this is the 3rd post in a series about employee brand advocacy. it looks at what we found when we looked up the LinkedIn profiles of 250 employees at 25 of the Best Companies to Work For.
what we were looking for in employee profiles
can you really tell by looking at someone’s LinkedIn profile how committed they are to their employer?
yes, I think we can.
after nearly 2 decades working at the intersection of professional communication and online technology, I’ve noticed a few trends that separate advocates from their more “free agent”-minded peers.
but that’s all a story for another day.
today, let’s focus on what happened when we looked up the top 25 Best Companies to Work For and pulled those first 10 profiles from each. I’ve broken this up into two parts: first, the results. and second, how we got those results.
by the way: we were not looking for message alignment in this stage, only how well people do at presenting themselves. I’ll review professional/company message alignment in my next post. for now, let’s take a look at how people do self-advocating with a positive, professional, and attractive profile.
what we found
when it comes to LinkedIn, people are not very good at making a good first impression.
too many people fall into one of two camps: they either don’t engage, or they self-promote. neither option does a person any good. self-promotion is smarmy. not engaging is like being a wall-flower. if we were talking about a live networking event as opposed to a digital networking site, I think we’d have 100% agreement that those two extremes are to be avoided. but online? people flock to them—even people from companies that do a great job supporting people for being who they are.
a few numbers:
overall, professionals earned 40% of the points we made available to them. here’s the breakdown:
- 55% had a “good” photo
- 52% had a “good” headline
- 49% got the little things right (see “but wait, there’s more!” below to see what was included)
- 23% made strong use of the summary field
- 17% made strong use of the current experience field
- the best scoring company’s employees earned an average of 59% of available points
- the lowest scoring company’s employees earned an average of 25% of available points
clearly, there is massive room for improvement.
the current experience and summary numbers are particularly disappointing. the scores suggest that people don’t know how to effectively communicate what they do… at least in this forum. but given how often people are turning to LinkedIn to research the people they do business with, letting people know who and what you are is a critical communication skill now for all professionals.
more than anything, these results show that “LinkedIn training” as companies do it is too surface level to be effective. it’s helping professionals understand the features of the platform, but it’s not helping them tell a story that matters.
where the results came from
we scored each profile according to the following areas. scores were weighted, so not every section is worth the same.
we asked ourselves two questions.
- is the photo professional?
professional ≠ “headshot.” we’re big fans of candids! and often, candids do better in conveying positivity.
but whether it’s a candid or staged, the key is to make sure that the photo is well done, sized right, and cropped neatly. this prevents visitors from becoming distracted by the photo’s background.
- is the photo positive?
as well as asking if the photo is professional, we ask if it’s is positive.
a haughty, holier-than-thou expression can wreck a profile. so can an overly timid or bored one. (unfortunately, we saw both.)
for more about photos, there is a post on LinkedIn’s talent blog about a profile photo experiment I ran a little while back.
this is the first description of what you do that people see. in some cases (like if you show up in search results), it’s the only description people see. so we asked:
- does the headline explain what the person does?
there are certain titles that are pretty much useless in terms of giving people context for what you do. (is there a banking vice president in the house?) we looked at whether we understood at a glance the problems the person solves.
note that we did go the extra step to learn about specialized titles, like “community manager,” which has a clear meaning within the real estate/property management industry despite being jargon to outsiders. we gave credit for titles that would be clear to clients and coworkers, even if they’d be jibberish to outsiders.
- is it customized?
LinkedIn creates a default headline for people that includes the job title of their current position with the name of the company where they work.
I’m not sure it’s important that everyone customize their headlines—I’d be hard pressed to come up with a reason why the ceo of McDonald’s would need anything other than his title and company. (though would it kill you, Mr. Skinner, to have an admin fill out your profile a little bit?)
but when customization is important, it’s important. people with generic titles at lesser known organizations (I’m looking at you, banking vice presidents) may benefit from offering something more than a title in their headline.
very important, and as the data shows, incredibly underutilized. the summary is 2,000 characters of open space where a person has carte blanche to write whatever they want about themselves. talk about a gimme…
- is it written for clients?
points were deducted from profiles that were focused on self-promotion or getting the person recruited into their next job. sales people talking about how they have the most profitable book of business in the department? probably not what they want their clients seeing.
- does it include job tags?
job tags, specialties… whatever you call them, we wanted to see them. these are helpful in giving people (and search engines!) an idea of what you can do at the detail level, without a lot of extra words.
- is the summary written in the first person?
3rd person bios may have worked in the era of the marketing-written press release, but online, it registers as somewhere between aloof and technically unaware. there is an intimacy missing. and while that in itself wouldn’t make a profile bad, when we’ve had classrooms of people choose between two well-matched profiles, the first person one would nearly always win. (aside: have you run an experiment on this? if so, I’d love to know how it turned out!)
but wait, there’s more!
in addition to the above, we also tracked how people used the following:
- the use of multimedia in the profile
- the inclusion of a vanity URL
- explicit mention of being a Best Place to Work
- explicit or implicit mention of being a great place to work (ie, description of a great culture)
- number of connections (in 2013, in a world where LinkedIn has become the de facto business networking tool, it’s reasonable to assume that anyone with the power to advocate for their company is going to have a large network.)
a note on methodology
LinkedIn dynamically generates search results, so my team all worked from my results in order to keep things consistent. these people were the actual list I’d've seen and looked up if I were researching what these company were like.
when working with clients, we’re more surgical in selecting people, plus we grab a big enough sample to be statistically significant. this wasn’t about doing a deep dive on each company. it was about doing a gut check.
next up, we put people and companies together to look at how much consistency there is in their messaging.
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