First or Third Person: Which Voice is Right for LinkedIn?

First or Third Person: Which voice is Right for LinkedIn? Imagine for a moment that by-lined articles (like the one you’re reading right now) and blogs were written in the third person rather than the first.

They would probably read a little something like this:

“If your company is struggling with lead generation or sales team productivity, Kendra Lee has some advice for you: embrace and implement the client attraction strategies that she details in her new book, ‘The Sales Magnet.’ If you do that, Lee thinks you could get more customers more effectively – without having to rely solely on cold calling.”

Sounds awkward, right? And maybe a little self-absorbed?

The whole purpose of a blog or a by-lined article, after all, is to clearly articulate your voice, share your insight, and directly state your opinions. It’s a medium for displaying personality, thought leadership, and idiosyncrasy. Which is why, of course, blogs and by-lined business articles are most often composed in the first person.

With that said, there are instances in which writing in the third person makes sense. Like, for example, your LinkedIn profile.

The reason is simple: If you write those narratives in first person, it can make you sound boastful. The bio often becomes all about you – what you’ve done, how awesome you are, which awards you’ve won, etc. – and it comes off as pitchy or salesy. That tone will turn off the potential prospects, partners, or employers who might be viewing your LinkedIn profile and make them wonder if they really want to do business with you.

Now, that’s not to say that you should put potential or current connections to sleep with dry, robotic prose, either.

Third person narrative doesn’t have to be boring, particularly if you keep these three tips in mind as you write (or re-write) your LinkedIn profile:

  • Be Fun and Engaging: Even in the third person, you can write the text of your profile in a fun, interesting way. For example, you might include a fun fact about yourself that people wouldn’t know unless they asked you about it (i.e., “And John makes a mean chocolate chip cookie – when he’s not flying down a mountain on a pair of skis in Colorado.”)
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Highlight Your Strengths: Some people argue that writing about your accomplishments, skills, and capabilities in the third person creates a disconnect between you and the reader. For business executives and sales leaders, however, I think the opposite is true. By highlighting your unique lead generation techniques, or talking in-depth about how you’ve helped clients with real business issues using the third person, you tend to sound more credible. And that isn’t going to create a disconnect – it’s going to allow you to pull connections in.
  • Speak Directly to the People You Want to Engage: Composing your profile in a way that generically describes what you do will hurt your ability to attract the type of people that you really want to connect with. Instead, focus on the accomplishments, skills, and activities that matter to your customers, partners, vendors, or business partners. And (hate to sound repetitive) do it in the third person. That will make your bio read more like an objective testimonial than subjective boasting.

The bottom line is that the voice you use for your LinkedIn profile is somewhat context dependent. If you’re a PR person, speaker, or well-known personality, you might be able to get away with the first person. But if you’re a business executive or sales person who wants to convey professionalism and personality (without sounding arrogant), the third person is the way to go.

After all, this is your career we’re talking about, and LinkedIn isn’t Facebook. Employers and clients look at LinkedIn as a screening tool. If you’re tool boastful or casual, I believe it will hurt you.

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