Personal branding is getting a lot of attention these days. Corporations spend millions (or hundreds of millions) of dollars to create brands that help differentiate them from their competitors. But corporations aren’t the only entities with brands — people have brands, too.

Ralph Lauren, Eric Schmidt (from Google) and Bill Gates all leverage their personal brands for the benefit of their respective corporations. In fact, if you think about each of these individuals, you can come up with words or images you associate with them.

Ralph Lauren might have classic and sophisticated associated with his personal brand. Eric Schmidt might have smart and forward-thinking associated with his personal brand. And Bill Gates might have brains and charity associated with his personal brand.

When you have a personal brand, it helps you stand out from others. It’s true that Ralph Lauren, Eric Schmidt and Bill Gates each have public relations executives working around the clock to help them with their brands which puts them at a competitive advantage. But with LinkedIn, you can use a very powerful tool to do your personal branding work for you.

How to Use LinkedIn as Your Personal Branding Tool. The first step towards creating a personal brand on LinkedIn is to fine-tune what  your personal brand is. To do that, let’s do an exercise — write down 20 attributes that are part of who you are.

The first 5 or 10 will be easy to come up with because they’ll be top-of-mind. The remaining attributes are going to be a little harder because they won’t be top-of-mind. But after a while, you’ll get the hang of it.

Try to be as specific as you can be with your attributes. Don’t just write down tennis player or accountant. Instead, write down “top-ranked tennis player at the Houston Racket Club in 2012” or “personal tax specialist in Atlanta’s largest independent accounting firm.”

Go ahead and really do this. Grab a sheet of paper and, down the left-hand side, write down your attributes. (Leave space on the right hand side for something we’ll do later.)

The second half of the exercise is to identify who your target market is. Is it someone who might hire you as an employee? Someone who might bring you on as a consultant? Or perhaps it’s someone who is scanning LinkedIn for volunteers at their non-profit.

Next, I’d like you to get inside the mind of your target market and figure out what their wants and needs are. If they’re a prospective employer, they want and need a well-educated, responsible and enthusiastic employee. If they’re a person recruiting volunteers for overseas charitable work, they’re looking for hard-working, caring and devoted volunteers.

Once you’ve done that, grab a pen and write down the 5 wants and needs of the people in your target market on the right hand side of the paper we used in the first part of the exercise. Now go back and see which of your 20 attributes match up to the five wants and needs of your target market.

In some cases, several of your 20 attributes might match up with a single one of your wants and needs. For example, if an HR director is looking for someone who is hard working, that might match up with the fact that you started a business 10 years ago and that you volunteered at a non-profit. So, go through and match your 20 attributes to your target market’s wants and needs.

There will be times when you have an attribute that doesn’t match a want or need. If you wrote down “I was a cartoonist in high school” or “I played drums in middle school,” you probably don’t need to connect those attributes to a want or a need. But if you wrote down “I volunteered to build houses for Habitat for Humanity” and your target market is someone looking for volunteers for the American Red Cross, then that’s a pretty good match.

Our next step is turning your matched attributes into something called a keyword phrase. A keyword phrase gives a quick snapshot of your personal brand to the person viewing your LinkedIn Profile.

We’ve included some example attributes and their accompanying keyword phrases below. This should give you a sense of how to convert your matched attributes to words or phrases that can be used in places (like LinkedIn) where you’re trying to establish your personal brand.

As you can see in the examples above, when you translate your attributes into keyword phrases, they get a little more sizzle and do a good job of portraying you in your best light.

Now it’s time to go to your LinkedIn profile and update what you have in there so it matches your attributes and keyword phrases. Ideally, you’ll take your 3 or 4 best keyword phrases and drop them into your headline.

Here’s a LinkedIn Power Use tip — to get more bang for your buck on your headline, put bars like this | or bullets like this • between your keyword phrases. That separates them from each other and makes them easier to read.

Also, don’t forget to add a red Turner Box around your profile photo. The human eye notices the color red more than any other color, so a red Turner Box can help your profile stand out from the rest. (For more tips on how to LinkedIn for business, read 5 New Ways You Can Use LinkedIn to Grow Your Business.)

You can see what I’ve done below with my LinkedIn profile.

What follows are some additional tips on how to showcase your personal brand on LinkedIn. Read through them and give some thought on whether or not you’re actually executing each of these:

  1. Ask others to review your LinkedIn profile. Your headline is your brand’s tag line. It’s the first — and possibly only — description of you that many people will see, so make it count. Ask several people you know to offer constructive criticism on your headline.
  1. Be genuine. The best personal brands are genuine and honest both in person and online. If your personal brand includes a balance between your 3.7 GPA in accounting and your friendly personality, your LinkedIn profile can include both your technical credentials and the fact that you belong to several networking groups. You can also ask former and current colleagues to write LinkedIn recommendations highlighting this combination.
  1. Match your LinkedIn profile to your resume. Make sure your LinkedIn headline, summary and all other elements of your personal brand are consistent. While you can go into more extensive detail on LinkedIn and perhaps be a bit more personal on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter, all of your job titles, dates of employment and specific accomplishments need to match up everywhere they appear.
  1. Share your expertise in LinkedIn Groups. The Groups you join on LinkedIn contribute to your personal brand by indicating where your interests and skills lie. For example, if you want your brand to include a strong knowledge of manufacturing in China, then people will expect your profile to feature groups related to Chinese manufacturing. Inside these Groups, you can also showcase your brand though your activity. Every comment you post and question you answer is an opportunity to market yourself and your skills and to build your brand.
  1. Give generously. Finally, helping others is a crucial — and enjoyable — way to build your personal brand. Give advice, volunteer your skills, share client leads, write recommendations, agree to informational interviews and congratulate people on their successes. When people know they can rely on you, they remember you and recommend you to others.

We’ve covered a lot of ground here, so let’s do a quick recap. We discussed what a personal brand is and why it’s important. Then, we talked about how to match your personal brand attributes to the wants and needs of your target market. And then we discussed how to showcase your personal brand on LinkedIn.

What follows are the action steps we’ve discussed so you can have a handy cheat sheet with your next steps:

  1. Write down your list of attributes. You’re a wonderful person. Really, you are. So write down all those qualities on a sheet of paper.
  2. Create a list of your target market’s 5 most important wants and needs. By understanding what your target market is looking for, you’ll be able to match it up to the attributes that are part of your personal brand.
  3. Include your attributes in your profile. Once you have your attributes, see which ones sync up with the wants and needs of your target market. Those attributes will be the foundation for the keyword phrases you’ll use in your Profile.

I hope that helps you get a head start on using LinkedIn to create your personal brand. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below.

Jamie Turner is the CEO of social media and mobile marketing firm 60 Second Communications and is the Founder of the 60 Second Marketer.  He is the co-author of “How to Make Money with Social Media” and “Go Mobile” and is a popular marketing speaker at events, trade shows and corporations around the globe.