In early 2019 LinkedIn announced that over 610 million people use the site, and yet creatives tend not to focus on LinkedIn as a marketing tool. Monica Davidson (CEO of Creative Plus Business) and Stephen Byrne (friend of C+B* and Staffing Manager at Dolby Australia) both think LinkedIn is incredibly powerful if used in the right way, and can benefit anybody who wants to showcase their work, regardless of profession.
The unique aspect of LinkedIn in the social media flurry is that it’s used exclusively for business, which means your skills and experience will always be interpreted in this professional realm. And, as Steve says “Nobody is going to send you cat videos on LinkedIn”.
They collaborate here to give their ten top tips on how to get the most out of LinkedIn for creative professionals. You can see their profiles at linkedin.com/in/monicadavidson and www.linkedin.com/in/stephenbyrneireland.
First, the Passive Steps: Five simple things you can do in your own time to make your profile magnificent.
Number 1: Add detail.
Most people add their job title, and the companies they’ve worked for, and that’s it. LinkedIn offers so much more, including the ability to detail the nature of your work and projects, the problems you solved, and the experience of your client or boss. You can showcase your skills in the best light to potential clients and people who might want to collaborate with you. Steve says “Imagine somebody is looking for your skillset – unless you actually tell them what it is, they’re never going to find you. A lot of LinkedIn searching is done via keywords, so use relevant words in your profile about who you are as a person, your role in the work, your industry and your abilities”.
Number 2: Be compelling in your Summary and your stories.
An intro that rehashes your CV is not enough. To make your profile stand out, use your Summary to explain who you are and why you do what you do. As for the rest of your profile, tell a story about what you’ve done, and for whom. Write about what inspires you in your creative work, how you got started and why you love what you do. List your key achievements and why they’re important, mention significant clients and work that you’re proud of (as long as you’re not bound by confidentiality). Monica says “Creative people tend to be natural storytellers, so thinking of your Summary as a story can help if you feel nervous about appearing arrogant. Think about the problems you solved or what you did to make your client’s lives a little easier, and write about yourself as someone who helps rather than someone begging for work.”
Number 3: Link to your work.
LinkedIn allows you to present samples of your work, including documents, links, videos and more. You can link to your own website, your page on The Loop, and a myriad other examples of your skills. The whole package allows your LinkedIn profile to act as both CV and portfolio. Steve says “LinkedIn shouldn’t be your only source of marketing or your only digital footprint. It’s an opportunity for you to signpost other places where your work appears”. He adds “LinkedIn is unlike other social media in that people don’t log in every day, they don’t spend a lot of time on it unless they’re searching for something, so anything that keeps people engaged with your profile is important and enhances the possibility that they will reach out”.
Number 4: The Photo.
People are ultimately visual creatures, and their connection will be more personal if they can see you. If you’re just a faceless icon, it can show a lack of commitment to your own marketing. Make sure the photo is professional-looking, and your face is well lit and friendly. Steve says “Twitter can be anybody, but LinkedIn is you. Nobody goes on LinkedIn to be CookieMonster777 – you are representing yourself, and a professional-looking photo can help to make that impact.” Monica adds “It’s important to represent your personal brand. If you’re a visual artist, then by all means have an image of yourself with a paintbrush in hand in your studio. Just make sure your photo is aligned with who you are professionally.”
Number 5: First Person Voice.
There’s a lot of chat about which is better, first or third-person voice, when writing for LinkedIn. Steve and Monica have seen different styles, and both prefer first-person voice. After all, LinkedIn is basically the world’s biggest networking event, and you’re speaking about yourself to people who want to connect with you. Steve says “I like the first person because it’s more authentic, it feels like I’m having a conversation with you rather than somebody else talking about you. I think people identify more when you are talking about yourself.” Monica adds “It also feels jarring to read in third-person, because everybody knows you write your own profile. Third-person voice feels false to me.” There are plenty of experts who disagree, of course. The most important point is to pick one and keep it up. Don’t jump between styles.
Next, the Active Steps: Time to get out and take that wonderful new profile for a spin to see what it can do.
Number 6: Ask for Recommendations.
