LinkedIn is rolling out an updated version of its profile pages, including larger photos and heavier emphasis on the Summary section. Here's how to stay current on the professional social network.
2012 Salary Survey: 12 Career Insights
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
LinkedIn has begun rolling out a refresh of its profile page, the online face of more than 175 million professionals. Among the most noticeable changes: Your actual face is more important than ever.
The updated profile includes a larger, more prominent picture, which LinkedIn-Makeover.com's Donna Serdula listed as the most obvious impact to the page. As a result, that crop-and-chop job you did on a recent family photo isn't going to hack it anymore.
"LinkedIn is really putting that out at the forefront. It's putting the emphasis on the way the person looks," Serdula said in an interview. "It's no longer going to be enough to scan a photograph that was taken at a wedding. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you're going to have to go to a professional photographer and get a headshot."
Photography's not the only skill needed to optimize the new LinkedIn profile; you'll want to hone your writing chops, too, because the Summary content now stands under a brighter spotlight. "At one time, a person could copy-and-paste their resume and feel like they did a good job," Serdula said. "That's not true anymore."
To hear Serdula tell it, the best LinkedIn profiles require the same level of attention as any business website; without the right mix of content, keywords, and other elements, you're liable to get lost in the fray. Treating the profile as just an online version of your old-school resume is a rookie mistake.
"People are using LinkedIn as a search engine and they're looking for people. Simply copying and pasting your resume isn't going to provide enough keywords to be found," Serdula said. "Say to yourself: How are people trying to find me? And: Let me make sure that all of those keywords they're using, I'm peppering throughout my profile so I can be found."
An honest, robust summary is also critical, Serdula said, because users are increasingly using LinkedIn to do their homework on people they do business with in a variety of contexts. "People are really using LinkedIn as a way to research and feel more comfortable with candidates, with vendors, with people. You need to take this opportunity and really showcase yourself. Now that the summary is so front-and-center, you can't just not fill it out or copy-paste your introduction from your resume. It's just not going to cut it anymore."
LinkedIn's profile updates are part of a broader site-wide reboot that includes the recent redesign of the homepage and the launch earlier this year of LinkedIn Today, the company's social news service. Expect more changes to come, including more updates to the profile page.
"We are focused on making it easier for LinkedIn members to get more value out of the services we offer by creating simpler, more relevant, more social experiences," a LinkedIn spokeswoman said via email. "This new look-and-feel to the profile is the first step of many more exciting changes to come to the LinkedIn profile later this year."
Serdula pointed out another significant change: Job titles no longer appear in the brief overview that appears next to the photo--only the names of current and recent employers, as well as educational institutions, are listed. In general, that light-gray area atop the profile is much smaller than in the past. "That's huge," Serdula said. "Perhaps they're leveling the playing field there, but that also saves in screen real estate."
Contact information, including websites, email, Twitter handle, and phone number, are now housed behind a Contact button just beneath the photo and brief overview. Users need to click to reveal them, but Serdula said this is an improvement rather than a de-emphasis of the content.
"Yes, they're saving screen real estate. But they're actually making it easier to reach out outside of LinkedIn," said Serdula. "Success on LinkedIn is getting off [of] LinkedIn. If you want to forge relationships, you can't do that strictly online. You have to call that person up and talk to them directly. That's what's going to separate you and lead you to future success. LinkedIn, I [think], believes that, and that's one of the reasons they've brought that up from the bottom of the page."
The space freed up by these tweaks enables the heavier emphasis on the Summary section, which means it's time to revisit what yours includes. Even on LinkedIn, content is king. "You have to tell a story, you have to hook people, and you have to get them motivated to pick up the phone and call you," Serdula said.
That's something Serdula said she has been preaching to clients for years; the updated LinkedIn profile is probably a good thing for profile-writing businesses like hers. But she said her advice now will likely include a much sharper focus on picking the right photo, noting that a poor profile picture is already one of the biggest mistakes people make on LinkedIn. That mistake could sometimes be glossed over with the smaller image, but no more.
"Over and over and over again, we see people uploading photographs that aren't professional, aren't attractive, aren't appropriate," Serdula. "This picture is [now] so big that there cannot be an error there. It's just going to be too glaring."
Social media make the customer more powerful than ever. Here's how to listen and react. Also in the new, all-digital The Customer Really Comes First issue of The BrainYard: The right tools can help smooth over the rough edges in your social business architecture. (Free registration required.)
. We've got a management crisis right now, and we've also got an engagement crisis. Could the two be linked? Tune in for the next installment of IT Life Radio, Wednesday May 20th at 3PM ET to find out.