’t actually know them, that would hurt my credibility. Since LinkedIn has a “Follow” feature, folks can still follow you without you connecting with them.
Your LinkedIn presence is often an untapped resource for creating a personal and professional brand that can open doors in your career and set you up for long-term success. Just a few hours of work on your profile and a weekly calendar reminder to post can go a long way to boost your personal brand and company executive presence.