Feb 08, 2016 / by Jim Dougherty

If you’re like me, you see LinkedIn as a bit of an enigma. LinkedIn boasts extraordinary demographics for everything from lead generation to thought leadership and job searches, but my use of LinkedIn really depends upon which feature I want to use.

If I want to generate leads, I want my LinkedIn profile to look a lot different than if I am trying to perform a passive job search.

LinkedIn is one of the most straightforward social utilities to use, but most people (myself included) don’t optimize it to best serve their intended purposes. What I want to do in this post is take a look at 10 ways that people can optimize (and get more out of) their LinkedIn profiles.

1. Have a clear purpose


During the most recent Republican presidential debates, ABC News made a point to bring up social mentions as a measure of how well candidates were performing during the debate.

Who was the second most mentioned candidate? Senator Marco Rubio. In actuality, Rubio’s mentions were in large part negative in sentiment and didn’t indicate any measure of success at all.

The correlation between this and most people’s LinkedIn profiles is that a generic LinkedIn profile may not serve our intended purpose. For example, rather than putting a minimal profile on LinkedIn, people might use strategies commensurate with their intended use of the network such as:

  • An active job seeker might seek to mobilize their network by explicitly mentioning that they are looking for a job.
  • A passive job seeker might include strategic keywords that recruiters might target. They might “view” relevant recruiter profiles.
  • A person interested in lead generation might create a profile focused on the products or services that they are offering.
  • A person looking to establish thought leadership might publish articles with the LinkedIn publishing platform, post links to relevant content on their profile, participate in groups or link to content they’ve created in their posts.

What this communicates: By tailoring your LinkedIn profile to reflect your purpose you explicitly communicate what you intend to accomplish with your LinkedIn presence.


2. Post a professional photo

One of the most frequent suggestions for improving LinkedIn profiles is to post a professional photo. The reason for this is pretty obvious: regardless of how you are using LinkedIn you need to present yourself in the best light.

LinkedIn offers five suggestions when choosing a profile photo:

  • Choose a photo that looks like you.
  • Make sure your face takes up at least 60 percent of the frame.
  • Choose the right expression.
  • Wear what you’d wear to work.
  • Choose a background that isn’t distracting.

Ranya Barakat of IDS Agency also suggests updating the 1400 x 425 pixel header image which houses your profile picture and information.

What this communicates: A good photo shows people who you are and demonstrates your professionalism agnostic of your goals on the network.

3. Keep your contact info updated


If you’re old enough to remember the Rolodex (a plastic wheel device that held alphabetized index cards with contact information), God bless you.

Imagine the administrative maintenance required to update contact information of hundreds of contacts, and you can appreciate the convenience of having those same contacts available to you in the cloud always up-to-date.

Of course with LinkedIn, there are more than a few people who don’t keep their contact information up-to-date. Outdated information leaves you in a lurch if you ever want to contact them, and those people likely miss out on networking opportunities because they are less accessible.

Therefore, it is important for YOU to keep your contact information up to date – not just your email and telephone number, but job title and responsibilities too.

What this communicates: That you are accessible and active within the network.

4. Focus on your summary

Nowhere should your profile be more differentiated than in the “Summary” section of your Linkedin profile. This is your opportunity to describe yourself in the context that you want to use the network.

For instance, a person conducting an open job search might explicitly write that in the summary. Or a person seeking to establish thought leadership within their field might highlight their accomplishments and how they demonstrate their expertise.

Louise Fletcher of Blue Sky describes her ideal “template” for this section as five paragraphs, while Laura Smith-Proulx of Job Hunt suggests focusing on the readability of this section above everything else.

What this communicates: The summary communicates everything, really. It’s the first substantive thing that people will read on your profile and should communicate why you’re using the network (or in the case of incognito job searches, intimate as much).

5. Customize your URL

This many seem like a trite thing, but the impression that the link “linkedin.com/in/jimdougherty” makes as opposed to “linkedin.com/in/A5620E9” is both subtle and substantive.

