Building relationships and managing networks of contacts is critical to growing your business, and with social media, networking has entered a whole new realm. Following on from my recent article How To Optimise Your Linkedin Profile, is this article on how to use Linkedin as a key networking platform.
- Connecting on LinkedIn:
Now that you have a professional LinkedIn profile, it’s time to start connecting. The easy part is connecting with friends, colleagues, business partners and fellow alumni, however the real challenge is to network with prospective clients, or likeminded individuals. Here are some points to consider, ensuring an individual accepts your LinkedIn Connection Request:
- Personalise The Request: One mistake of would-be LinkedIn connectors, is not typing in an actual, original message. Do NOT use the pre-set: “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” as you will most likely be deleted. Say something of interest, and demonstrate you’ve taken the time to look over their profile and understand who the person is.
- State Your Reason To Connect: You can be productive when asking someone to connect: “I heard you speak last week at an event and I have some ideas I’d like to share with you. Could I connect with you to send you a quick email about my idea?” This way you have stated why you want to connect, and recognised the connection’s skills in the process.
- Provide a Reference Outside of LinkedIn: If you were trying the above approach to request a connection, you could also magnify it as such: “I heard you speak last week at an event and I have some ideas I’d like to share with you. Could I connect with you to send you a quick email about my idea? If not, here’s my email just in case: (insert email).” This approach could see you gaining more mileage, and dramatically up your chances of having your connection request accepted, especially by providing a website (if applicable) so the person can look you up before accepting your request.
Accepting and Rejecting You Own LinkedIn Invitations to Connect:
When someone sends you an invitation to connect, there are several things to look for in deciding whether to accept. There are always exceptions to these guidelines, but as a general rule:
Accept The Invitation If:
- The person is someone you admire, trust, have a professional relationship with, or would like to know better.
- You don’t know this person, but after reviewing their profile you see that you have something in common.
- Their work experience or current work intrigues you.
- This person shares connections with you that are valuable and credible to you.
- You are willing to network with this person going forward, as you see mutual opportunities to benefit.
- They have reviewed your profile and personalised the invitation to connect.
Ignore (reject) The Invitation If:
- You have had a negative experience with this person in the past, or do not want to know them going forward.
- After reviewing their profile, you see nothing in common with your career aspirations.
- You suspect they are trying to accumulate connections without much thought.
- This person has not viewed your profile, and is only trying to grow connections.
- Their profile is not professional, there is no photograph and their background has no work experience.
- Using LinkedIn Endorsements:
When viewing your connected profiles on LinkedIn, a large blue pop-up box will appear at the very top of their profile suggesting the skills you can endorse this person for, and vice versa. As a LinkedIn user, you can only give endorsements to those on the network that you are directly connected to, and you can only award endorsements if you are logged into your own account.
So how can you make this work for you?
- Add Your Own Personal Skills: In order for others to endorse your skills, you first need to add those skills to your profile. In Edit Profile mode, you’ll see the Skills area to click through. As you enter your skills into the box, it will give you a choice of those already listed for you to pick from, or you can additional skills as required.
- Endorse and Be Endorsed: When someone views your profile, or you view the profile of one of your connections, you’re offered the opportunity to endorse that person for the skills they have added to their own profile. The skills you choose to endorse are added to their profile with your thumbnail image of you and the person will be notified. If you don’t want to endorse your connection for a particular skill listed in this window, simply click the X on the skill you wish to remove.
- Get More Endorsements: It’s important to get endorsements, as anyone looking at your profile and comparing you to your competition will see them. Endorsements create an instant overview that is easy to compare with your competition. Obviously, you want to look the best. By ensuring you are endorsing your connections’ skills, you will find people with return the favour to your profile.
- Hiding Endorsements: You also have the option to hide your endorsements from your public profile by clicking on the arrow of the particular skill on the far right, however there really isn’t any reason to do this, as it cannot be reversed. Ultimately, you have the opportunity of not accepting endorsements, by using your notifications effectively (see below). This is a much more effective way of managing the process.
- Managing Your Notifications: When a connection endorses your skills, you are notified via a daily email. From an etiquette point of view, consider sending back a message of thanks to show that you appreciate the gesture, which will assist in building your relationships with that connection. You can do this from your skills area, by choosing the person from their thumbnail photo and clicking Send Message.
- Adding More ‘Unlisted’ Skills: You may also find that someone wants to endorse you for a skill that you don’t have listed on your profile, and vice versa. Again, you have the choice whether to accept that endorsement or not, and if you don’t want to accept it, simply click the X on the skill you don’t want to add.
The endorsements feature is a very easy way to endorse the skills of others and continue to build on your professional relationships. Taking a small amount of time to perform these gestures becomes a very positive way to promote not only your personal brand, but also the brands of your connections.
- Delivering Valuable Content:
You’ve set up your “100% complete” profile on LinkedIn, connected with most of your colleagues and begun building new connections. The next step to using LinkedIn like a professional is staying updated on information, and delivering your own content to share with connections. You can accomplish this through status updates, and here are some specific reasons as to why you need to start posting content on a regular basis:
- Stay at the Forefront of Your Connections Mind: You don’t email or call your entire contact list everyday, and that’s perfectly normal. However, unlike conventional email, posting to LinkedIn is a way of touching base with your contacts more frequently, however allows people to choose whether to engage with your updates so they won’t get annoyed. Remember, your connections can’t see content that you don’t post, so stay in the conversation, and you’ll have more chance of recognition when business opportunities arise.
- Communicate on the Right Platform: As we see the rise and fall of other social communication channels, LinkedIn is continually growing, with over 200 million registered users, who are using the tool on a very regular basis. As an individual or a business, it’s more important than ever to be where they are, and your best chance for engaging your connections, is by posting valuable content.
- The Difference Between You or Your Competitors: Competition is fierce, and being part of the right conversation ensures you are making the most of every opportunity to convince your connections that you’re the person they should be doing business with.
- Build Credibility and Trust: People associate and do business with people they know and trust. The more quality content you can provide, the more trust you build with your connections. It’s important to remember that the content you share shouldn’t be all about your interests, and you should be posting content that your “audience” cares about.
- Grow Organically: By posting consistent and valuable content, you are giving people more opportunity to engage with ‘Likes, Comments and Shares’. The more content you post, the more your name and professional reputation will be spread on the LinkedIn platform. Remember this works both ways, and you should engage with content delivered from your connections if you have received value form their information.
- Informative versus Annoying: Since the creation of Social Media, it has become a frequently asked question: How often do I post content? You want to provide value, but don’t want to go overboard. Where’s the fine line? And exactly how fine is it? LinkedIn statistics suggest: 1 Post per weekday (20 per month) is the maximum any user should deliver to connections.
- Growing your Personal and Company Brand: Marketing is no longer the responsibility of one person or department, with clients and customers now having the ability to be instant reporters on our brands. Every employee has the ability to become a brand advocate, and if you are struggling to find content to post, why not share some of your company’s information, and rejoice in both personal and brand growth in the process.