Get to know the fundamentals of professional personal branding on LinkedIn and deploy a dozen of usefull tools to boost your networking and outreach activity with automations – not the spammy version but rather the productive aspects of automation. You will learn the following:
- How to build and benefit from your professional personal brand
- How you can leverage your employees‘ personal brands to benefit your overall corporate profile
- How to automate the boring tasks you would otherwise do manually anyway
Personal Branding Objectives
There are several perspectives on the topic of „professional personal brand building“ depictured in the graphic below:
- What do you want to achieve in the long run?
Finding your personal vision that you are working on and try to achieve within a long-term time span is way beyond the boundaries of this blog post and you have probably read a ton of books and articles about this topic already. Let’s assume you already know where you see yourself in 5-10 years. Additionally, you know yourself and what you stand for – your core values that lead your actions. Great! We will start from there:
- Why should you build a professional personal brand?
Let’s say you want to become the thought leader and consultant in a specific niche. Your purpose might be to share knowledge, help others, and contribute to the members of your niche. In return, you will be considered when it comes to asking for professional advice, consultancy, keynote speaking, giving lectures, etc. One event will lead to the other and simultaneously you will get good content to strengthen the positioning of your personal brand.
Your core personal brand should be unique and distinct to differentiate yourself from other personal brands within your niche.
- How do you build and maintain your personal brand?
Set yourself smart goals first: They might revolve around positioning yourself, be top-of-mind when your target group is thinking about the topics you are an expert in. Display your expertise to build authority and long-term trust.
Have a mid-term strategy: Know your next steps but never plan too far ahead giving you the opportunity to quickly adapt to changes situations and incorporate your learnings into your actions.
Develop efficient tactics: Find a format for your postings that suit your workflows. Engage with insights and foster interactions with your target group.
Know how to deploy your tools: Find and use the right software that helps you along this journey. Create productive workflows and automate recurring activities.
Last but not least: Stay hungry and experiment with hacks to stay ahead of your competition.
Companies are a constellation of its individual employees. Therefore each employee’s personal brand pays into the corporate brand. However, most companies just see their corporate brand as a single voice that speaks through their corporate LinkedIn account. But unless you are Tesla or Uber, nobody cares about what you post on your corporate LinkedIn account (a little exaggerated, I know 😉). Thus, publishing the latest news about your company on your company profile, encouraging employees to share those posts will most likely result in low visibility, low engagement rates and does not act as a conversation starter.
However, what people do care about are personal connections and personal stories. Assuming that every employee is an expert in his or her field, they can engage with postings within their network revolving around topics of their individual expertise. Subsequently, these posts are great resources for the corporate profile to share due to the authenticity and expertise as well as the personal touch. A win-win situation as the share conduces to the personal brand of the employee.
The following graphic visualizes the previously described strategy:
If you are not convinced yet, take a look at the numbers: The following screenshots show the interactions of a shared corporate post and a native personal post of one of the LinkedIn Top Voices of 2019:
Where to start? Take a look at your profile first: First impression, details on current and previous jobs, university degrees, and skills – the usual suspects? 🤷♂️ Correct! But is your profile really up-to-date and exhaustive?
Let’s take a look:
- Profile URL: Your out-of-the-box profile URL is shipped as a cryptic link. Head over to the settings section to claim your vanity URL. Mine, for example, is ending with „jlwinkler“: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jlwinkler/
- Header image: Swap the default LinkedIn header image or any pretty stock image to an image that suits your purpose. You can add logos to catch attention, show off with your snapshots as a speaker on a huge stage, or present your creative work.
- Profile image: Very subjective topic, so I am not digging into my personal preferences here. However, these colorful rings around the image imitating the Instagram/WhatsApp indication that you might be online or have uploaded a recent story/status update are spiking again, hence the additional attention is getting lower lately.
