LinkedIn and Personal Branding
Who owns your personal brand? What is driving the meaning of your brand to clients, partners, and employers? How is your online content being disseminated across the digital divide? For those who have yet to incorporate LinkedIn into their hierarchy of marketing objectives, these may be challenging questions.
LinkedIn is proving to be one of the most valuable business tools ever conceived by man. One wonders if this is what Reid Hoffman had in mind when he launched LinkedIn in 2002. His humble little website—which had the objective of connecting people in business at the core of its initiative—has just reached the 50 million user plateau. For many, this Social Networking site has become the logical extension of the primary website – in many cases, replacing it as the gateway to digital branding. As people continue to demonstrate a preference for doing their research and analysis in front of the computer screen, greater significance is now placed on LinkedIn to stir the favorable perceptions of individuals, products, and services. A powerful, captivating presence on LinkedIn is an essential in the personal branding mix. Accessibility of outbound links, congruency of content with the primary website and other Web 2.0 portals, and a professional head shot assist in optimizing the LinkedIn profile which, in turn, propagates the brand.
Arguably, the most powerful piece in the LinkedIn construct is the testimonial. We are currently ensconced in what has come to be known as “The Relationship Era.” The strength (or weakness) of the business relationship is of tantamount importance. The ways in which these relationships are managed will dictate success and ensure sustainability. Business today might as well be renamed “The Testimonial Era.” Word of mouth and creating buzz have displaced the more traditional strategies and have become the marketing. We are only as good as our endorsements say we are. Building credibility is Priority One. Credibility reinforces trust. On LinkedIn, that is accomplished through recommendations. The well-written LinkedIn recommendation becomes an indispensible component in assembling an excellent digital reputation. It spotlights integrity, highlights the value proposition, and offers a glimpse of one’s humanity. Ideally, the language is programmed to create and cement specific positive associations in the brain. It is those associations that influence behavior. That is neuroscience. That is personal branding.
Face-to-face networking, arguably the most powerful agent of brand, also finds its virtual corollary on LinkedIn. Leveraging one’s online network and maneuvering across the interactive space is the activity on LinkedIn that, when worked properly, offers the greatest promise of reward. Conversations on LinkedIn, which can either be network-directed (through one’s Directory of Connections), or communal (through LinkedIn groups), are also strong purveyors of goodwill. LinkedIn, although no substitute for what people in business strive to accomplish in the face-to-face realm, provides a forum for meaningful exchange to occur. This is strategic dialog that embellishes the handshake, the eye contact, and the body language. It is diplomatic, disarming, and sets the table for the sales-speak to follow.
Personal branding on LinkedIn – like anywhere else in Social Media and the blogosphere – centers on being ethical, authentic, relevant, and in the moment. There is a political correctness required. Effective transmission of brand strikes a harmonic blend between advertising, marketing, public relations, and messaging that stops just short of shameless promotion. Each of us is our own Chief Branding Officer (CBO). LinkedIn presents a conduit for conscientious branding and content control and, when used to its full potential, dovetails with all points Internet.