A designer’s guide to LinkedIn

This story was originally published by AIGA Houston.

People ask me which social media network I prefer: Facebook or Twitter. I usually surprise them and tell them that I prefer LinkedIn. Without question. For designers and other creative professionals it’s the most overlooked and probably the most powerful tool you can have in your personal branding/digital marketing toolkit.

I first joined LinkedIn when I was a solo designer 10 years ago. At the time it was little more than an online Rolodex that allowed you to add contacts and your work experience; for a couple of years I simply treated it as such. Whenever I exchanged business cards with someone, the first thing I did was simply transcribe the information to my contacts and send an invite via LinkedIn. The card got stuffed inside my old Franklin Planner and then archived at the end of the year.

Over time though, LinkedIn evolved to become the professional profile of record for most white collar professionals and became the primary means for me to credential myself to prospective clients and showcase relevant work, experience, and expertise that set me apart from the competition.

In recent years LinkedIn has incorporated many features that makes it a perfect platform for designers and creative professionals. The ability to add visual polish to your LinkedIn profile and incorporate various types of media formats to showcase your work gives you an unparalleled opportunity to market your skillsets directly to prospective clients.

For those of you that set up a LinkedIn profile way back and left it to languish, below are some tips to make sure that your LinkedIn profile is doing everything it can to promote your career or design practice.

1. Choose the right profile pic

According to LinkedIn, adding a profile pic makes your profile 14 times more likely to be viewed by prospective clients, recruiters, and employers.

Your profile pic needs to show you in the best possible professional yet creative light. Without a doubt, LinkedIn is business oriented; in a heartbeat you have to establish credibility and trust if you expect people to click on your profile. Profile photos figure heavily into this since a thumbnail of your photo is probably the first thing people see when they come across your profile. Eye tracking studies show that the majority of people devote approximately 20 percent of their time spent viewing a person’s profile looking at the person’s photo.

Avoid any photos that are unprofessional in tone; party pics, bar photos, selfies, vacation, or honeymoon photos. Those probably belong on your other social media profiles.

If possible try to get professional headshots done by an established photographer. One benefit of being a graphic designer or creative is that you’re probably know a lot of photographers within the industry and can usually get a good deal worked out for some creative head shots.

The actual file size and format of your photo should be a 1200 x 1200 pixel jpeg or png. Keep it under 10 MB.

2. Craft the perfect headline

Next up in importance is your “Professional Headline”. Eighty percent of people on LinkedIn skip over profiles after reading the headline. If your headline is simply your job title and company name (default) then you might be missing out on an amazing opportunity to position and market yourself and articulate within 120 characters how you help your clients.

Most people don’t realize that your profile headline is editable and you can tweak it over time to showcase your most marketable expertise, your personal value proposition, or aspirational work passion.

When writing your LinkedIn headline, be sure to speak directly to the audience you want to hire you. If you are a junior designer looking to work at a firm or agency, your audience is most likely a senior art director, creative director, and/or firm principal. If you are looking to work in-house at a large corporation, chances are your audience is someone from a marketing or corporate communications background. If you are a freelance or solo designer, there’s a good chance your audience will be small business owners and other assorted entrepreneurs and director-level folks.

3. Embed samples of your work

This recent feature is what I consider a turning point for LinkedIn with graphic designers. Prior to LinkedIn rolling out the ability to embed media into your profile, designers could only integrate 3rd party apps like Behance to display their portfolio on LinkedIn. For most designers, the rigmarole required to do so meant that the overwhelming majority of designers only had a text based profile to showcase their personal brand.

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Now you can easily showcase work samples on your Summary, Experience, and Education sections of your profile.

If you work in motion graphics, you can embed your demo reel and samples of your work here. If you do a lot of public speaking, you can post videos of your talk, and/or a SlideShare version of your presentation on your profile.

4. Solicit and give recommendations

Although not crucial to your LinkedIn profile, recommendations are a great way to bolster your profile and provide potential clients and recruiters a positive third party assessment of your skills, capabilities and character. They function as modern day job references now.

With that said, many people familiar with LinkedIn take recommendations with a grain of salt; they’re almost always solicited and always very positive. Where they do come into their own are when recommendations comes from prominent and trusted professionals, or recommendations are written by a mutual contact of a recruiter or client you are courting. In instances like this these recommendations function the same as invaluable testimonials about your work history.

Also the ability to curate references and showcase recommendations (and later on endorsements) creates a very powerful form of “social proof” that can really help tip the balance in a designer’s favor if they are being considered for a project or a job.

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The other thing to consider, writing recommendations for others, in most cases are as good as receiving them. If a colleague or vendor has gone out of their way to make your project or business a success, pay it back by writing a sincere LinkedIn recommendation praising their work.

5) A detailed LinkedIn profile is SEO gold

If you have a fairly unique name and a LinkedIn profile, chances are your LinkedIn profile shows up in the number one spot when someone searches for you on Google. This is a pretty powerful personal brand management tool when you think about it.

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Keywords are very important in how recruiters and clients connect with professionals on LinkedIn.

6) Personalize your connection invites

A pet peeve with many people on LinkedIn is receiving automated invites with the default message. No one likes to be shotgunned: take the time and customize the invitation to state why it is you want to connect with someone on LinkedIn, a reminder of how you know them.

Also, cut to the chase. If you’re wanting to set up a meeting with a specific person or need an introduction to someone, say so in your invite.

7) Never lie

This one should go without saying, but even slight exaggerations and/or taking credit for creative projects you were not involved in can come back to haunt you.

In 2015, everything you post can be easily searched, reverse image searched, and if authorship ever comes into question, people are pretty easy to get a hold of.

Long term, your professional reputation is invaluable. Don’t take shortcuts to go where you want to be.

8) If actively job hunting, turn off “activity broadcasts”

This one gets designers into trouble all of the time. Designers who are unhappy with their current job situation are often highly motivated to seek out new opportunities. LinkedIn is a natural magnet for this energy. Unfortunately many are unaware that the majority of your activity on LinkedIn is broadcasted to all of your connections, often in the form of email notifications. If you don’t want your current employer to see that you just followed a dozen different studios, updated your profile, and are now connected to a half dozen recruiters, you can simply mute your activity.

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To turn off “Activity Broadcasts” go into your Privacy & Settings controls near the top right and under “Privacy Control” click on “Turn on/off your activity broadcasts.”

9) Associate an alternate personal email address to your LinkedIn account

Occasionally I’ll get a LinkedIn invite from someone I’m already connected to, just that they somehow created another duplicate account. I like to keep my network relevant and tidy so when I ask them about it, in 99 percent of the cases it turns out the person is between jobs and their previous LinkedIn account was tied to an old employer email address they no longer have access to.

To avoid the above scenario, associate a secondary personal email address that will still allow you to access and control your LinkedIn profile when you need it most. You want your profile well established when you need it, not the other way around.

10) Celebrate anniversaries, promotions, and new jobs

LinkedIn makes it exceedingly easy to stay informed of career changes taking place within your network and to also send notes to congratulate them on a new gig or work anniversary.

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It only takes a few minutes and keeps the professional relationship positive, keeps you top of mind, and generates goodwill.

About the Author:

At Axiom, John works with clients to develop product branding, advertising and integrated screen and print communication programs with an emphasis on creative solutions for energy-focused companies. Utilizing a multidisciplinary approach, he fuses marketing strategy with compelling creative to solve business problems and drive opportunities for clients worldwide. John graduated from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Communications.

 

As AIGA Houston Communications Director, John oversees all communications of AIGA programs/events/issues relevant to our profession and works closely with the chapter President & Programming Director to manage communication of the Chapter’s calendar.