- Name: Even though there is not much to change regarding your name, you can add something to it. Colorful emoji. I scrolled through my LinkedIn feed for quite some time to find out that regular yellow smiley emojis seem to be very uncommon on LinkedIn – yellow was an underrepresented color in general. So I was searching for an icon that was yellow and suits me. The bulb combines ideas, creativeness, and – you guessed it – the color yellow.
- Logos: Add a company logo to your companies profile so that it pops up in your profile. Make sure to tag the right company when updating your employer. If necessary claim the company account, add a logo and/or hand it over to the correct contact person. Until spring 2020 it was still possible to upload animated GIF files but this option was removed. However, GIF animations updated until that point remain animated. Keep an eye on the possible upload file formats because this might be possible again in the future.
- Info box: Writing something about oneself and finding an appropriate tone is not an easy task. Start off with a simple version and put it online. If it bothers you too much, publishing it at an early draft stage is the best motivation to improve on it frequently.
- Featured box: Select a mix of own posts and articles that represent you and your work best to feature them in your profile so that visitors get an in-depth view of your activities.
- Skills: Select the skills that you have and that are relevant to your branding goals. Not every skill you have is worth mentioning if it does not fit the positioning you are trying to achieve. Other users can endorse your skills (more about this later in this post) and you can even take the LinkedIn tests to get the LinkedIn evaluation badge displayed next to your skill.
- Recommendations: You can ask your contacts to write a recommendation for your profile. These recommendations will not only show your profile visitors or prospective customers your expertise but they will also reinforce your skills because they are confirmed by other users.
How to systematically generate recommendations? Here is Patrick’s procedure that racked up 90 recommendations as of this writing:
- Give presentations (on- and offline) to position yourself as an expert within your field of expertise.
- Invite your audience to get back to you with their in-depth questions.
- Provide valuable help by answering the questions exhaustively free of charge
- Upon receiving an appreciation message, ask for a written recommendation on LinkedIn in return.
„To develop and sustain a credible expert status incl. outreach, there is no getting around naturally earned recommendations.“Patrick Klingberg – Disruptive Marketer🤘🏻 Speaker🎙 Mentor💡
If you want to find out more about your personal profile and your progress within your network, you can take a detailed look on LinkedIn’s metric „Social Selling Index“: https://www.linkedin.com/sales/ssi
Add a supplementary personal touch by recording your name in your own voice so that contacts know, how to pronounce your name. In my case, collocutors who are not too familiar with french do not know, how to pronounce „Jean-Luc“ [ʒɑ̃.lyk] correctly. Therefore, it is beneficial to be able to listen to my recording. As of this writing, the LinkedIn guidelines for this personal recording feature do not limit the recording to your name only. So why not add a call-to-action after you recorded your name? 😉
You might have seen it in my profile screenshots already: I have stated to be open for new work opportunities (visible for recruiters only) for the types of jobs I am interested in finding out, what happens in the market. This hack comes in handy, when you want to be notified about companies stocking up their workforce prematurely to keep an eye on the development – usually before these positions get posted on major job platforms.
In case your network is highly international, you might also considering setting up profiles for each language you are active in. Thereby you can edit your name, position and former positions and all the descriptions – even the recording of your name.
Additionally, there are tools to evaluate LinkedIn profiles, give insights, and also calculate an estimated price you can get for a sponsored post:
LinkedIn Content Types
Besides optimizing your profile, I highly recommend to actively position yourself with valuable content. You can both create own content around the topics you want to be recognized for and also share external resources, tool tips, add insights or even ask questions:
- other posts
- stories (coming soon!)
- celebrate events
- offer help based on your skills
Personally I have made the best experiences with posts containing images and also documents that your audience can flip through. When uploading documents, make sure that they are readable on every device (e.g. smartphone). When Linking to external sources, you can check how the preview of your external website will be displayed with the LinkedIn Post Inspector.
