Julie McLauchlan: How to use LinkedIn to your best advantage

Just a few days ago Beyoncé revealed the first photo of her baby twins and the internet went crazy.

'Words, as well as pictures, are important on your LinkedIn profile,' says Julie McLauchlan. Picture: Carl Court/Getty Images

While most of us don’t have the celebrity styling and brand support of an international megastar, a great photo does indeed tell a thousand words whether in La-La land or in business.

Most people in business now have a LinkedIn profile. With 500 million now LinkedIn, two people are joining the most popular business networking site every second.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Google loves LinkedIn, so even if you are not part of the world’s biggest business network, you can still check out what people look like before you choose to do business with them. But many on LinkedIn either don’t have a ­photo or use one that’s out of date or inappropriate.

So what’s behind this half-in, half-out approach? Having trained more than 1,000 people on using social media, particularly LinkedIn, we’ve tried to unpick this hokey cokey.

Most of us would rather have a tooth extracted than have our photo taken. Turn the volume up with the pressure of a professional image and most run for the hills. Even fewer of us enjoy being seen as the big shot getting too big for our boots.

What’s more interesting is when you ask people what they think when they see a profile that doesn’t have a photo on it. We’ve done this with people in the room who don’t have a photo on their profile at the time. They are usually appalled to hear that viewers think they are half-hearted, incompetent, disorganised, scared or even hiding something.

So while no one wants to be the big shot, if you want to encourage people to work with you as clients, employees or even partners, it’s time to get out the brave pills.

Based on our research with a wide range of business people, most are looking to see what the person looks like in a work ­environment. A work environment. Not on holiday, not at a football match (bound to offend half the audience) and not at a ­wedding. At a formal occasion, you’re probably looking your best and there may be even be a professional photographer who takes a lovely shot of you. But it’s still a wedding shot and even with that button hole or flower cropped out, viewers will still know it’s not a work shot.

Slightly trickier is the photo that’s a ­decade out of date or worse, three stones ago. Viewers of your profile need to be able to recognise you as you are now, so unless you are planning major cosmetic surgery or winning Slimmer of the Year by next week maybe it’s time to consider updating your photo?

Words, as well as pictures, are important on your LinkedIn profile. Most people tend to think of LinkedIn as a place to post their CV but the chances are it’s not just recruiters you want to reach. Employees, potential employees, business partners and customers will also see your profile.

Is your profile and that of your company better than those of your main competitor who could be competing for your preferred candidates? What are the key words and phrases that would appeal, not just to recruiters, but also to your potential employees and customers?

While much of our social media work is helping people to build brands and promote reputations, we also use resources like LinkedIn to identify useful contacts for our clients and build business relationships. Recently we have been using LinkedIn to help a client find suppliers in a new area. Despite many of them being on LinkedIn, we’ve found these ­suppliers make it tricky for potential clients to contact them – back to the hokey cokey!

So finally, is it worth having contact details on your profile? Most people choose not to as they don’t want to be bombarded by recruiters. But can your contact details still be found via a Google search? If so, you might want to reconsider whether you have your details on your profile or not.

Go crazy and get a photo on your profile – maybe just not a crazy in love shot.

• Julie McLauchlan is managing director of ­Perceptive Communicators