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Personal Digital Branding: Answering Your Top 5 LinkedIn Questions

Personal Digital Branding: Answering Your Top 5 LinkedIn Questions

Filter tag: Customer & Brand, digital transformation, Strategies for Growth

It is easy to understand why so many professionals choose LinkedIn as their preferred medium for building their personal brand. When used correctly and strategically, this platform can be an incredibly powerful and valuable tool for senior executives looking to build their profile, enhance their career prospects and expand their networks. One study found that 122 million people received an interview through LinkedIn with 35.5 million having been hired by a person they connected with on the site, highlighting the potential to create real opportunities from this platform.

With approximately 830 million LinkedIn users in more than 200 countries worldwide, the site has become a staple of professional activity. Because of its popularity, many executives are drawn to building their presence on LinkedIn as opposed to pursuing other thought leadership avenues such as registering as a speaker, creating their own website, or starting a podcast. LinkedIn boasts built-in audiences and some great features to allow you to reach them.

We know that crafting a personal digital brand is not like creating your CV, so bringing it to life online takes more than simply having a flat profile on multiple platforms. Creating a successful personal digital brand involves taking the time to be present and comfortable in a nonstop online discussion environment and to effectively live out the brand you have established.

If LinkedIn has been your chosen medium thus far, it is likely that you have the basics completed but are looking to take your LinkedIn use to the next level or have some questions about how to use the site to your maximum advantage. We have compiled a list of five frequently asked questions from our clients about the site that may help you enhance your presence and derive real benefit from your LinkedIn activity:

 

1. Should I use the ‘Repost’ or the ‘Share with your own thoughts’ option?

The ‘Repost’ feature on LinkedIn is one of its newest additions as of summer 2022. Similar to Twitter’s ‘Retweet’ function, choosing ‘Repost’ will share that post with your followers. It will appear the same as it does on your feed, with a small bar above it that indicates you have reposted it.

While this may help a post from your peer or company page get more views or engagement, it does very little for you in terms of thought leadership. We usually recommend our Personal Digital Branding clients use the ‘Share with your own thoughts’ option and take the time to add a bit of commentary with your thoughts on the posts’ content. The only drawback of this option is how LinkedIn’s algorithm treats Shared posts. If you have used this feature before, you may have noticed that your Views or interactions were lower on these posts compared to any original posts you may have sent. There is no real explanation for why LinkedIn does this, but it is something to consider when debating what option to use.

A great alternative is to leave a salient and thoughtful comment on the original post, as posts you’ve commented on will still appear in your followers’ feeds. This option will also put you in front of the original poster’s audience and potentially lead to more eyes on your profile, new connections, or opportunities.

 

2. Can others see the things I like and comment on?

Yes. Anyone who visits your profile can see what you have shared, what posts you have liked, and what comments you have left on others’ posts in the ‘Activity’ section. Those you are connected to will see this content on their feeds, and above the post in question will be a bar with your name and an indication of how you interacted with that post (i.e. “commented on this” or “finds this insightful”).

Therefore, it is important to be mindful of what you say and do on the platform both inside and outside your own profile. You never know what recruiter, potential employer, or other potentially beneficial connection may see your activity and what impressions of you they may draw from it. It is critical to ensure that all aspects of your professional profile, including your activity, are aligned to what your current or future employer might expect from you. It is also crucial to consider what audiences you might want to reach, networks you may want to be a part of, or thought leadership perceptions you may want to create and tailor your activity to those specific audiences. If you want to be associated with a specific thought leadership subject, try to interact with content related to those subjects so that anyone who checks your Activity will see that you are truly engaged with the topics you are championing. Ensure that the trail you are leaving online is a good reflection of how you would like to be perceived professionally.

 

3. Is there a limit on how many connections I can have?

Yes and no. To push the value of quality connections over quantity, LinkedIn caps the number of ‘Connections’ you can have at 30,000. The thinking behind this is that no one could possibly know or communicate with more than 30,000 people on a professional level, and even that many is overly generous. When you are Connected to another LinkedIn user, you gain access to each other’s networks, you can send direct messages to one another, and you will see each other’s content on your feed. But what happens once you exceed 30,000?

Anyone who tries to Connect with you after you hit this threshold will instead become a ‘Follower.’ What this means is that they will see your content in their feed, but not vice versa, and they will also lack all of the other benefits of a Connection. The same will apply if you try to Connect with anyone else.

LinkedIn does offer the option for you to trigger this earlier than 30,000 Connections with what it calls ‘Creator Mode.’ If you enable this setting, no one will be allowed to Connect with you, even if you have less than 30,000 Connections. Instead, the only option is to Follow. They will see your content, but you will not see theirs.