How about video content and extensive articles? Here are the facts and concrete numbers that Ralf has experienced:
„I experimented with posts and articles on LinkedIn. Classic posts (including a catchy picture) achieve a higher engagement (up to 4,5x). Additionally, I noticed a remarkable difference in reach (close to 100x).“Ralf Leister 🎤 | Moderator, Speaker, Trainer & Consultant
Speaking of content types, we also need to take a look at the content we create and share itself: Which content is relevant for your target audience that you want to address and position yourself in? How can you engage with them? Here is Thomas‘ approach:
„Always think of your readers when you post: Why is the topic relevant to them? What can they learn? If it fits, invite them to a discussion or ask for their opinion or experience. Remember that LinkedIn is a SOCIAL network and your goal should be to connect with other people.“Tomas Herzberger – 🚀 Growth Hacking Expert with 14+ years experience in Digital Marketing | Author | Entrepreneur | Speaker
Target Audience Attention
Switching perspectives to the audience site: Regarding the interaction rate, LinkedIn users can be divided into the following four major segments starting from the base:
Contact Info Maintainers: These are the passive users, who just add you and never scroll down any feed, nor read your posts. Occasionally they type in your name in the search bar and navigate to your profile. Make sure to optimize your profile as already mentioned above.
Passive Scrollers: Scrolls through the feed, scans almost everything, never interacts. Even though you will not be able to measure this target group’s interaction, you can make sure to deliver valuable content that encourages them to stop scrolling and consume your posts. Instead of writing click-baiting headlines to promote an external link, summarise what the reader is about to expect when clicking on a link or reading an infographic. Formulate precise, snackable, and informatic content – the one that sticks to your head and comes in handy to recite during a dinner with your inlaws.
Likers & Clickers: Finally measurable interactions! Analyze which content pieces are liked (reactions), interacted (comments), and consumed (views) most. You can even track clicks on external links when using a URL shortening service like bit.ly or YOURLS, an open-source shortener you can host on your own webspace.
Speaking of external links: LinkedIn does not favor posts that lead the users outside its own domain. Therefore posts containing external links will be far less visible than posts with internal links or no links at all. It has become a common practice, to put external links in the first comment and either tell the reader to take a look into the comment section or link to the first comment as shown in the screenshot above.
„Instead of cold calling your prospective clients, get to know them first digitally: Becoming acquainted with your customers via social selling means being visible where your client’s attention is focussed on by interacting with his/her posts such as commenting and liking to show that you are both interested in the same topics.“Mariana Traxel – Online Marketing Gladiator I Certified B2B Social Selling Expert
Commenters & Sharers: Actively ask your audience about their thoughts and input on your topics to start conversations that will not only bring up new ideas and insights but also keep your content alive. This works better than in most of the other major social networks where posts will lose visibility after a short time span whereas posts on LinkedIn are able to collect comments and shares even after two months. Ask open questions and for opinions to keep the conversation active. Resist the temptation to directly respond to the comments when they pop up in your notifications. Wait until interactions decline and you will almost see your post be resurrected from the endlessness of your networks newsfeed.
Another great way to engage with your audience is tagging relevant contacts and ask about their opinion about the topic. Do not tag just anyone but rather those, who have knowledge in the field your question is revolving around. The tagged users are usually happy to help you with your engaging question and it is not unlikely that some of them will also tag other experts in the comments. consequently, your post will not only be seen by a lot of direct contacts but also contacts of the tagged and commenting experts will see your post.
„I have published a lot of different types of posts and noticed that to tag other users and responding quickly to incoming comments leads to significantly more coverage.“Mario Jung – Founder of omt.de 💥 Speaker 💥 Podcaster 💥 Conference Host 💥 Online Marketing-Expert
When it comes to professional business networks it is obvious, that in the end, you would like to make money off your effort. You probably want to acquire new customers, land the next dream job, or get booked for a presentation or consultancy work.
In each case, it is of advantage to show your expertise and thus build authority and finally trust among your target groups. You want your customers to contact you instead of the other way around.
