Should You Position Yourself as a Generalist or Specialist on LinkedIn?

As we know, LinkedIn is a great platform for professionals everywhere to form new connections and network, stay updated on the latest industry news, find new opportunities and establish yourself as a thought leader in your niche.

Regardless of which field you belong to, there is one very important question that demands to be answered if you are going to optimise your LinkedIn presence and make the most of all that the social network has to offer. That is the question of Generalist Vs. Specialist.

Are you positioning yourself as someone who is a jack of all trades in your field or someone who specialises in one thing? Do you have a broad knowledge of several subject matters or do you have deep knowledge in one subject matter?

Whether you brand yourself as a generalist or a specialist will have a huge impact on your experience with LinkedIn as a professional, including the kind of connections you make and the opportunities that you come across.

So, which route should you take? Which is the smarter choice that can help you boost your career? Below, we take a look at the two options, their pros and cons, and when it is best to choose which. 

Generalist pros and cons 

Many LinkedIn users often take the generalist route, meaning that they don’t really specify the services that they can provide to their clients on their profile. They create a profile where they share their profession and the industry they belong to and use vague terms and phrases to describe what they do. In other words, they position themselves as an all-ranging professional in their field who can do whatever is required of them.

For example, someone may position themselves as simply a “financial advisor” or an “entrepreneur.” These are far too broad, and in most cases, users find that trying to be anything to all kinds of people makes it very hard to resonate and make an impact on the people (clients and connections) that matter.

Especially if you are in an industry with several niche areas, it may not be smart to position yourself as a generalist. Take digital marketing, for example: The industry has so many different areas and skills such as SEO, social media, email marketing, PPC, content marketing, mobile marketing, and more.

If you don’t specify clearly your niche and the services that you can offer, you are going to have a hard time gaining the trust of people and establishing yourself as an expert. I have found that since I made it clear in my profile that I specialise in LinkedIn marketing the inbound enquiries increased almost immediately and again when I specified that our niche areas are finance and law.

When should you position yourself as a generalist? 

Spreading yourself too thin may not always give you the results you are looking for but, at times, it may be the smarter choice. Often, it is suggested that you broaden your appeal by positioning yourself as a generalist when your authority on LinkedIn has increased significantly and you have made ample amounts of the right connections.

As your career or your business scales, you may want to expand your services or position yourself as an experienced industry expert who can be approached for a wide range of services.

Furthermore, generalists can pivot more easily and this is being demanded at an eve increasing rate in present times. They also adapt and learn easily and can bring a holistic perspective.

As new technologies such as automation and artificial intelligence change the workplace, companies will need more team members who have the flexibility to switch focus with ease, while building bridges across divisions and promoting larger company initiatives.

Specialist pros and cons 

Contrary to a generalist, positioning yourself as a specialist on LinkedIn means that you clearly specify the services that you can offer, your niche and the kinds of clients and connections that you are looking for.

Many LinkedIn experts recommend that professionals position themselves as a specialist because of the simple reason that it makes it easier for you to be found. And being found is the whole point of setting up a LinkedIn account, is it not? 

It helps you to make the right connections, find opportunities and help boost your career in many ways.

Think about it. When a prospective client or customer approaches you, most of the time, they come to you asking for a specific service or a specific problem that requires a solution. You hardly ever have a prospect that asks you to do everything for them.

So, it makes sense for you, as a professional, to position yourself as a specialist in certain services and niches on LinkedIn. Your headline comes to play here because this is the part of your profile that is most visible. In just 120 characters, you have to find a way to position yourself exactly the way you want.

When should you position yourself as a specialist?

Being very clear about your specialisations on LinkedIn can always work in your favour, no matter which industry you belong to or which stage of your career you are in. This is a great way of showing your connection, clients, and prospects exactly what you are capable of and how you can help them.

Because its members use the platform like a professional version of Google, it’s imperative that you make sure your LinkedIn profile has the types of keywords and search phrases your ideal audience would type into the site when looking for someone who provides your products or services.

For example, if you are CEO of a software company, don’t list your professional LinkedIn headline as “CEO, Company Name.”

Instead, it should read, “Software Solutions | Providing {Law Firm} with Innovative Solutions to their IT Requirements | X Services” and so on.

Also, niching down your profile is key – it helps set you apart by framing up your expertise in a way that appeals to your exact target client. People want to feel like you understand them and that you have industry-specific experience, insights and strategies as well.

I understand when a lot of small businesses get really worried about niching because they can say, “Oh, I can do everything” or “I can help anyone in any industry.” And whilst that may be true, the benefits to niching far outweigh just the client acquisition and the marketing side of things that really go deep into the roots of your business and how you can actually generate results.

So, while your product or service (in this case, software) might be something anyone can use, you don’t want to set yourself up that way on LinkedIn.

Why not? If you’re trying to be everything to everyone, you’ll be nobody to no one!

Instead, pick 2-3 target audiences or industry niches that you want to focus on, and rework your entire profile to appeal to those specific individual niches.

So the main reason that you want to niche or pick a specific target market or audience or industry that you focus your business on is that it really helps resonate your messaging. Build a stronger message for your target market. People want to work, especially now more than ever, with masters and experts in their specific niche field.

People take action based on specifics, they don’t take action based on passive things, you need a message that resonates strong enough even if it appeals to less people, it’ll appeal better to these people it does appeal to and give you a better chance of people actually wanting to talk to you on LinkedIn. And also means that when you reach out to people, there’s a higher chance that they are going to respond and engage with you on LinkedIn.

But that’s just for lead generation and your marketing. 

When you start dealing with a specific segment or specific problem, you’re now faced with the same issues, the same problems, the same kinds of things every day. Rather than trying to solve a new problem every single day, you’re starting to get a more refined with problems and as you deal with the same problems over and over you can start to solve them more efficiently, building really clean efficient processes that will help you scale up. 

For me, it’s go niche or go home!

Where do you stand on this?

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