Do you wish you could network with leaders at companies across the country? Have access to hundreds of job postings in your industry? You can, thanks to LinkedIn, the best networking opportunity available to anyone — no matter what their career level.
Here are some tips to build connections on LinkedIn:
Make Sure Your Profile Is Complete
Before you start reaching out, make sure that your profile is as complete as it can be. This means a professional photo (no kids, no cats), a complete resume and enough details that someone checking your profile knows what you have to offer.
No matter how new you are to LinkedIn, it’s important to make sure that you have a good start on your connections. Link with colleagues and former colleagues, previous bosses and any other professionals in your industry you can think of. Start with those you know well, and then later you can move on to growing your network. A lot of times it will happen organically; you link to someone, it shows up in their news feed and someone else reaches out to you.
Join and Participate in Groups
LinkedIn’s group feature is one of the best ways to meet people and expand your network. Join a few groups in your industry and make a point to read and comment on the discussions. When you make thoughtful comments, it establishes you as someone with valuable insight and makes you appealing to others to connect with. By being active in groups, the invitations will start coming in.
Join Complementary Groups
Besides just joining the obvious groups in your industry, think of complementary groups you may want to join. For example, if you are in marketing, make sure you join marketing groups to share best practices. But also join groups in industries where you work or want to work. For example, if you specialize in marketing to real estate companies, join real estate groups as well.
Utilize the News Feed
I recommend that you post something that will show up in your network’s news feed at least twice a week. This might be a status update on your latest project, or a news article pertinent to your industry. Also make sure to read through your news feed and comment on or share the content that others have posted. They will get an alert — validation everyone appreciates.
Make Note of Your Contacts’ Anniversaries and New Jobs
Sending a LinkedIn message is a great way to say congratulations. But don’t just use the default option. Your message will have more impact if you take the time to personalize it instead of just the “auto fill” that the form will take.
Find New Connections
Just as you hope that people will connect with you organically, do the same with them. Check out your connections’ connections to see if you have colleagues in common. You can do the same with groups; finding people whose posts or comments you admire. When connecting, make sure, again, to personalize your message to remind them where they know you. If it’s a group connection, make sure to add in a note mentioning that you appreciate their posts or comments and that you’d like to connect. This separates you from potential “spammers,” who might be sending invites to everyone in a particular group.
Should you connect with people you don’t know? Before answering, read this article by Alex Freund: Why Should You Connect on LinkedIn With People You Don’t Know?
Don’t Overlook the “Follow Companies” Feature
This allows you to get all the news that a company is sharing about itself, an invaluable resource for staying abreast of developments — whether they are clients, competitors or prospects. You can also follow “influencers,” from President Obama to the president of Future 500 companies. These luminaries regularly post commentaries and insights that you can in turn share with your own network.
Don’t Be Shy
Sometimes it can feel odd to invite a colleague or prospect you don’t know that well to connect, but the whole purpose of LinkedIn is to do exactly that. Everyone on there has joined for the same reason as you — to connect with other professionals and build their personal networks. While you shouldn’t spam entire groups or entire lists of your contacts’ contacts, inviting someone whose work you admire to connect is perfectly acceptable on LinkedIn.
Bottom line: LinkedIn is a gold mine of contacts and prospects from all over the globe. By being active, engaged — and even a little bold — you will find endless networking opportunism that will build your professional image and your career.
What’s the boldest maneuver you’ve ever made on LinkedIn?
by Cathie Ericson