Eventhogh social selling itself would make for a great and long blog post, the idea of inbound sales and CRM should be mentiond when talking about LinkedIn:
„Social Selling is the ART not to SELL. You will make them BUY. Compare it with Google’s EAT model for websites. You always need Expertise, Authority, and Trust. Then you will become a great social seller and your visibility and your network will accelerate your lead pipeline.
Social selling on Linkedin is inbound sales and customer relationship management. Don’t annoy anybody after your contact request with an inappropriate sales pitch.“Britta Behrens – LinkedIn Expert 🌈 Corporate Influencer Manager ✈ Speaker 🎤
Automation on social networks does not have the best reputation – with great justice: Who does not receive totally random job offers or invitations without any context!? In Addition, some sort of automation might infringe the platform’s user agreement. So make sure, you have checked the recent version to find out what is allowed and which pitfalls should be avoided.
Whenever I am confronted with recurring tasks, I ask myself how the operations can be automated. Using existing tools that get the job done have my first priority followed by general-purpose automation tools and finally the official API.
LinkedIn’s API however, is not built for extensive automation! It simply allows us to read public profile information of a given user or create posts. It does not support webhooks or endpoints for events such as contact requests, incoming messages, or even birthdays. What a bummer!
We will take a look at common scenarios and use cases and the best software tools to use in the following sections divided into „personal assistant“ activities as well as „sales & outreach“ operations.
List of LinkedIn automation tools
These are the tools I have tested and deployed for my atomation:
Personal Assistant Automation
The first section on automation is revolving around repeated tasks which I do very frequently in order to develop and maintain my LinkedIn network as well as engage with my contacts that can be automated.
Accepting contact requests with personal welcome message
Unless you are on a paid subscription, contacting someone outside your own network is cumbersome. Writing direct messages is limited to first contacts only. Therefore I like to generously add a lot of contacts to my „network“ accepting most of the requests that fit my industry and the topics I am interested in (no – finding out how I can be financially free booking your online course or increasing my revenue by 10 times without you even knowing how I pull down my income is not within my field of interest!). However, I like to engage with my new contacts to find out how my profile caught their attention, what interests them the most about my activities, and how I can be of help. The automation tool Phantom Buster lets you do just that: Automatically accept connection requests and sending out a private message to your newly added contact using placeholders like the contact’s first name to personalize the message.
Be aware, that the phantom runs on default every time you open up your browser window. I had to learn this the hard way: While I was invited to join a breakfast event with innovators in the Hamburg area, I was networking and consequently receiving contact requests afterward while I was commuting to the office. Arriving at my desk, I opened the browser and the automation started right away. Accepting the requests and sending out the automated messages, where I asked how my profile caught the newly added contact’s attention. Obviously this was a dumb question to ask after just haven spoken to the contact in person half an hour prior. Make sure to pause this automation when you are expecting multiple requests from people you have met in person. You can also set times and intervals for this automation.
Conversely, whenever you receive a contact request containing a message, you can hit the reply button before you accept the request. I do this with all the job offers I get: I ask, why the headhunter thinks I am the perfect fit. Let them do the work to sort this out and make sure that they have really checked out your profile. The response rate is astonishing high. Some just mention my current or former position or employer, others really check my latest postings and go through my skills.
Send a message to recently added contacts
Let’s assume you are returning from a conference event. You have added all the requests and in return also the requests that you have sent out got accepted. This is the best time to start the following automation using Linkedin Helper, which lets you send out personalized messages (using general placeholders) to your recently added contacts to start a conversation and also keeping track in the message history where you have met the person by mentioning the recent event:
Publish your content across multiple networks
Even though this article is focussed on LinkedIn, your target audience might not be purely focussed on LinkedIn but also present on other networks. Instead of manually posting your content on other networks, you can use tools like Hootsuite, Later, Swat.io, or built your own automation workflow with integromat.
Because each social networks works differently, it is crutial to find out which adjustments should be made for each network before you hit the publish button. Scheduling the posts to publish them when your target group is most active to attract attention and foster engagement is also easily possible with the mentioned tools.
