LinkedIn® is a lightening rod, charging up diverse opinions about the best way to approach it. At one end of the spectrum, you hear that being on LinkedIn is a waste of time or, worse yet, only for those who wish to commoditize themselves. For many others, LinkedIn is the best thing to happen to online networking, a free space to invite the world to hire you, connect with you, buy from you, etc.
I will not say that the truth lies somewhere in between, as I don’t think LinkedIn (like anything else) lends itself well to one-size-fits-all. Rather, when I teach groups or individuals about LinkedIn, I suggest you start with the end in mind: what do you want LinkedIn to do for you? Once you know your target, you can devise the best strategy to get there.
Here are nine basic LinkedIn strategies. Which one works best for you?
1) No Profile. The No Profile approach is favored by a range of individuals, from those who wish to signal they are too elite for LinkedIn to those who conduct business exclusively offline, whether by choice or association. If your professional strategy is to maintain a low online profile and let your reputation and in-person dealings speak for themselves, then LinkedIn may fail the cost-benefit analysis. If this strategy appeals well to your target audience (be it family offices or firemen) and doesn’t lead to a number of missed opportunities, then it is probably the best choice for you.
2) Stealth. Those who have a Stealth profile want to be able to search for others without revealing anything (or very little) about themselves. They are similar to the No Profilers, except that they want access to LinkedIn’s goods without making an offer in return. Like the No Profilers, the Stealth strategy is helpful if you believe that you have nothing to gain, and only something to lose, by putting your talents “out there” into the marketplace so that someone may discover you. Note that the Stealth Profile is often similar to the Just Getting Started Profile, which is not a strategy at all, just someone who has not bothered to understand or master LinkedIn. (Also note: beware Stealth connectors, who may be looking to hack into your network.)
3) Minimalist. A Minimalist profile, if done intentionally, also conveys that someone has “better things to do with their time” than be on LinkedIn. In some cases, this strategy is effective. However, like the profiles above, it probably will not generate interest (or new opportunities) among LinkedIn’s reported 100 million users. That said, having a Minimalist profile does allow you the benefits of building a network among your close connections. It also may be useful to have a minimal presence if your company actively restricts what you can post or obviously frowns on LinkedIn, as it does allow people to search specifically for your profile and find you (if they know what they are looking for). For those in finance or information technology, for example, a Minimalist approach is sometimes the only way to enjoy some of the benefits of the LinkedIn service without risking account or policy breaches.
4) Basic Professional. The straight-shooting Basic Professional LinkedIn profile includes a bit more information than the Minimalist profile, such as a professional picture, descriptions for some or all jobs, and possibly a summary. It may also include some keywords (i.e., important nouns that can match up to online searches by hiring managers and recruiters), and it has enough information to actually allow the reader/viewer to understand who you are and what you do professionally. It often does not give personal details (that could create a connection), and generally there is little or no creativity in the text or enhancement beyond completing the basic profile fields. Often, it is written in the third person.
The Basic Professional profile is most effective if your strategy is to use LinkedIn for “verification” purposes – giving the reader/viewer comfort that your profile matches the information they already have about you – rather than to generate leads through LinkedIn. It will not be sufficient to propel you to the top of LinkedIn search results (when someone is searching for an individual with your background and talents), so if that is your end game, you should consider a more robust strategy. That said, for certain individuals who want to maintain some distance with the public, as a matter of personal branding or due to the nature of their work, a Basic Professional profile may strike the right balance.
5) Inviting. The strategically Inviting profile can be a variation of the Basic Professional, or it may be more creative and “loose” in its presentation. Inviting profiles often incorporate keywords but are also geared toward making a connection. To that end, an Inviting profile, which is often written in first person, is written with a “human voice” to be appealing and develop a bond or kinship with the viewer/reader. Most job seekers and entrepreneurs benefit from Inviting profiles, especially if they are Active (see below), and thought leaders use them to their advantage as well.
Inviting profiles are in some ways what LinkedIn is all about. They say more than a résumé format ever could, and they encourage people to connect with you because they highlight your talents, accomplishments, interests and goals as an individual. In addition, they can facilitate an interview or other professional conversation (whether for networking, business-generation or employment), because you have already made a good first impression and answered some of the basic questions, including your value proposition, with your Inviting profile.
6) Highly Creative. A Highly Creative profile is similar to an Inviting profile, although rather than putting down a welcome mat for all, it goes all purple shag carpet to say, “Look, I’m different. I am on LinkedIn, but my way.” This strategy works best if you are the one to call when someone is looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack (rewritten, of course, without the cliché.) Like the earlier profiles on this list, the Highly Creative profile generally works best when your reputation precedes you, although the link can be included in marketing materials and”worked” that way, and keywords can be gently massaged into the message to increase the likelihood your profile is found by the right audience. Needless to say, this profile works best for those who are solidly ensconced in a creative field, where innovation is prized. It does not go over so well in banking.
7) Active. I include Active as a separate profile strategy, although it often piggybacks on one of the strategies above. An Active LinkedIn profile is one that includes all of the basic elements of LinkedIn (picture, summary, recommendations, keywords, skills, etc.), which are points that LinkedIn’s algorithm uses to “score” how high up you appear in any given search results. In addition, LinkedIn rewards its users (again, as far as search visibility) for being active within LinkedIn, such as participating in groups, sharing, posting and interacting with others’ posts.
A note about Active profiles: It is often hard to start up an Active profile without triggering a concern that you may suddenly be in the midst of a job search. Being at least minimally active on LinkedIn before you need it is part of the Active strategy.
8) Transition. A very light touch is needed for a Transition profile. The trick is to continue to appeal to one’s current audience without tipping your hand about a possible change, while adding enough keywords and information to your profile to hook and appear credible to your new audience as well.
A subset of the Transition profile is an analogous strategy that is often overlooked. Another goal of a Transition profile may be to use LinkedIn not to find a job at a new company but to highlight your talents within your current company – i.e., get promoted or make a lateral move – so that CEOs and others with whom you are connected can see not only what you offer to your current position but also what you will bring to the company in the new role. In many ways, LinkedIn is the perfect platform to reinforce your goal to have your talents recognized, because it is unlikely (unless asked) that you will be sticking your résumé under the nose of senior management. To be effective in this strategy, you need to highlight aptitude rather than simply focusing on what you have done.
9) Straddler. Like Career Changers, Straddlers target more than one audience, but a Straddler has one role he/she wishes to keep and another one to add. For example, a lawyer may also be a budding fiction writer or aspiring corporate board member, wishing to highlight both sets of talents and appeal to both networks. Rather than creating entirely separate profiles – which can be time-consuming and confusing – a Straddle profile is created by weighing the relative merits and costs of each element added to maximize the benefits of a combined profile while minimizing the risks that any key target audience might not find this approach appealing or effective. A Straddler must very carefully evaluate whether the “second part” of a profile enhances the Straddlers credibility for his/her main target roles or detracts from it. Each audience will respond to different aspects of your profile, and the trick is to highlight the relevant parts without appearing disjointed.
Unless you want to approach LinkedIn haphazardly, each of the above types of profiles represents a choice of how you wish to present yourself and what return you are seeking from LinkedIn. Whatever strategy you choose from the above, it behooves you to approach LinkedIn with your goal in your sights rather than simply writing about yourself and posting it to the world. As with anything in life, if you know your target, you are more likely to hit your target.
Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/nine-linkedin-strategies-which-suits-you-best-segal-jd-ccmc-cprw