LinkedIn is one of the best networking avenues out there. According to Jobvite’s 2014 Job Seeker Nation Study of 2,135 adults, 94% of recruiters are active on LinkedIn, but only 36% of job seekers are. And you don’t have to be a “job seeker” to benefit from the connections you make – whether it’s meeting recruiters, or anyone else. You never know what opportunities are out there until you open yourself up to them.
But most people don’t know how to make the most of the platform when they network using LinkedIn. They tend to slap up a profile, find a few connections from current or former colleagues and call it good. If you do that, you are missing out on so much great stuff LinkedIn has to offer.
Here are seven ways to up your networking savvy on LinkedIn:
1) Make Sure Your Profile Is Perfect
A LinkedIn profile is not a resume, so don’t just put yours up. Really make sure you are tailoring the information to what you most want people to know about you. Use complete sentences, and add in a little personality while you’re at it. Also, most people know this by now, but make sure your photo is both professional and focused. There’s no excuse for a bad LinkedIn photo!
2) Think Beyond the Obvious Connections
There’s no magic number you need for connections, and there’s a lot to be said for quality rather than quantity – in other words, be judicious about whom you connect with and make sure that it’s someone you know and respect. But once you’ve reached out to your current colleagues and the obvious choices, think beyond that to whom else might make a logical connection. Reach out to neighbors and friends, who might not even know exactly what it is you do. It could be that someone on their list is someone you are eager to meet.
3) Ask for Introductions the Right Way
It’s fine to check out your connections’ lists to see if they have reached out to connections that you might not have thought of, or even if they have someone you’ve been dying to meet. But if it is the latter, and you don’t know the person at all, see if your current connection can help bridge the invite. It can seem creepy to reach out to someone you don’t know and say “I saw you on so and so’s list.” Getting some background will make your outreach so much more meaningful. And, on that note, don’t use the “default” language that pops up when you are asked to send a connection invite. Take the time to customize it and mention how you know them or why you are hoping to connect.
4) Participate in Groups
Groups are one of the best ways to really get value out of LinkedIn because that is where you’ll meet professionals in your industry that you otherwise wouldn’t meet because of geography or hierarchy. Don’t just immediately post a bunch of articles the minute you join a group, but take the time to see how people interact. Once you’ve gotten a handle on the group dynamics, start participating with a comment on interesting posts. It’s vital to interact with the other members with useful advice or commentary – or a sincere question, of course. Once you’ve spent time on the forums you’ll find the members who seem to have something in common with you and that is the time to reach out to connect. (Again, remind them that you are in a group together in case they don’t recognize your name.)
There’s another little-known secret about fellow group members. Being in the same group allows you to bypass LinkedIn’s standard requirement that you have to be connected to someone in order to reach out to them with a message. If you and another professional are part of the same group, you can communicate even without connecting. (Though there’s probably no downside to just connecting!)
5) Don’t Immediately Ask for Business
You wouldn’t walk up to someone you didn’t know at a networking event and immediately ask them to do business with you! The etiquette is the same on LinkedIn. Make sure that you have developed a relationship with someone – whether it’s interacting in groups or emailing back and forth, so that asking for business, advice or a favor doesn’t seem completely out of the blue.
6) Check Out Who’s Checking You Out
Every so often look at the names of the professionals who have viewed your profile. If it’s someone with whom you’d like to connect, shoot them a note that says “I see you were looking at my profile. Wondering if there was a way I could help you professionally,” or something like that. Of course, we’ve all accidentally clicked on someone that we didn’t mean to, but even if that’s the case, they’ll probably just ignore your message. No reason to be embarrassed. But perhaps they are looking for someone with your expertise! Reaching out could get the ball rolling.
Tip: If you are clicking around checking out a wide variety of professionals, you can switch your setting to ‘anonymous’ if you don’t want people to know you’re looking. Of course, it can be strategically helpful for them to know…they might just look back at you and you can open a dialogue.
7) Post Regularly
Want to stay on your connections’ radars? Post at least a couple times a week in the newsfeed. You can either post an update on an interesting project you’re working on, mention an industry trade event you are attending or post an article of interest to your industry with a related comment. (Bonus points if you ‘share’ from someone else, as you are providing them with positive reinforcement and also sharing an article of value to your own network). And, as you scan the newsfeed make sure to comment on news that others have posted. Sometimes there’s very little interaction on newsfeed posts, so you can really stand out if you make a point of commenting.
LinkedIn has changed the way that we do business – there are now no geographic limits on whom you can meet or where your clients or virtual employer can be. Spending time networking on LinkedIn can be an investment in your career that will pay dividends for years to come!
by Cathie Ericson