Use the Right Bait

One of the key benefits of online networking is that even people who don’t know you can find you based on your profile and connect with you if you meet their current needs or interests. In order to have that be effective, you want to build a profile that’s written in the way people will be looking for you, not necessarily in the way you want to promote yourself. It’s essential to understand that in the online world, traditional “personal branding” rules don’t necessarily apply.

The key difference is that in the real world, your visibility is predominantly controlled by your physical presence, but in the online world, it’s largely determined by search and matching engines. If you want to be visible on the web, you have to “give the people what they want”. Your profile keywords is the place to do this, not to put whatever clever, catchy name you’ve come up with for what you do — save that for the free-form part of your profile. For example, you may call yourself a “sanitation technician”, but if the rest of the world thinks of you as a “janitor”, then “janitor” is what you need to put in your profile keywords. You don’t sell “pre-owned automobiles”, you sell “used cars”. You may also want to include several common variations or broader terms in there so you catch everyone. For example, you may want to list yourself as both a “journalist” and a “writer”, or as both an “athlete” and “figure skater”.

When you’re out there fishing for connections, you can’t just put a hook in front of them — you have to use the right bait.