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Sprucing up Your LinkedIn Teaser

Have you maximized your “teaser” in LinkedIn? Do you know what your teaser is? If you said yes to the first question, you’re probably one of the very few digerati who read 317am. If you said no to the second question, then this is the post for you.

First, a few words about LinkedIn. I think of it as your Sunday-best social network, the one where you present the most carefully curated version of yourself for business and professional purposes. Consequently, it’s a less lively place than Twitter or Facebook. LinkedIn asks you for your resume and makes no attempt to disguise the fact that it is a network for professional networking.

I’ve blogged about LinkedIn before in a somewhat dismissive way, but that was before I got hired to teach a beginner’s course in this social network. There’s nothing like teaching a subject to make you learn it. And the more I explore LinkedIn,  naturally the more I appreciate it and, of course, the more I’ve resolved to get out of my LinkedIn “connections” (the term LinkedIn uses for what Facebook would call your “friends” and Twitter, your “followers”).

Photo of LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman

LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman.

Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, explains the big idea behind LinkedIn in a new book, the nicely titled The Start-Up of You, an excerpt of which got passed along to me via one of my new connections in LinkedIn. Hoffman calls it “network intelligence.” In the old model of information, knowledge was something you’d acquire in school, a body of facts, terms, concepts, and techniques that you’d memorize as best you could and then regurgitate on exams to get a degree.

In the new, 21st century model of information, knowledge is an always changing, always expanding, always splitting-into-niches mass of content. It is impossible for any individual to learn everything she needs to know and to stay current. In the new model you get the information you need when you need it by talking to knowledgeable people in your network who know a given area far better than you do. Hence, the need for a vast network of expert connections – like the one you can create in LinkedIn.

But what about that teaser? Your teaser is the short box in LinkedIn that shows up on your profile page. It’s the thing that will appear when a cursor hovers over your name in LinkedIn, it turns up in search results, and when you contribute to a discussion, it identifies you. The teaser consists of a photo of you and a few words denoting your location, your industry, and a brief description of what you do. The teaser makes a potent first impression, and for many, it’s an opportunity not fully used.

What you want from your teaser is a straightforward, succinct description of what you offer to the world. It should be written in language that anybody can understand. But it’s important for the sake of search engines to be aware of the commonly used buzz words for your skills. Crafting a teaser is harder than one might expect, a little like writing one of those six-word biographies.

One of the most common teaser mistakes is not being explicit enough about what you bring to the dance. As the Fixitology blog puts it, many simply say “student” or “engineer,” which doesn’t tell prospective employers on a quick LinkedIn hunt much about you. The teaser of one of my friends in the Foreign Service simply says “at U.S. Embassy Rome.” So what does he do there on the job? You wonder whether this is a cover for CIA employment, which I happen to know it’s not – I think.

Decisions in social media are ruthless, and they get made super-quickly on little information. When I’m trying to decide whether to follow someone in Twitter, I check out their profile and maybe their last five tweets. The whole process takes about 20 seconds. That’s a good way to imagine people are checking you out in LinkedIn.

Louise Denny, a marketer who has written a fine blog post titled “How Effective Is Your LinkedIn Teaser?” advocates a teaser that’s “a one-line powerhouse bio” that says exactly what your company can do for customers.  Here’s her teaser:

Marketing Manager at MTD – We Help Businesses To Improve Their Sales People, Their Managers & HR Capability.

“This clearly names my company,” writes Ms. Denny, “describes my role and explains what myself and my company can do for potential clients. Bingo!” Louise could be right in terms of her business sphere, but for me this teaser is a tad too hucksterish.  It does spell out what she and her company do, but it’s more of a direct sales pitch than I’m comfortable with.

Image of George Clack LinkedIn teaserLet’s take a look at recent revisions of my own teaser to get a feel for what I mean. My teaser for quite a while was:

Social Media Consultant, Teacher, and Blogger at 317am.net.

I liked this one and was almost proud of it till I started to ask myself some questions. By the time I got done refining, my teaser looked like this:

New Media Publishing Consultant, Social Media Trainer, and Blogger at 317am.net.

Why the changes? First, the latest version packs in more buzz words for the search engines. It includes both “new media” and “social media” as well as “publishing.”

The edit from “teacher” to “social media trainer” was not an easy one for me. I revere teachers. Socrates was a teacher. Zen masters are teachers. The most common verb describing the actions of Jesus is “to teach.”

By contrast, a “trainer” in my head is somebody who might instruct a hands-on computer-lab course called “30 Steps to Getting Started in Facebook,” not the kind of course I like to teach. But “teacher” – the way I’d used it in LinkedIn – was problematic. Teacher of what? A high school teacher? History or Spanish? A middle school teacher? A kindergarten teacher?  No, I’m not any of these kind of teachers.  Furthermore, much as I dislike the word, “trainer” is what the world and the search engines call the person leading the discussions in the kind of social media courses I teach.

So forced to choose between what the world is looking for and my aspirations, the choice is easy. Go with the world.

Photo of Gypsy Rose Lee

Ms. Gypsy Rose Lee, a Hall of Fame teaser.

Why leave the blogging business in my new teaser? Is it worth the space? My thinking was that my blogging is often about what I teach; it’s a good sample of the way I think. If somebody wants to see me in action, maybe they’ll click on 317am. I also like to think there is a sense in which blogging may help validate me as a serious new media player. He talks the talk, and he blogs it too.

Do you have thoughts on what makes an effective LinkedIn teaser?

 

4 Responses to Sprucing up Your LinkedIn Teaser

  1. Do I have thoughts on etc.? No, not yet (for myself, that is), but this post most certainly made me aware of what LinkedIn is about and will perhaps/most likely/certainly make me a more active ‘connection’. Thank you for that, M. RasoirJ.
    PS And: OH YES, the blogging business most certainly is worth the space in your teaser? Ras. You do talk the talk and blog it too!

    • Thanks, RDR. You wouldn’t think LinkedIn would be relevant for fiction writers, but a guy named Thomas Israel Hopkins makes a good case for it in a recent issue of “Poets and Writers.” His article is worth checking out. Here’s the URL:

      http://www.pw.org/content/network_how_to_use_linkedin_to_connect_with_your_community_0

      • Thank you for the link, RasoirJ. It still did not really convince me that as a writer of prose/poetry I need to be there and so far, it has only put me into some very awkward situations, when people asked me to ‘certify’ them to be something (a profession, such as literary editor etc) they most certainly were not (yet).
        In spite of Hopkins’ most interesting article, I think it is time I kissed LinkedIn goodbye, be it in a friendlier manner than I did with Facebook :)

        • You’re right, RDR, in that the “recommendations” section of LinkedIn can make for awkward moments if somebody you can’t really recommend asks you for one. Fortunately for me, every time I’ve been asked for a LinkedIn recommendation so far, it’s been a recommendation I could make positively in good conscience.

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