Welcome to LinkedIn! Plenty of people use the platform, but not everyone is clear on what’s acceptable and what earns awkward digital side glances. Even experienced users forget themselves now and again, and it can be detrimental to your personal brand.
That’s why it’s worth learning LinkedIn’s best practices before you start firing off posts and comments from the hip. It pays to look professional and presentable before you enter people’s orbits!
Create an all-star LinkedIn profile
You’d be amazed at how many people let their profile sit unfinished. From the hiring manager’s perspective this looks lazy and digitally unkempt. That’s not ideal.
More to the point, improving your LinkedIn score with an all-star profile boosts your visibility when hiring managers and recruiters search the network for new employees. It’s totally worth touching up your profile to get more raw visibility.
Unfortunately, the network has reduced our ability to track profile views over time without paying for a premium subscription, which is comically overpriced for young professionals. You can still see the total number of profile views earned over the last 90 days, but you can’t pinpoint the days when they happened.
P.S. Remember to to write a killer headline to improve the click-through rate to your profile as well. Find the winning formula here:
- LinkedIn headlines for students that don’t sound desperate
- LinkedIn headlines for the unemployed that actually work
Customize your vanity URL
Memorable LinkedIn profiles have customized vanity URLs. It’s a subtle but effective LinkedIn best practice that can have a big impact in the little moments when job gatekeepers are evaluating you.
Here’s why it matters:
- Vanity URLs look clean and professional, especially on a resume.
- Shorter vanity URLs are easier to remember.
- Vanity URLs with your name are easier to remember off-hand.
- URLs containing your name are more likely to appear in Google searches.
Reason #4 is probably the most underrated parts of giving your LinkedIn profile a makeover, but it’s also one of the most important. Speaking as a search engine optimization specialist, it’s important for your name to occupy digital real estate—especially if you want to improve your personal brand later on in your career.
Engage with industry leaders consistently
After optimizing your profile, public engagement is the best way to increase your LinkedIn impressions. Activity draws attention, put simply, which is why this is one of the best LinkedIn best practices.
The proof is in the pudding. Having just made 2-3 comments over the course of the week before I wrote this post, my profile views increased by 250% over the previous week.
That’s a pretty easy return on investment for 5-6 minutes of time out of your week! If you’re lucky, you’ll even get people following you once in a while.
Being seen to engage increases the raw amount of people who encounter you online, and a given per cent of those people will click on your profile out of curiosity or out of need. More awareness about your name is always a good thing during a job search.
Commenting on other people’s posts is the place to start. After you get into the rhythm of regular comments, you can start to make your own posts. Tag people, share media, thoughts, or even just poll your network. It works! Search for hashtags on LinkedIn to get more relevant discussions in your newsfeed and you’ll have even more opportunities to gain visibility through casual commenting.
Accept connection requests judiciously
There’s pretty widespread disagreement on open networking. Some consider the whole point of LinkedIn to add connections that they don’t know, arguing that they can’t grow their network without new connections.
People on the other side of the spectrum advocate for tighter control on your digital network. They believe you should only accept connection requests from people that you know.
Which option should you choose? While my own practices sit somewhere between both schools of thought, I’d advise leaning toward keeping a network of people you know. It’s one of the underrated LinkedIn best practices to follow and pays off with a higher-quality network in the long run.
Here’s why: people who send random connection requests generally don’t care about you, your needs, or your interests. They just want to pitch something or they want you to see their own posts for higher reach across the social network (if you engage with their posts, then a part of your network might see that post, too). They know how to manipulate the LinkedIn algorithm to get more profile views this way, and it does earn more views. Those views just aren’t worth much.
I make exceptions for recruiters and for people who have a genuine message for me, but I don’t accept random connection requests anymore. These people just dilute the quality of my professional network, and they’ll do the same to yours—if you let them.
On the other side of the equation, don’t send random connection requests! Only send a connection request if:
- You’ve worked with the person on a project together.
- You’re coworkers.
- You’re following up on a networking event (digital or in-person).
- You were referred by a mutual contact.
If you want to stay in that person’s orbit but don’t know them, then just follow them instead. I’ve opted to swap the “connect” button on my profile with a “follow” button to filter out some of the open networkers out there, and I’m glad that I did.
Ease into the “personal” content you share
The future of personal branding isn’t about how uptight or reserved you are, but in expressing your values and your internal compass as much as how effective you are as a professional.
There’s actually quite a bit of room to speak freely about your values and your opinions on the platform. Since 2020 alone there has been a marked rise in discussions about the gender pay gap, racism in the workplace, and organizational trust in working from home.
No worries if you’re reserved or private, though. You don’t need to tackle those topics if you don’t want too. In fact, getting too personal too quickly can be a turn-off for others in your network.
Look at this post, for example. It’s hilarious, but it’s too personal for anyone other than an independent consultant who is confident in his or her ability to find and retain business. This is too personal for a recent graduate trying to get into a hiring manager’s good graces.
It’s not a network faux pas to talk about personal struggles, mental health, or workplace culture—all professionals are humans with feelings and other responsibilities, of course. But in this example, the topic could have been raised much more respectfully and without taking pot shots (even though it’s funny).
Recent graduates can’t get away with that
The takeaway here is to read the room and to account for the culture and mindsets of the people in your industry. You don’t need to pay a LinkedIn consultant to develop a solid personal brand, either. Pay attention to how your connections behave and adjust your own behavior. It works!
Follow these LinkedIn best practices and your personal brand will be in good shape whenever you need to call on it. Happy hunting, job seekers!