Make These 8 LinkedIn Profile Edits to Support Your Thought Leadership Goals

An image of a woman sitting at a desk typing on her computer. She is looking at the screen, and behind her are samples of fabric pinned to a wall. There is a text overlay that says this post is about 8 ways to optimize your LinkedIn profile, with the Erika Heald Marketing Consulting logo in the bottom right corner.

If you could prioritize just one social media channel to network and build industry thought leadership, LinkedIn is your best option.

LinkedIn offers unparalleled opportunities to:

  • Find and join conversations with industry peers
  • Share content in engaging formats
  • Elevate yourself as an innovative thinker 

Of course, you’ll need the right foundation to unlock these benefits. And that requires some ongoing LinkedIn profile upkeep and fine-tuning.

No matter where you’re starting in your thought leadership journey—or if you just want to tend to your professional stake in the ground—let’s review the most important LinkedIn profile elements for thought leadership, plus actions you can take to grow your network.

Why You Need a Personal Brand

Customers, prospective clients, partners, colleagues, and employers are all likely to search for you on LinkedIn. It can be confusing—or even deal-breaking—if your profile is outdated or doesn’t showcase your experience or personality in a compelling way. This counts for everyone in your organization, but especially leaders and anyone who serves as a brand spokesperson. 

At a minimum, your LinkedIn profile should display an up-to-date job and company description, show a recognizable photo of you, and offer an alternate place for people to connect or reach out. (We’ll get back to each of those below.)

If you aspire to be a thought leader, developing a strong personal brand on LinkedIn will help you find your ideal communities and open new opportunities faster. We have a few resources to help you:

Who Should You Connect With on LinkedIn? 

Some people guard their LinkedIn connections and accept people only if they know them. Others actively connect with anyone they can. So what’s the best approach?

We recommend being thoughtful about who you connect with on LinkedIn. Anyone you accept gains greater access to your network… who they may spam after they send you an unsolicited sales pitch about their product or service. 

If you don’t recognize someone who asks to connect, review your mutual connections and any included message, to gauge how legitimate their request is. 

When you request to connect with others on LinkedIn, provide a personal note about why you want to join their network. If you recently met at an event or had a great conversation during a livestream, mention it in your connection request. One consideration: LinkedIn limits free accounts so they can send 5-15 personalized connection request notes per month. You can consider paying for an account to send more notes or sign up for a free trial if possible.

It’s a good time to connect with or follow someone on LinkedIn when you:

  • Work for the same company, department, or team
  • Met at an industry conference or event 
  • Read their article or saw their presentation 
  • Collaborate in a shared community

Showcase Your Expertise on LinkedIn

Like all social media channels, building thought leadership on LinkedIn requires consistent activity. 

Block 15 minutes on your calendar daily to look at new posts on your feed, share insightful or valuable comments on other people’s posts, and create your own posts. Keep an eye out for trending conversations where you can add value, because that can be a catalyst for helping your reach new people.

A few other thought leadership and content marketing activities on LinkedIn include:

  • LinkedIn collaborative questions. LinkedIn regularly prompts its users to answer questions relevant to their industry or type of work. Provide unique and detailed answers to stand out to people who may be reading through everyone’s responses. 
  • LinkedIn articles. You can post full articles on LinkedIn, and other people can easily comment on your article or share it with their network. This is a great option if you don’t have an existing blog or other long-form content channel. 
  • LinkedIn newsletter. Start a newsletter on LinkedIn, or repurpose your existing newsletter for the channel. It’s a great way to get in front of people who don’t want to subscribe to any more email newsletters, and LinkedIn will deliver notifications to users when you publish your newsletter or if their connections interact with your newsletter.

LinkedIn offers active users top contributor badges they can display on their profiles. If you earn multiple, choose the most relevant one to support your thought leadership goals to show on your profile.

Eight Elements of a LinkedIn Audit for Thought Leadership

If you are updating your profile or encouraging your colleagues to do so, there are eight sections that are most important to address:

  1. Profile photo
  2. Background photo
  3. Headline
  4. About
  5. Current company job description
  6. Company URL
  7. Contact info
  8. Connections

Profile Photo

Your LinkedIn profile image is your avatar for all activity across the site. Depending on your privacy settings, people may be unable to see your profile photo if you are not connected to them. 

Choose a photo that people will recognize as present-day you if they see you at a conference or networking event. If possible, show some personality while still being professional.

We recommend the photo shows just you in a business-appropriate setting—no group photos, random appendages, children, pets, or inappropriate backgrounds. 

