Using LinkedIn – part one – telling your story.

Using LinkedIn – part one – telling your story

How to unlock the value of this business tool

Most people don’t use LinkedIn well.  They treat it as a place to store their resume.  They treat it as an ancillary channel for their company’s marketing.  Mostly they just ignore it.

I remember an executive meeting I was in (not long ago) where the CEO started a conversation around “What is this LinkedIn and how do we make sure our employees aren’t giving away corporate secrets?”  I had to hold my tongue.  At that point I had 5,000 LinkedIn connections and had been an early adopter.  I have close to 10,000 now.

He was lumping LinkedIn in with Facebook and twitter and other more social ‘social medias’.

LinkedIn is social media, but it is business centric social media.  LinkedIn is not the place you talk about your kid’s baseball game, unless you can somehow draw a business lesson from it.  It’s not a wasteland of cat videos and political trolling (yet).  LinkedIn is the place on the other side of the corporate wall where everyone has on their business clothes, their business avatars and their business personas.

This makes it different.  This gives LinkedIn at least the blush of corporate authenticity.

Why do you care about LinkedIn?  LinkedIn is a great opportunity for you to tell your story and your company’s story.  LinkedIn is a great place for you to do a bit of classic brand building.  LinkedIn is a place to build a network in the true sense of ‘network effect’ to share and find ideas.

LinkedIn has also become the primary lead generation source for many relationship-based industries, like recruiting.  But you don’t have to be selling or buying proactively.  You can use LinkedIn as a subtle content-based marketing platform to create inbound opportunities for you and/or your business.

The key here, like everything else in business is to understand what you are trying to accomplish. Once you know what you want out of LinkedIn you can craft an approach, a strategy, to incrementally build out that approach over time.

That’s the piece that most people miss.  This is not a ‘one-and-done’ approach.  It’s a consistent strategy that you work on over the course of your career.  This is more important in LinkedIn because you are building a network, and networks can be very powerful, but you need consistency and scale to gain the advantage of the network effect.

Start by understanding and telling your story.

Today I’m going to share with you how to get started by telling your own story well.

This is the starting point.  Most people skip this step.  When you skip this step, you miss out on a tremendous opportunity to start the LinkedIn conversation on your own terms.  Understanding and presenting your story is the classic strategy of ‘choosing the good ground’ (that everyone from Sun Tzu to Von Clausewitz has recommended).

Before you blunder into LinkedIn or start using it to broadcast marketing take the time to understand your story and tell it in a compelling way.


Step One – Find your story.

For people to connect with you they have to know who you are, what you do and why.  The biggest challenge people have in creating their LinkedIn profile is getting the story right.

Telling your own story is not easy.  Seeing yourself from a 3rd party perspective requires introspection, investigation and self-awareness.  How do you do that?  This works best if you can have a trusted advisor walk you through it.  It is a basic interview process where you write down in detail, from your earliest school days and progress through every role in your career:

  • What was the role?
  • How did you get into this role? (Were you pulled in by someone?)
  • What were the accomplishments you are most proud of in this role? (numbers are good)
  • What were the challenges in this role? How did you confront and overcome them?
  • Who did you work with/for in this role? What would they say about you? (You want actual names, because you will ask them for endorsements and references)
  • Why did you leave this role?

It’s not easy.  This will take time and you may have to go back and research certain roles and talk to people.  As you go through this exercise you will start to see patterns of success.  You will learn about how you operate.  Essentially you should be able to discover the ‘good stuff’ that makes you who you are!  This is the gold.

This process enables you to evolve from a stale list of roles to a fully fleshed out person.  You will learn the important things.  What drives you?  Why have you been successful?  And you will end up with concrete examples and stories for each attribute you uncover.

Step Two – Creative Writing.

Now you take this treasure trove of who you are and what you have done and you convert it to narrative form.  Make it into ‘the story of you’, where you are the hero.  This is something that will take time and effort. You may spend days converting your notes to a narrative, but it is worth the effort.  The creation process will allow you to internalize the attributes you have uncovered and rehearse the good stories that illustrate them.

This is typically a challenge for the ‘non-writers’ among us.  You may not have the writing skills to do this and it’s ok to hire it out as long as you’re involved in the process.  This is as much about self-awareness as about the narrative creation.  You should at least force yourself to create the first draft.  Then get help tarting it up from a pro.

Save this narrative and make it a living document as you progress through your career.  Make this narrative the piece that you lead with in interesting career opportunities.  It will help you stand out from the crowd.  It will frame the conversation that you want to have.

Step Three – Load your story into LinkedIn.

Now, instead of a boring resume-type LinkedIn profile you will be telling your own, powerful narrative.  This is the baseline of your content in LinkedIn.  This is the starting point.  From here you can build your network and build out your appropriate personal brand content and curation.

The most important part of this is going to be what they see ‘above the fold’.  In previous versions of LinkedIn they saw your picture, name, title, company and summary.  LinkedIn has just recently changed what shows above the fold, and I’m sure they will keep monkeying with it, but it still includes the first sentences of your summary. You want to make sure that whatever is above the fold is compelling.

People will check out your profile before they do anything else.  Table stakes for this game are an interesting, powerful narrative.  Make sure you, the real you, the interesting you, stands out in the first thing they see.

Now that I have penned this piece I realize that I should update my LinkedIn profile because, ironically the first thing you are going to do is go look at it!

If you would like to see an example my personal narrative or get some coaching on any of this feel free to connect to me or shoot me an email.

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