Automatically add a signature to personal messages
Adding a signature to emails is a common practice. Doing this in personal messages might overload the message stream. However, you can use signatures when you are reaching out with a highly personalized message followed by a standard block of information, greetings, or a hint to an event that you are organizing or a whitepaper you have just published and recommend to download by providing information and a download link.
Use emojis to add structure & attract attention
While emojis have a bad record when it comes to professional communication, they are ideal to both catch attention and also help to structure your post. You can either use browser extensions, your built-in emoji keyboard on your smartphone or the not so well known emoji keyboard on Windows (Windows + .) and Apple (Ctrl. + Cmd + Space) computers:
Here is a great example of the usage of emojis to structure longer content pieces and attract attention to the call to action at the end of the post:
„The emoji keyboard offers considerably more opportunities than the regular yellow smileys that initially come to your mind: Structuring, expressing emotions, visually guiding the users‘ attention toward information or a call to action.“Jens Polomski – 🤩 Crazy about Online-Marketing & Tools! | 🚀 Senior Marketing Manager at Greator GmbH
LinkedIn also supports #hashtags. I recommend either tagging the relevant words within your text or add a hashtag section at the end of your post. Users can also follow these hashtags which allow you to grow your network or followers this way.
Automatically endorse skills
To be honest, this automation should be used wisely because it is on the edge to be spammy! the idea is to leverage the skill endorsement notifications that pop up in the notification section as a separate entry. By endorsing the top skills of a list of contacts, you will help them by presenting their skills as well as attract attention, and ideally, those contacts will visit your profile in return to endorse your skills. I recommend using this technique when you are starting out with optimizing your profile and building your network. The more active you are on LinkedIn the more people will endorse your skills anyway. You can additionally always ask contacts who have just experienced your skills to endorse them on LinkedIn.
Sales & Outreach Automation
Sales and outreach activities most often start with finding the right profiles to target later on.
There are multiple processes to find and extract profiles of interest. My favorite ways are shown in the list below acompanied by the tool names/logos that can be used for automation.
Another way to collect profiles is by tagging them „on the go“. Not exactly „automation“ but a helpful way to tag profiles and create lists and even add notes to LinkedIn profiles you are visiting while browsing with Dux Soup:
Dux Soup also has a lot of additional features, however the freemium version will not get you beyond the above mentioned tagging and note feature.
Once the profiles of interest are collected, automation can be applied to this list of profiles:
Send advanced messages & build conversational flows
Invite profiles to a LinkedIn group
Notifications about updates and recommendations from group administrators represent another possibile notification format you can leverage. Send out invites for your group revolvving around special interests or events like a meetup, conference or webinar. Recommend you own posts of those of your colleagues as an administrator of the group hence these recommendations will pop up in the notification section of the group members:
„LinkedIn Groups are a highly underestimated feature on LinkedIn to engage with your target audience, build strong relationships, and additionally send out notifications that get a high awareness.“Francesco Scilipoti – Content Strategist & Social Media Marketing Expert
Target lookalike audiences
Exceed the limits of LinkedIn and target suitable people outside your LinkedIn network by building a lookalike audience. Create a list of your target group from LinkedIn profiles. Add email address information e.g. with hunter.io or dropcontact. Use these mail addresses as your custom audience in the Facebook Ads Manager or Google Ads. Select this custom audience to target similar profiles with the lookalike audience feature. Beware that you might need to confirm that you are allowed to target these emails, so read the current conditions because they are subject to change.
Which are your LinkedIn best practices?
Let me know what works best in your LinkedIn personal branding strategy and automation flow in the comments section below, send a message on LinkedIn, or engage in the LinkedIn comments to this post.
Disclaimer: I did/do not get paid by any of the mentioned tools or quoted experts. In addition, according to the LinkedIn user agreement, utilizing automation tools to scrape data, etc. might not be allowed at the time you read this or in the region you are located. Thus, make sure to check the lastest version of the user agreement.