Over the course of my practice, I have found it necessary to clearly delineate between one’s LinkedIn profile and LinkedIn presence.  The two terms are used interchangeably, but are notably different.

Let’s start with their respective definitions:

Your LinkedIn profile is your point of access on the site. It is an electronic document warehousing your current professional information, showcasing your career history and highlighting your skill sets. More than just a chronicle of your accomplishments, it is a declaration of your unique brand promise, framed in a linear narrative and advanced through recommendations from clients and colleagues. The impact of your LinkedIn profile correlates to the energy, depth and consistency of your content. Good content is, in fact, good storytelling, strategically crafted to elevate you and your service offerings in the minds of those with whom you wish to engage. Your LinkedIn profile ought to motivate visitors (corporate decision-makers, economic buyers, potential strategic alliances, recruiters, hiring managers, etc.) to learn more about you. Establishing a first degree connection on LinkedIn with these individuals is a necessary first stage in the successful realization of any desired outcome.

Your LinkedIn presence emanates from and includes your LinkedIn profile and represents the measure of conscious awareness you create within the LinkedIn ecosystem. It is determined by the persuasive pull of your LinkedIn profile, your collective activity in the LinkedIn interactive forums (groups, email, InMail, LinkedIn Answers, Polls, etc.) and the frequency with which you are noticed in the update stream and in other LinkedIn user’s networks. In other words, your LinkedIn presence is the extent to which you are recognized by others and the strength of the impression you make. Presence on the site is also inexorably tied to metrics. By viewing the number of profile hits you receive, how many times you surface in internal LinkedIn searches and how many people extend invitations to connect with you, you can estimate your reach on the site. On LinkedIn, you literally exist as a vapor, randomly seeping into and out of people’s perception.

The two entities operate in tandem. Whereas you can increase the strength of your LinkedIn profile, your LinkedIn presence is determined by the size of your LinkedIn footprint. Your presence gives you coverage on the site and hints at a persona. Your profile is what makes you palpable.

Consider the following as effective guidelines for distinguishing between LinkedIn profile and LinkedIn presence and how they intertwine to work in your favor:

Craft an Impelling LinkedIn Profile

Certainly, the assembly of a well-organized LinkedIn profile—one that really sells you and is optimized for maximum visibility—is crucial before you step out on LinkedIn. I’m always amused by my colleagues who write and cite that “crafting a compelling LinkedIn profile” is the first step in maximizing your outcomes on the site. If only it were that easy. A good story certainly compels, but how do we stir others to action with mere text? I believe that “impelling” is a better word choice.  To impel connotes motion—and that’s what you want. Impelling content is theater of the mind. It rivets to the emotional center of the reader’s brain and catalyzes action.  A LinkedIn profile impels through language and converts idle glances into kinetic energy, as if forcing others to take next steps and investigate you further. Keyword density and SEO strategy notwithstanding, your message is what will drive the engagement.

Self-Classify as a LinkedIn Power User

LinkedIn presence can be deceiving. People are quick to attach the term “LinkedIn power user” to those who have amassed huge networks, keep their browsers open constantly and are perceived to have advanced knowledge of LinkedIn. They may be using the site regularly, and you may see them on your home page all the time, but what value, if any, are they contributing to their professional community? Sending out depersonalized, default LinkedIn invitations by the bucketful does not constitute power use. A strong LinkedIn presence is tied to authenticity, contributing value and nurturing your network.

Additionally, power describes the control of force behind achievement and success. Many of these so-called power users have poorly-developed LinkedIn profiles with scant content and no photo. So where’s the power? They also care more about the quantity—not the quality—of their connections and do not proactively leverage them for mutual gain. Don’t compare yourself to these folks. Supply your own definition of power user. In the time you’ve allotted for your LinkedIn work, strive to be a conscientious communicator who respects the interactive space, operates with integrity and sensitivity, and takes an interest in the welfare of the professionals who comprise your network. That, my friends, is power.

Your power comes from within. You know this. Exert it to the level that you can.

Incorporate the LinkedIn Habit and Change your Behavior

More and more people are realizing that regular use of LinkedIn has its benefits, yet they are not willing to put in the time and effort to do it. Those who confess to me that they are not extracting benefit from the site are simply not working it, period. For whatever reason, they have not incorporated LinkedIn into their system of beliefs or refuse to pay it even a modicum of attention. The moment you budge from your comfort zone and attach value to your LinkedIn activity, things change. The point at which you realize that LinkedIn is an engine of opportunity and not a time-suck, you are enlightened. The first positive outcome that arises solely out of a LinkedIn experience, you have arrived.

Establishing a formidable presence on LinkedIn does not happen overnight. But the more you explore, participate and reach out to others, the more ingrained the habit—and the longer and wider your LinkedIn footprint—becomes. Step up your involvement in the LinkedIn groups. Reach out to colleagues with whom you haven’t exchanged pleasantries in a while. Like, comment and share. Include your LinkedIn profile URL in everything you circulate. Learn to love your headshot. It is the cornerstone of your LinkedIn presence. Do something every day on the site that will give you appearance and foster a sense of community. Forge your cybertrail.

Parting Thoughts: Your attention to detail—with respect to both profile and presence—will have far-reaching implications on the extent to which you will be received on LinkedIn and your ability to show tangible, real world business results. Should a connection ever mention to you, “Man, I am seeing you all over the place on LinkedIn,” then you will know that you are doing something right.

About the author

J.D. Gershbein

©2014 by J.D. Gershbein. All Rights Reserved. Since 2006, JD Gershbein, CEO of Owlish Communications, has helped advance the collective awareness of LinkedIn and inspired opportunity-oriented professionals in all walks of business to step up and achieve on the site. His message fuses LinkedIn profile optimization, personal branding, respect-based social networking, marketing communication strategy and classical business development techniques with neuroscience and psychology. J.D. is one of the world's top scholars on LinkedIn, a globally acclaimed speaker and frequent media contributor on social business strategy. He is also adjunct professor of marketing communications at the Illinois Institute of Technology's Stuart Graduate School of Business, where he is advancing social media marketing as an accredited field of study. His book “The LinkedIn Edge: Creating a Psychological Advantage in Social Business” is due out in summer 2014. Get more LinkedIn wisdom when you subscribe to JD's blog. You are welcome to connect with JD on Google+, Twitter and of course,LinkedIn


8 Responses to “Your LinkedIn Profile vs. Your LinkedIn Presence”

  • Thanks for pointing this out, JD. It's a good reminder that a good profile is far from a good presence, which is what really interests us. People want to meet interesting people, not interesting profiles!

  • Hi, just wanted to say, I liked this blog post. It was funny. Keep on posting!45s64d5f4sd4f6

  • john curtis says:

    very much agree with this double identity presence. and the wanting to meet and link with interesting people. My contacts and groups are varied and often find myself crossing paths and contacts that did not know about my interests, company and experiences ! another great reminder !

  • valuable information...thank you for further defining best uses and maximizing the opportunity to engage.

  • Gina Sisti says:

    J. D., thank you for an article that explains the WHY of LinkedIn and motivating us who want to grow our business to keep at it! Gina Sisti Licensed Real Estate Associate Broker Southern Westchester County, New York Julia B. Fee/Sothebys International Realty Scarsdale Office

  • @Gina: Thank you for your kind words. That's what I do.

  • Hi, a short Thank You note for providing this most valuable insight - much appreciated.

  • Sue Melin says:

    Yes, this is so true. Your online presence is vital, and without it, your profile, however great, doesn't stand a chance of getting noticed. Great post.