It’s easier than ever to take your profile photo using a phone or webcam. Find natural lighting, set up a timer, and don’t overthink it! Here are a few examples from friends of #ContentChat Anh Nguyen, Brooke Sellas, Christoph Trappe, and Dayana Cadet.

Speaking of Dayana, she’s a fabulous graphic designer and explains how you can use Canva Pro to create a powerful personal brand image in this step-by-step post.

Background Photo

Your background photo or cover image appears behind your profile photo when people visit your profile. Because people may visit your profile briefly, the cover image is a key spot to reinforce your branding and compel visitors to stick around.

Masooma and Erika both have informative and on-brand background photos.

Masooma Memon's LinkedIn background photo. The image has a light blue background with pink in the top right and bottom left corner. Copy reads 'Freelance content writer for B2B Saas' with smaller copy that reads 'I Write, Refresh & Repurpose Content.' There are a row of five client logos before the message 'Are you next? DM me.'
A screenshot of Erika Heald's LinkedIn background photo. There are flowers with a red overlay, with text that reads 'No more random acts of content.' Below the tagline reads 'Content Strategy, Thought Leadership, Content Creation.'

Headline

The headline appears immediately alongside your name on your profile, posts, and comments. 

Your headline can simply show your job title and company. Or, you can describe what you do or the problem you help people solve. Check out these examples for inspiration:

An image of Arthur Root's LinkedIn headline, which reads "Founder/CEO @ Nostra | Helping Shopify brands boost site speed."
An image of Michelle B. Griffin's LinkedIn headline, which reads "Personal Brand Messaging & PR Strategist for Women Entrepreneurs ~ Clarify your brand, nail your messaging & increase your visibility to grow your business ~ Author ~ Speaker ~ 80s Music Fan ~ Own Your Lane Book -> 10/15"

About

The ‘About’ section is a great place to exhibit your personal brand and reinforce your industry experience. Use it to start a conversation. Show your personality.  Highlight your accomplishments. Regularly revisit this section as your personal brand or voice changes with time. 

The following examples from our friends Andy Crestodina, Carmen Hill, and Pam Didner show different approaches you can consider:

A screenshot of Andy Crestodina's LinkedIn 'About' section.
Andy Crestodina
A screenshot of Carmen Hill's LinkedIn 'About' section.
Carmen Hill
A screenshot of Pam Didner's LinkedIn 'About' section.
Pam Didner

Current Company Job Description

We frequently see profiles with outdated or inconsistent company descriptions when we perform a thought leadership audit, and there are a few common reasons:

  • New hires often forget to update their LinkedIn profiles after joining your company. We recommend adding social media reviews to every new hire’s onboarding schedule to help avoid this issue. 
  • Company descriptions need to be updated whenever a company rebrands, enters a merger or acquisition, or pivots its offering. The marketing team should regularly review, update, and share company descriptions with employees to use on social media. 
  • Fast-growing startups often lack consistent and documented brand messaging that they share with employees for social media. 

The following examples from Christopher Penn and Ann Handley show how you can approach this section:

A screenshot of Christopher S. Penn's LinkedIn job description.
Christopher S. Penn
A screenshot of Ann Handley's LinkedIn job description.
Ann Handley

Company URL

You can include URLs in your “Contact info,” if you’d like. At a minimum, ensure there aren’t outdated links or ones that point to a former employer or competitor.

Budding thought leaders can point to their personal website, a primary content channel, or a Linktree to promote multiple channels or content offerings. 

Maureen Jann's company URL.

Contact Info

Your profile should include contact details, even if those are only available to connections.  

It can be helpful to add both your personal and your company email to your profile so your colleagues can easily find you and each other.

Connections

Is your LinkedIn feed filled with interesting updates and conversations you want to engage with? Or is it a mix of irrelevant posts from people whose faces you no longer recognize? It’s a good practice to review your connections and unfollow or remove connections with anyone who may no longer belong in your network. 

Optimizing your feed will make it easier to find relevant posts you can engage with. Plus, the algorithm will provide better suggestions for other people you can connect with.

When reaching out to new connections, be sure to include a note that reminds them who you are and provides the what’s in it for me if they connect with you. LinkedIn limits how many personalized connection requests you can send, so it could be worth paying for a Premium account before attending an event or if you plan to invest heavily in your thought leadership platform on LinkedIn.

Get Started Expanding Your Thought Leadership Profile 

Auditing your LinkedIn profile is the first step in setting your foundation to build thought leadership through the channel. It also gives you opportunities to learn about interesting events, attend live streams, join groups, and virtually “meet” other experts in your field. If you’re looking for more advice to build and expand your thought leadership, check out our post about how to create a thought leadership platform that earns people’s trust.

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