I talk about the professional benefits of LinkedIn all the time – for years in fact – and there’s never been a more important time to make LinkedIn part of your marketing strategy than right now during this extraordinary time of social distancing.

But before you can use the platform to generate leads, build stronger relationships and interact with your connections, you have to make sure you have the basics down first.

Here are a few core areas to complete on your profile right away to make sure you are positioning yourself in the strongest way possible.

  1. Upload a custom background image to your profile. LinkedIn’s default background image is a blue constellation pattern. Every business professional should not use this default image and instead upload a custom image that relates to what they do and reflects their personal brand. Unsplash and Canva are two great online tools with already licensed images that you can easily resize to the LinkedIn profile banner size (which is 1600 x 400). Think skylines, abstract images and your company logo on a simple background.
  2. Profile photo – Most of you should have a recent professional company headshot but if you don’t please don’t use an unprofessional personal photo. You can use a personal photo and make it look professional with some great online tools such as FaceApp, which can change the background of a personal photo a solid bod office background making the image look professional. Your LinkedIn headshot is your human connection to your network so make sure you use a recent high-resolution image in which your face takes up at least 60 percent of the image frame (it’s easy to zoom in on your current photo right in LinkedIn). Also remember to smile 🙂
  3. Headline – The headline is the most important section of your LinkedIn profile in my opinion because it gets pulled into Google and LinkedIn search results. So make every single word of it count. If you don’t customize it, LinkedIn will pull in your current job title as your default headline. Many people do themselves a disservice when it comes to not optimizing their headline because they don’t descriptively describe what they do. They often sell themselves short. For example, some lawyers will just say they are a “partner” or “associate” at X firm in their headline. Even adding the words “Intellectual Property” before the title would be better than just saying partner or associate, but you can go a step further and add in “copyright, trademark and patent” for more detail. Spending the time to create a strong LinkedIn header is well worth the effort.
  4. About Section – This is a forward-looking statement, at least three paragraphs in length, that clearly explains who you are and what you do – sort of your value proposition. This should be much less formal in tone than your web site biography and it should not contain phrases that seem self serving and boastful (such as calling yourself a nationally recognized expert or a leader). Also, play down your awards and recognitions in this section as well. Be humble and always think show versus tell with everything you write – why should someone want to work with you or hire you – that should be your guiding principle when writing the about section – not why you’re the best at what you do and listing your accomplishments (you can do that in the publications and recognitions section).
  5. Activity – Having a strong LinkedIn profile is only part of being successful on the platform. You must also be active on LinkedIn in order to engage with your connections and stay top of mind with them. Use comments, likes and posts to clearly help your connections see the value you bring as a subject-matter expert and thought leader. You should be posting at least once or twice per week at first (aim for three times a week as you get more comfortable) with a combination of original content and curated content (sharing articles of interest from other sources, people or your firm) and commenting on the posts of important connections every day. By commenting on others’ posts, you get noticed by others and you can greatly enhance your personal brand and network.