The former looks better and intimates familiarity with the network, while the latter makes it appear that your not familiar enough with LinkedIn to make a very easy customization.

What this communicates: A non-personalized URL communicates lack of familiarity with the LinkedIn network. A custom URL may make it easier to remember your profile and to navigate back.

6. Publish some content on the platform


Especially if you don’t have another outlet (like a blog) to perpetuate your personal messaging, you may consider publishing a few long-form pieces on LinkedIn.

A job seeker might demonstrate expertise or leadership with a few posts about their experience or philosophy. A salesperson might generate leads by writing about the effectiveness of their product or service to solve problems.

If you’re having trouble getting started, LinkedIn has some topical suggestions. My advice: most bloggers (myself included) have the opportunity to fail a lot before publishing better received pieces.

If you have time, get some feedback on your content, edit (or even table it) before publishing it to LinkedIn. Because our professional reputations are important, anything intended to demonstrate competence ought to communicate what you want it to.

What this communicates: Expertise. An elaboration of your professional point of view.

7. Ask for recommendations


Lisa Dougherty (no relation) of Brand Love says that one way to improve your LinkedIn profile is to get recommendations. Recommendations allow people who have worked with you to support you in a substantive way (as opposed to Endorsements, which aren’t as elaborate or informative).

In my experience, people you know are often quite receptive to writing these and frequently will ask for bullet points to help guide the conversation where you want it to go (so have these available before asking).

The other nice thing about recommendations is that you decide whether to show any recommendation on your profile, so that in the unusual event that someone writes a lukewarm endorsement of your work no one would ever have to see this.

What this communicates: Much like an online review, recommendations strengthen your profile by allowing benevolent third-parties to reinforce your messaging.

8. Be judicious with your updates

LinkedIn is not Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. The posting behaviors that are commonplace on these networks are unusual on LinkedIn. I rarely will see personal updates on LinkedIn (and they look really out of place) – and oftentimes people who post excessively are painfully obvious in my LinkedIn feed.

The folks at Buffer suggest that the ideal number of LinkedIn posts per month would be about 20, with the rule of thumb to post as often as your content dictates. They say that each post will reach about 20 percent of your network, which is pretty extraordinary compared to other social networking sites.

What this communicates: Professionalism. By not spamming your network, it makes them more receptive to you when you have something to communicate.

9. Watch your languageLinkedIn-language

Whether you’re establishing thought leadership or looking for a job, industry-specific or job-specific jargon can be an impediment to effective communication.

Aaron Taube of Business Insider elaborates on this point, recommending not only to avoid jargon but overused words and unnecessary adjectives to embellish your LinkedIn profile. He’s right – the most effective messaging is straightforward…which means editing your profile is essential.

What this communicates: Using straightforward, accessible language increases the likelihood that people will read your LinkedIn profile and understand what you’re trying to say.

10. Be mindful of the quality of your network

Finally, this may not apply to every use but it’s worth saying: especially when job searching the constituency of your network matters. It is often as important that you are connected to key people as it is unimportant that you are connected to non-essential people.

A potential employer may contact anyone in your network to vouch for you – it makes sense that you might want to know them well enough that they say something nice.

What this communicates: The quality of your LinkedIn network can communicate a rich network that can be utilized, or can communicate a lack of focus (or of something else).


LinkedIn is a great network (in my opinion anyhow) because it does a few things and does them really well. A thoughtfully-crafted LinkedIn profile can do a lot to progress your professional goals, whether you are job searching, looking for qualified leads or just trying to further your professional reputation.

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Images via Pixabay: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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About Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty is a featured contributor to the Cision Blog and his own blog, leaderswest. His areas of interest include statistics, technology, and content marketing. When not writing, he is likely reading, running, playing guitar or being a dad. PRSA member. Find him on Twitter @jimdougherty.