this is the 5th post in a series about employee brand advocates. it’s a behind-the-scenes peek at how we identify employee advocates from their profiles.
how we identify employee advocates
what does the optimized profile of an employee advocate look like? how is it different from what the rest of us do?
in short, the advocate’s profile tells a clear, compelling story that appeals to the right audience and makes it easier for others to engage the person. want to know if your profile is optimized? here’s what to look for:
before analyzing any specific part of the profile, look at the profile overall, and ask the following questions:
- what problems does this person solve?
- who does this person serve?
- why would I reach out to this person (as opposed to someone else who solves the same problems for the same people)?
- how would I engage the person?
the advocate answers these questions clearly. ironically, unless you have really good self-awareness, it can be hard to look at a profile and answer these questions correctly, because your own biases color the way you see things in ways you don’t often realize, so we have to validate the impression we just got.
(this may sound a little odd, but it’s true! think about this example: you view two profiles of two different sales managers. the first believes he serves the firm’s clients, and his team is there to help him execute. the other believes she serves her team, and supports them as they serve the firm’s clients. same job, very different approaches. and the impact on company culture is also different—both are results focused, but the first guy is running a churn-and-burn operation while the woman is building a more sustainable team. their two LinkedIn profiles will be similar… would you know what to look at to spot the difference in their approaches?)
the validation process starts with an overall look at the profile:
- can I tell what the person’s current job is?
- can I tell what the person does for a living—can I figure out what skill(s) define this person’s career?
- is the person an executive? manager? contributor?
- does the person’s title, experience, and self-descriptions match?
- is the person working too hard to sell themselves?
- who is the profile written for? would a client feel good about seeing this profile? what about a manager or coworker?
- does the person’s job history tell a clear story? if there are breaks, is there a theme that connects the different pieces of the story? (e.g., a ballplayer who goes into sales may be redirecting the same competitive nature in a new way.)
- is the profile filled out? are there status updates? does the person have other social profiles?
- how many connections does the person have? is contact information provided?
you may not know exactly what you’re looking for at this stage, but sometimes, looking at the profile as a whole and asking critical questions of it can help discrepancies and questions come to light. for instance, imagine a profile for a salesperson that talks about having the most profitable book of business in the company. that may seem like a good thing to say, until you get to question #6 above and ask yourself, “if I were this person’s client, how would I feel about reading this?” probably not too good. having specific questions to ask yourself as you read a profile can help you make educated guesses about a person’s judgment, customer mindset, professional ambition, and technical aptitude.
in addition to highlighting discrepancies, this process also gives a sense for the person is and provides context for everything that’s about to follow. for instance, someone who has worked for a decade in business development at three different Fortune 500 companies should have a massive network—if we see later that the person only has 48 contacts, that’s a red flag. either they’re very private (in which case, how effective will they be in a position that requires nonstop networking?) or they’re not technically savvy (in which case, how effective will they be as their peers shift to online networking?). but if the person is a recent college graduate and has only 48 connections, that might be an entirely different story.
now we move on to the specifics:
- is the photo professional? not a head shot necessarily, but is it at least crisp and polished—is it cropped appropriately, with no other people in the frame, and well lit? is the person’s face clear enough that they’d be recognizable if they walked into the room? is the background non-distracting?an unpolished photo may feel like a small thing, and it may mean nothing more than the person isn’t adept with photo software, but the impact can be major. first impressions count, and this is the digital first impression!right or wrong, there are inferences people will make from a photo. a party photo may lead to the conclusion that it belongs to an extrovert who values relationships… or who lacks judgment (especially if there is alcohol visible in the photo). an extreme close up may be taken as a sign self-consciousness (what aren’t you showing us?!) or vanity (you thought the world would want to see you head that big?).
- is the photo positive? an imposing photo can be a signal of arrogance or haughtiness… or a power orientation. an overly friendly smile may signal a lack of political astuteness. basically, we want to know: when I look at this person’s photo, (a) do I want to call them, and (b) do I feel that I could?
# of connections
in 2010, I didn’t care how many connections people had. now I do. if you’ve been working for more than 5 years, you should have a few hundred connections, at least. and if you’re an executive, you should definitely have more than 500.
yes, there is some political trickiness to sending and accepting connection requests among leaders. but if you haven’t jumped in and started working through these issues for yourself, you’re behind the curve. the early adopters cracked this code years ago and are already onto the next thing.
summary / current experience
these sections are so helpful in understanding a person. this is where a person has carte blanche to write whatever they want about themselves. here’s what to look for:
- did the person skip it? given the chance to help frame their professional story for others, did they take it? a “no” suggests one of three things: either (1) they haven’t really thought about their career and goals enough to have an answer, (2) they don’t believe it’s right to talk about themselves, or (3) they don’t believe it’s important. the problem here is this: (1) not having an answer points to a lack of career-mindedness. (2) assumed humility points to a lack of understanding about how people make decisions, especially on social media. and (3) not believing it’s important shows a lack of understanding about the world in which we’re living. none of these options is good.