While enabling this setting may sound appealing from a thought leadership standpoint, we typically advise our Personal Digital Branding clients against it. Most senior executives will be looking to expand their networks and engage in meaningful interactions with industry peers. If your aim is to make a career move or attract new opportunities, Creator Mode makes it much more difficult to get in contact with you. Creator Mode is best reserved for those purely focused on thought leadership who are not interested in building out their network. Think of business leaders like Richard Branson and Bill Gates, whose LinkedIn profiles are set to Creator mode and only enable you to Follow rather than send a Connection request.

 

4. Should I ‘cold connect’ with someone on LinkedIn?

If you are looking to build a stronger network and actually derive value from it, then you need to be thoughtful and strategic about the people you connect with. Networking can certainly be a numbers game, but at the senior level you should have a good idea of which Connections might or might not be ones you can share useful insights with. As a professional network, the advice is to not just accept any and every Connection request that comes through and instead exert a bit of judgement over the potential shared benefit of being in the same network.

That said, that does not mean you cannot connect with someone you have never met in person. If there is someone you feel could be a good Connection for you to have, there is no harm in sending them a request. However, if you are going to do this, we recommend that you think about what shared value, interest, or connection you have that would persuade this person to want to connect with you. For example, if you have something relevant in common such as your membership in the same LinkedIn Group, attendance at the same industry event, or Connections in common, that could provide the link you need and demonstrate enough mutual benefit for that person to accept your invitation.

If a link is present, customise the text of your Connection invite to reflect this. After saying hello, make brief mention of why you are sending an invite or how you came across their profile, and mention that it would be great to connect before signing off the message. While technically a ‘cold connection’, you have warmed up the connection with relevancy and are more likely to be successful at adding this person to your network.

If there is not a common link, you will need to be a bit more strategic with your approach. Connections should be mutually beneficial. You will have identified your reasoning for wanting to connect with this person, but what benefit could the connection bring to them? Since you will not have common ground to work from in this case, you will need to approach your connection invitation from those benefits you have identified. Since this is a true cold contact, you need to clearly express why it is you have reached out and what benefits you feel the connection could produce. If you are unable to determine what those benefits are, or if they skew in your favour with little to no benefit for the other person, it is probably best not to pursue that cold Connection.

Remember, your Connection request messages can be a maximum of 300 characters, so use them wisely. Consider this invitation to be the short elevator pitch, opening the doors to a longer conversation once the request has been accepted.

5. What are some Settings I should enable or disable?

LinkedIn offers a whole host of privacy and visibility settings to enable you to share as much or as little as you’d like. However, there are a few that we recommend either enabling or disabling completely, most of which fall under the Visibility category.

Your Visibility settings control what visitors to your profile can or cannot see before they are a Connection. The first on this list is Profile Viewing, which offers three options for visibility. We strongly recommend you use the first option, which shows your profile photo, full name, and headline to everyone. The other two settings make your profile much more vague and makes you harder to find, which can be detrimental for attracting opportunities or recruiters.

Also under Visibility, you will find ‘Connections.’ This setting allows your Connections to see your full Connections list. You might be okay with this, in which case you can leave it On. However, you may want to be a bit protective of your Connections for various reasons. For example, if you are in a highly competitive and contacts-driven industry, you may not want competitors to be able to use your Connections list to identify who your clients are. If you feel it best to keep your Connections private, turn this setting to Off.

Another key Visibility setting is ‘Profile discovery and visibility off LinkedIn,’ which controls whether or not your profile can be found via search engines such as Google. We strongly recommend leaving this enabled so that your LinkedIn appears as one of the top results when anyone Googles your name. The more places you are visible, the better. It is up to you whether or not you would like potential contacts to find you on LinkedIn using your email or phone number. These settings are more of a personal preference.

A final setting you may want to consider whether to disable is ‘Share profile updates with your network’ under Visibility. If you have this setting enabled, your Connections will receive a notification any time you update your profile with a new role, education, awards, and so on. If you are someone who updates your profile frequently or are in the process of making some major changes, you may want to switch this setting to Off to avoid overwhelming your network with notifications. Alternatively, if you are not someone who regularly updates their profile or have not amended your information in a while, having this setting enabled may be a good way to prompt your contacts to touch base with you about the new changes in your career. If you are on the fence about whether or not to use this setting, an alternative is to disable it and instead share your milestones and good news in a post.

LinkedIn may seem tricky to master but be patient with it. Over time, you may find that what works for others is not the same as what works for you. Do not be afraid to experiment until you find the settings, habits, and content that serve you best.

We hope this Q&A helps give you a jumping off point with some best practice, and if you would like some personalised help with your LinkedIn presence and personal digital brand, you can reach out our team on +44 (0) 20 3746 2960.

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