I’ve been using LinkedIn for almost five years and I just hit 500 contacts this week. Since 2004, LinkedIn has evolved from a site I used occasionally into an invaluable resource I access several times a week. LinkedIn cut short my job search when I moved to Columbus three years ago, rocketing my resume right to the president of the midwest’s top PR agency. Understandably, I’m a fan.
In fact, LinkedIn is one of a handful of social media sites I recommend to everyone I meet. That said, I’m not into ”connection collection” just for the sake of numbers. For your LinkedIn network to be truly valuable to you and your contacts, you really do need to know the people to whom you’re connected.
I’ve collected a wealth of helpful articles and blog posts about LinkedIn here and I’ve shared my own favorite tips and tricks below. Before diving in, your LinkedIn profile should already be as complete as possible. Be sure to add a photo, links to your blog or company site, information about all of your past positions, and other interesting or relevant tidbits about you. Think of your profile not just as a resume on steroids, but as a way to seed search engines with positive content about you. For this reason, you’ll also want to activate your public profile. Ready to take it to the next level?
1. Add new contacts to your network. Add each new business contact you meet to your LinkedIn network. After every conference, networking event or new business meeting, I sit down with a stack of business cards and enter each name into LinkedIn. If they’re members, I invite them to connect. If they’re not yet on LinkedIn, I invite them to join my network. Either way, I always include a personal note reminding them where we met and why it would be good to link up. As long as you make your request relevant to the recipient in some way, they’ll likely accept.
2. Grow your network with existing contacts. Upload your contacts from work and personal mail programs (Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) to see if they’re on LinkedIn. Connect with those who are or invite those who aren’t. Also, connect with former colleagues and classmates using the LinkedIn search tools. I’ve recently reconnected with people I haven’t spoken to since college and it’s very fun. It’s good to check out the LinkedIn home page from time to time as well – occasionally it will suggest people you may know and I’m always amazed by how often it’s correct. Connect to those people too, but remember the personal note.
3. Find the network within your network. Peruse the connection lists of your LinkedIn contacts and look for hidden relationships you didn’t know existed. Make your connections accessible to others so your contacts can do the same with your contact list. We’re not talking about random adding here, but rather finding people whom you really do know or want to meet. If there are people on your contacts’ lists whom you don’t know but you’d like to meet them, ask your contacts for an introduction. It’s done all the time on LinkedIn and as long as you include a personal note about why you’d like to meet the person, things should go swimmingly.
4. Participate in the community. As with any other social network, what you get out of LinkedIn is directly a result of what you put into in. Go to the Q&A section on LinkedIn and ask or answer business-related questions. Thoughtful queries and responses position you as a leader within your network. If you do this enough, you’ll be flagged by LinkedIn as an expert which builds credibility for you and increases your visibility. You can also add content and value to the LinkedIn community by writing recommendations for those you’ve worked with and know well. In turn, be sure to ask for recommendations for your work from former managers, clients or colleagues.
5. Take a gander at Groups. Join an official LinkedIn Group to network with other like-minded souls, such as an alumni association, regional or industry-based networking group, etc. This is now easier than ever because LinkedIn just opened up a new Groups directory and search function. If you browse the LinkedIn groups and don’t find one that suits your interests or needs, it’s easy to create a group of your own – and then you have a reason to reach out to your LinkedIn network and invite them to join. My experience with LinkedIn groups is that the best ones meet in person for networking face to face as well as online.
6. Prep for important meetings. Before a big new business pitch or interview, find out who you’ll be meeting with and connect to them on LinkedIn. This allows you to get to know a little about them, find out what connections or interests you may share, and walk into the meeting with great conversation starters like “Can you believe we both went to school in NY and now live in Ohio” or something similar.
7. Merchandise your profile. If you’ve built an impressive profile which positively reflects your personal brand and professional expertise, put it to good use. Add it to your email signature file, include the link in your signature when leaving comments on blogs and discussion forums, and link to your LinkedIn from your own blog. All of these will help your LinkedIn profile to pop up in Google and other search engines.
Bonus step – lather, rinse and repeat all seven steps on a regular basis to be sure you’re getting the most out of this valuable tool. Hungry for more? Here are 100+ smart ways to use LinkedIn.
What are your favorite ways to use LinkedIn? Also, if we’re not connected, let’s link up.
If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to my blog via RSS feed or email.