Skills and endorsements are good, but recommendations are much better. They work in the same way as a testimonial because they feature other people validating the good things you’ve said about yourself. If you think you’ve done a good job for a client, and you’ve been given positive verbal feedback, don’t be afraid to ask for a recommendation. It’s a super easy button to click on your profile page that allows you to request feedback and review what the client has said before it’s added to your profile. Steve says, “I would ensure first by other means that the client is happy with the work. Don’t do it blindly. Make sure it’s somebody that you trust and make sure it’s a glowing recommendation. Lukewarm is best avoided!” Monica adds “This process can also kill two marketing birds with one stone, as you can use the same recommendations as testimonials on your own website or in your social media.” Just be careful of joint or reciprocal recommendations, savvy LinkedIn users don’t always value an obvious quid pro quo exchange or praise.
Number 7: Connect with real people.
LinkedIn is only as good as your ability to use it well. Ultimately it’s a networking application for business, and the whole point is to establish like-minded or relevant connections who might be able to enhance your business or put you in touch with opportunities. Steve says “The more people you connect with, the more relevant opportunities you’ll find, and the more likely it is that important people will see your profile. He adds “You’re also more likely to be successful in connecting with people if you’ve met them in real life. As soon as you can after you’ve met, send a personalised request to connect through LinkedIn. Be specific about where and when you met, and express how much you’d like to make the connection. Go beyond the standard request form that’s available, it can make all the difference.” And if you haven’t met? You can ask for an introduction through your existing network. Messaging people you’re connected to is easy through your free account.
Number 8: Join some groups.
There are literally thousands of groups on LinkedIn that are a way for you to connect with like-minded individuals who are not in your network. Joining a group that’s relevant to you, your business and/or your industry will automatically give you access to everybody in that group. It also allows you to send message to everybody in that group, advertise and/or search for job opportunities, ask questions, ask for introductions, and offer expertise to other members. Start discussions, link to articles, get involved. Steve says “If you are seen as an influencer in that group, it increases the benefits to your profile”. Monica adds “You might also consider starting a group if you share a specific skill or interest with other people.”
Number 9: Be active, a lot.
Take hold of the opportunity to regularly update your profile, post updates to your network, add media, link to articles that interest you or are relevant to your work, or write something that showcases your expertise. LinkedIn is not just a CV, it’s an energetic platform to show yourself off. Steve says, “The more you offer relevant insight, the better you look to your network. The more active you are, the more you appear in people’s timelines, and the more you will get out of the platform”. If people respond to your posts, then that activity is seen on their timelines, and you can see exponential growth throughout the network. Monica adds “LinkedIn is not the best platform for people who are waiting to be asked to dance. Get out there and do the asking, and you’ll really see how powerful LinkedIn can be”. She also adds “You should also turn off Notifications when you’re updating – it can get annoying for your connections if you make a lot of changes”.
Number 10: Consider a Premium version.
It’s not essential, but a Premium account can add value to your account – it’s expensive, however, and might not benefit everyone. Steve thinks the best feature of a paid account is InMail. “You can proactively reach out to people that you’re not immediately connected to via InMail. However, you will still need some form of ‘real world’ connection, even if just through a prior workplace or colleague, or knowing their email address”. Monica says, “I have found InMail particularly helpful when the person I want to get in touch with is surrounded by minders and gatekeepers. Even very important people tend to monitor their own LinkedIn account, and an InMail will go directly to their email address even if that address is not visible on LinkedIn”. Steve concludes, “Having said that, if you send InMail and your profile has no picture and no detail, and no compelling reason to respond, why would they bother?”
Both Steve and Monica regularly meet people who think LinkedIn is a waste of time, and for some people, that’s certainly the case. However, Steve says “You only get out of LinkedIn what you put in. If you think it’s going to be the answer to all your problems, it’s not. If you view it as an opportunity to engage with like-minded individuals and potential business contacts, then it can certainly help”. Monica concludes “If you approach LinkedIn as part of your overall marketing strategy, it will definitely make you more visible and interesting to people who might like to hire you or engage your creative business. Even better, since not many creatives can yet see the benefit of the platform, you could find yourself standing out in the crowd.”
*Steve is also Monica’s husband.
CREDIT: Photo courtesy of Leonardo Bellini.