In the new world of work, where people meet you online before they connect with you in person, your digital profile has become essential to career success: Making your virtual world brand match your real-world brand is critical.

If you had to choose one digital branding profile to work on, focus on your LinkedIn profile. Why? Because, in business, it's often the first place people go when they want to check you out.

And even if someone starts with a Google search, they'll likely end up at your LinkedIn profile because it's usually in the top 3 results Google displays. Therefore, having a stellar LinkedIn profile is not a nice-to-have; it's an essential personal branding tool.

And for marketers the bar is set high. People viewing your profile assume that if you can market a product you should be able to market yourself and that you are an expert in social media.

After people see your headshot and read your headline, viewers of your LinkedIn profile check out your summary. Your summary is what should pique their interest and make them want to learn more about you.

Here's the three-step process for creating an authentic, differentiated, and compelling summary.

Step 1: Create context

Before writing your summary...

  • Know your target audience—whom you are writing it for—and how you want them to feel after reading it.
  • Determine what you want readers to do once they have read it.
  • Finally, figure out what you want the summary to say.

Step 2: Collect content

Think of your content in terms of the categories described below. Then fill in the buckets.

  • Accomplishments: a sentence for each of the your most important accomplishments in terms of the value you create/created (for example: "Launched the first fully integrated social media campaign for our B2B products; built and led the marketing team with the greatest employee satisfaction and longevity in the organization...").
  • Values and passions: your operating principles (non-negotiables) and the things that move you (for example, innovation, creativity, collaboration, team sports, travel).
  • Strengths: the things you do better than anyone else (for example, "I inspire teams to exceed client expectations by focusing on a vision and shared mission." Or "I can persuade even the most dubious product manager of the importance of using social media tools such as Twitter and Pinterest").
  • Differentiation: things that help you stand out from other marketers (for example, "I like to challenge the status quo and say things in meetings that make people stop and think." Or, "I use my international expertise and passion for travel to design truly global advertising campaigns.").
  • Quantifiable facts: accomplishments with numbers (for example, "I climbed five of the tallest peaks; I lived in five countries and speak three languages; I implemented marketing campaigns that led to $500K of additional business with a 20% reduction in cost.")
  • Validation: quotes, awards, and accolades bestowed upon you (for example, "Graduated cum laude from the University of Massachusetts; named in the top 10 marketers to follow on Twitter.").

Step 3: Combine and connect

Now, decide whether you would like to write in the first-person or the third-person. Either is acceptable. It's your choice. Choose the style that feels right to you.

Then, kick off your summary with a provocative statement, headline, or question.

Next, weave elements from the categories above into a compelling narrative that touts what makes you great. Combine content from the different categories throughout your summary to make it more interesting.

Finally, close with a call to action.

Bonus Step: Use nontext media

After you upload your new summary to LinkedIn, bolster the text content with multimedia.

LinkedIn allows you to add video, pictures and documents to your summary to reinforce your words, providing even more proof, depth, and meaning to your story.

See these five examples of compelling profiles

Here are five LinkedIn profiles of marketers I think are really compelling. (Credit and disclosure: these profiles were identified by Reach (my company) Certified Social Branding Analysts Anne Pryor, Deb Dib, and Randi Bussin).

  1. Samuel Usem: Marketing Evangelist at Blue Earth Interactive | Web Development | Custom Software | Web Based Applications
  2. Stephanie Solakian Goldstein: Marketing & Client Development Executive—Professional Services Firms | Published Author | Team & Community Leader
  3. Joao M. Rocco: Brand Strategy & customer experience Management, VP Global Luxury & Upscale Brands at Accor—Branding through People
  4. Doug Dib: Catalyzing Innovation and ROI in Professional Services Marketing and Business Development
  5. R. L. "Kirk" Kirkpatrick: Interactive + Multi-channel Marketing Strategist | helping entrepreneurs find passionate customers

* * *

Now, it's your turn.

Will your summary get you noticed and make people want to get to know you?

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Three Steps to Writing a Stellar LinkedIn Profile Summary

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image of William Arruda

William Arruda is a personal branding pioneer, the founder and CEO of Reach Personal Branding, and the author of Ditch. Dare. Do! 3D Personal Branding for Executives.

Twitter: @williamarruda

LinkedIn: William Arruda