Let’s be honest: in the past, LinkedIn could sometimes feel like little more than a place to upload your résumé. But the platform has recently grown dramatically, merged with Microsoft, and acquired open online course website Lynda. These days, some are starting to ask: Is LinkedIn the new Facebook?
Regardless of how you feel about LinkedIn, the platform can help professionals in innumerable ways, from professional growth, to networking, to finding new clients and customers for your brand. Like any other social media platform, LinkedIn is a fantastic way to build your personal brand. And one of the best ways to start is with the LinkedIn summary section.
Why a strong LinkedIn summary matters
Along with a professional profile photo, a customized headline, and a visually appealing banner, the summary section is one of your major opportunities to set yourself apart from countless other LinkedIn users that may comparable to yours.
This section may be small, but it has the opportunity to change the way LinkedIn users interact with your profile. In many ways, it's your biggest opportunity to make a strong first impression.
How to write a LinkedIn summary that will help you reach your goals
If you’ve ever felt daunted about what to put in this section or how to approach the copy, then look no further. We chatted with Brynn Johnson, a copywriter and coach who specializes in helping clients optimize their LinkedIn profiles.
Whether you’re looking for a new job, building out a freelance business, or just wanting to give your LinkedIn a facelift, Brynn’s tips on how to tackle this section will help you create an authentic, targeted, and professional summary section so that you can more easily achieve your professional goals.
Compartmentalize your headline
Brynn recommends starting with your current role or title — and making sure it's buzzword free. "A good way to think about it is by writing 'I help X do Y,'" Brynn says, adding that it's best to use words that are easily understandable by your client or customer base. "Sometimes people want to make things sound fancier than they are, but it’s best to just be clear."
Brynn encourages LinkedIn users to identify who they are speaking to and targeting — and to write from that place. "You want to have authority but you want to also write from a place where your ideal customer, client, or employer can find you," she says.
Make sure to talk about your value
"I tell my clients to first use a notepad or a Google doc and just start with a few minutes of free writing," Brynn says, adding that it's best to write casually and in the way that you would talk in a regular conversation. "Think about what you are helping people to do — if your product helps people automate their email marketing, you can say how you’re helping busy business professionals save time and money managing their inbox."
For those who don't love to write, Brynn recommends recording yourself speaking about what you do, how you help people, and the most rewarding things you do at work. Once you've done this, you can write the best pieces down and use them to put together your summary. Whether you're writing or speaking first and then transcribing, Brynn says the important thing is to keep sentences short and conversational.
Use keywords and avoid buzzwords
Making your summary section keyword rich is one of the best ways to make sure you'll come up in searches. There is a special Dashboard section available underneath your profile summary that provides you with some data on your profile, including how many times your page came up as part of a search. Here's some data from my profile:
In addition to this data, you are also able to access some of the recent keywords your searchers used to find your profile. Taking a look at some of these recent searches can be helpful in tailoring your profile to include keywords that you want to be aligned with.
In order to optimize your potential to be found via search, it's important to use strong keywords and steer clear of buzzwords. "Avoid words or phrases like 'passionate' or 'up for challenge' or 'driven,'" Brynn says. "These words are so overused and there are many others you can use that will be more impactful." Not to mention, there are keywords that will actually help recruiters, potential collaborators, or future clients find you.
Be authentic and avoid posturing
Creating a strong personal brand can be tricky, and authenticity is sometimes a nebulous concept. Still, Brynn recommends to try to add some human elements to your summary. "Some C-level execs like to include something from childhood or early years that relates to business," Brynn says, adding that any kind of personal touches can make a summary more memorable. "It can help someone reach through the computer and make you seem more approachable."
On the flip side, Brynn cautions against using long lists in a LinkedIn summary. "A common thing people use is just a long list of things they can do," Brynn says. But she adds that creating a laundry list of skills can dilute meaning for the user. "If you’re going to list your top skills, narrow it down to three to five, maximum."
Similarly, Brynn says to avoid posturing in your summary. "It’s tempting to make yourself seem like the best, but allow your summary to feel like less of a pitch," she says, noting that it's best to avoid words like "best” or “superior” because they can turn people off. "You don’t need to talk about being the best, just demonstrate that you are."
Know and sell your personal brand
Ultimately, LinkedIn now serves as a platform to promote a personal, professional brand. And there's no better way to sell yourself than with a clear and concise summary. "Focusing on who you are helps people understand why you’re right or wrong for a role," Brynn says.
Though it can be challenging to condense your professional offerings down to just a few lines, Brynn says that being focused and clear is the best way to utilize this prime LinkedIn real estate. "If you try to do everything, there’s nothing to hang onto. Narrowing things down helps others laser-focus onto who you are and what you can offer them."