- did the person reiterate what’s on their résumé or cover letter? this suggests in-the-box thinking. the person may talk about creativity in the summary, but when given the chance to be creative, what did they do? they opted to copy an old format and apply it to a new medium.
- what’s the first thing the person mentions? is this subject repeated? the first thing people mention tends to be the thing they believe is most important. the same goes for repetition… we can’t help ourselves, if it’s important to us, we feel that we have to keep harping on it or else other people won’t get it. so if someone starts and ends with a comment about building relationships or networking, then no matter what else gets said in the summary about results, there’s a good chance that this person is going to focus on relationships above all else.
- does the person integrate company messaging? this profile belongs to one of 650 million professionals on the planet. did he think to leverage the strength of his team to stand out from those other 649,999,999 professionals? (if so, you’ve got an advocate, by the way!)
- is it too long? I had a high school teacher—female, btw, which is an important detail—who, when asked how long a term paper should be, replied, “it should be as long like a woman’s skirt: long enough to cover the subject, short enough to be interesting.” a summary that rambles on clearly tells you who’s #1 in this person’s life…
- is it well written? this point should be obvious but is often missed: when reviewing a summary or current experience section, you’re literally looking at a writing sample. this is a document that their clients, prospects, coworkers, bosses, and future bosses will all see, so presumably, they will have put their best efforts into it, too. is it any good?
- does it flow? compare these two statements: “I am responsible for growing revenues. I do this by ensuring excellent customer experiences, hiring, developing, and retaining the best sales talent, and maximizing our sales process efficiency.” versus “I am responsible for sales efficiency, talent acquisition, sales training, net promoter scores, customer satisfaction surveys, business development, and revenue growth.” the first flows and tells a story. the second doesn’t—it’s a list of disjointed responsibilities. the first person understands how the parts of her job fit together. she thinks strategically. that’s flow.
there are two things to watch for in previous experience:
- are transferable skills mentioned? do previous job descriptions highlight what the person did or learned that helps them be great today? or if they don’t, is the progression obvious from the job titles?
- how are gaps handled? were they filled with classes and education? are there recommendations post-gap? is there an over explanation? (btw, if you have a gap from around 2009, a quick tip: don’t worry. we were all there, too. I had one client who was very stressed about being out of work for 4 months at the end of 2008 and early 2009. after being laid off from one of the banks at the center of the meltdown. dude, chill: anyone who’s not willing to cut you a little slack from back then isn’t someone you want to be working with anyway!)
education is important. for many people, it’s the #1 criteria they use to validate a person. (never mind that ivy league schools graduate empty suits every year—that’s a different story.) when it comes to your education, own it. show what you’ve got and make the most of it. if it’s not your strong suit, then make sure the rest of your profile so compelling that no one cares about your education—or augment your LinkedIn profile with a killer blog or pinterest board or instagram account that draws people elsewhere. this isn’t a big factor in determining employee advocacy, but it can impact the person’s ability to reach others.
multimedia / publications
does the person (1) have materials that can add some character and color to what they do, and (2) do they have the technical aptitude to leverage it here?
as important as education is for them as individuals, that’s how important multimedia can be for advocacy!
is the person grounded? do they give back? are they connected to their community? there is something reassuring about a multifaceted professional: they tend to come across as more genuine.
there are some other things we look at, too, but nothing that’s going to move the needle as much as what I’ve already touched on.
my guess is, the first profile you’ll look at now is your own. remember to cut yourself some slack: this information comes a process that was the result of (1) a decade-long career doing executive assessments, (2) an extra 2-3 years experimenting with our own LinkedIn profiles, (3) surveys and questions given to 1,000′s of training participants, and (4) twenty years of study and work in interpersonal communications. I’m sure you’ve intuitively thought about many of these points, but unless you’ve had a similar career trajectory as me, then with the exception of the writing sample piece, there’s no reason to expect that you would have been able to articulate these points.
of course, now that we have, this is powerful stuff.
use it for good, people.
links to the whole series
age of the employee advocate (almost) | enabling employee advocacy | finding your employee advocates | creating opt-in advocates | what employee advocates look like on LinkedIn | would your company benefit from employee advocates | maximizing the social spend: profile optimization vs. status updates