I was recently asked if I could graphically explain how Social Selling works and I came up with the following idea:
According to LinkedIn, there are (so far) only four dimensions to Social Selling, measurable through the Social Selling Index, which is why I came up with a four-faced shape and this pyramid offered me an excellent way to explain my approach to it.
The triangular base (painted pale blue here) represents the most important one of the four pillars: your professional brand and its three dimensions, represented by the sides of the base.
Every other side of the pyramid represents one of the other social selling pillars, which I believe to be as important but not as complex as your professional brand but I will only cover the base in this article.
Your professional brand
The way LinkedIn initially constructed profile templates had to do more with job applicants than with sales and business people. It was only in the past few years that they came up with the Social Selling concept and thus realized they needed to think profiles differently. They couldn’t just change things entirely as by then they already had over 200 million users, so they added different elements and came with a structure that still allowed people looking for jobs to do so and at the same time fostered the change in profiles they thought would drive adoption of the concept.
Thus the three levels of your profile were born.
First level – Bring people in
Constituted by your background image, profile picture and headline. This is the most critical part of your profile. There needs to be some sense of connection between them. They need to be connected and visually show who you are and what you are all about.
Your profile picture needs to be a good one. Ideally taken by a professional photographer (a.k.a. someone that can help you find your best angle), it needs to capture your best professional look. This picture will tell the world who you are and why they want to do business with you.
The background image offers context to your profile picture. The easiest way of getting the right one is matching the color tones that your profile picture offers, or with your brand colors. Ideally, no text or little text (such as your Company’s name) should be there, so it doesn’t compete with your picture or headline but rather amplifies both.
The headline you decide to use is what ties it all together. LinkedIn will offer your last job experience/position as a headline, but I strongly recommend not using it unless your line of work demands it (especially if you are an engineer or any other highly specialized professional). This short text offers you the chance to explain what you do, instead of just naming your role which makes way more sense if you are trying to be found by customers.
Second level – Get them interested
This corresponds to your Summary. Depending on who you are, what your profession is and how long you have been doing it, there is a story for you to tell. The thing is, most people don’t really pay attention to their summary that way. They just complete it as they would in any other social network, drop a few lines and are done with it. The length of the text matters and the composition, not to mention media you might add to it. That’s a waste of reading time.
The idea of the Summary, when thinking about your brand how it helps you sell more is that it tells other people what you can do for them. That’s the big difference with other social networks. This space is not for you to tell others what your favorite movies are or how much you like reading. This is where you simply tell them the truth: you want to do something for or with them, and you just go ahead and say what that is.
These quick tips will help you write your summary in such a way that it does just that, tell others what you will do for them:
Write it as you would write a story, and what do all stories have? A beginning (who you are), the middle (what you’ll do for them) and an end (why that is good).
3 to 4 paragraphs make more sense than just one block of text.
Punctuation marks. Don’t abuse them, but definitely use them.
Pick one vantage point: 1st person or 3rd person but if possible, do not mix them.
Do not repeat what they will read later in your job experience set.
Add rich media if you have any. An infographic, a video, a link.
Third level – make them nod
If the first and second levels of your profile are designed to draw attention, the third level composed of your job experience, your skills and recommendations sections are where you give character to your brand. This is where you tell them how you will help them, only instead of telling them you let them realize it on their own. Well, almost.
Most people neglect their job experience set. Once they’ve put what they’ve done and who their employer was, they usually forget and move on. It wouldn’t be a bad thing if your career was a static thing, but how can that be?
Even if things happened in the past, you might recall them differently depending on when you remember them, right? The way you remember your childhood years now is not going to be the same in 10 years.
When composing each job experience, working your skills and requesting recommendations, this is what you should keep in mind:
They too tell a story. Of what you’ve done and what you’ve achieved. Don’t just throw bullets or numbers there but rather, tie them together with a few sentences.
Past experiences are meant to be told in past tense. It seems obvious, but a lot of people forget to update their work experience when they move on.
Keep it short but purposeful. Your work experience will speak a lot louder of you if you keep to the facts and avoid grandiloquence. Let others speak for you in your recommendations section.
Add rich media, if possible not just about the Company you worked at but specific to what you did there. If that’s not possible, then general media on that Company or the products they sell works.
Recommendations are easier to get if you give one first. If possible don’t just ask someone to recommend you. Be the one to recommend first and remember, it is not mandatory, only customary to recommend someone back.
Decide which recommendations you will show in your profile. You can hide the ones you don’t like. I wouldn’t advise doing so though. It might hurt the feelings of the person that recommended you and dampen your relationship with them.
You can arrange your skills by deciding which ones go on the top 3 that LinkedIn will show. That way you will drive attention to people endorsing you as well.
Keep the skills that make sense to the profile you are creating up, and push the rest down. If you are in sales, “Microsoft Office” is not a skill you should be displaying oh so proudly.
Everything else you can add to your profile (achievements, education, etc.) offers a bit of color to it. You will know what to put there if you’ve spent enough time building your three levels and focusing on your customer’s point of view.
The right profile is only the first step you will take into the Social Selling world. If you don’t spend enough time working on it, why would anyone spend any time at all looking at it?
This is the first article in a series of four that I will publish on the four pillars of LinkedIn’s SSI. All four articles can be found in the ITIWITIS blog.