Making new professional connections can be very time-consuming, especially if you are in a remote area or work in a highly-specialised field.
With online platforms like LinkedIn, the networking landscape is changing and you don’t always have to attend an in-person event to meet new contacts. The beauty of LinkedIn is that you can connect with professionals from all over the world, whether they are inside, or outside, your own organisation or industry, and interact with them digitally.
The following tips will help you reap the benefits of LinkedIn and increase your network of connections and give you ways to continue this genuinely and authentically, in a way that looks and feels very personal.
Polish your profile
Just as you would take care with your appearance before an important meeting, take the time to review your profile to make certain it gives others the right impression. Use a clear, high-resolution headshot for your profile photo, update your experience, education and background so all information is current.
It is crucial to clearly and succinctly articulate what it is you do, but also don’t be shy about explaining what differentiates you from others in your field. Being a professional networking site, many people in your field on LinkedIn will do similar things vocationally. What sets you apart from the crowd? What is your niche area, the thing you do differently to everyone else, that could gain interest from influential others in your field or potential clients, and make you a valuable asset in your speciality? Outline this clearly in your profile for maximum exposure.
Certainly, one the greatest ways to capture this is to include links to your website and any online portfolios of your work so others can gain some insight into the quality and depth of work you produce, and see and feel visually what differentiates you from the rest. Digital introductions can be just as impactful as in-person introductions when done thoughtfully, and over time you will become increasingly confident in doing this in a way that still feels like a real-life connection.
As humans like to have “connections” to others as gateways to trust, references/recommendations are crucial on sites like LinkedIn, mainly because we are designed to trust the validation of the community. People like to see you are trusted by others. So to assist this, do ask colleagues, mentors, and peers to provide recommendations directly on the site. You can also ask them to rate you on specific skills and qualities to help you create greater credibility and trust in your personal brand.
You can also discover additional tips on how to improve your profile in our previous article, Is Your LinkedIn Profile Helping or Hindering Your Career Progression?
Join LinkedIn groups
Each of us has a very human need to “belong”. LinkedIn groups offer professionals a way to connect with others in their industry or who share concerns and passions. To join a group, simply use keywords in the search bar at the top of your own homepage or check out some of the groups that are “suggested” to you by LinkedIn based on the information in your profile.
A good place to start is to look for the organisations you have worked with in the past. It’s also a good idea to search for companies, non-profits, trade groups and other professional associations related to your industry and join them. This will also help you to stay on top of trends within your industry.
Once you are a member, you will have access to a wider network of business professionals than just your current circle of friends and co-workers. Once you belong to a group, you also can post and view job openings, or read and answer questions posted by your fellow members.
If you can’t find an already existing group which shares your skills, experience and interests, don’t be afraid to create your own.
A critical tip for engaging in professional groups is to be yourself and don’t be shy about presenting your opinions and views honestly and respectfully. There is something very appealing about those members of groups that share helpful insights and engage meaningfully in an ongoing dialogue. If you are truly looking to be part of a community, think of your digital contributions as part of a real-life conversation, and avoid the temptation to “pounce and bounce” (dropping a one-liner and exiting early). After all, you wouldn’t walk away from an in-person exchange mid-sentence would you? As with any group conversation, consistency and presence are key.
Create interesting, shareable content
One of the best features of LinkedIn and its group is that you can use the platform to both share and create content which other professionals will find useful. When creating posts, remember LinkedIn’s tone is very different from social media sites such as Facebook. Keep your content and tone professional. After all, you are promoting your personal brand.
The author of Control Alt Delete, Mitch Joel said of making yourself stand out online
“It’s not all about content. It’s all about stories. It’s not all about stories. It’s all about GREAT stories”.
Many people don’t understand the power of applying this professionally. What would happen if you offered not only informative content but provided a really great story that made others want to engage? Would it make you stand out from the rest of the field? You bet it would. But how?
The content you create and post on the platform should be something that genuinely interests your audience and prompts them to see different perspectives or solve a problem. This will help you to establish your expertise in specific areas and gives your reputation a boost, but also will allow you to demonstrate what sets you apart and what makes you a person of interest they are going to want to actively follow or interact with.
Ready, Set, Connect!
Once you’ve created a great profile, and have joined a few groups, it’s time to expand your list of contacts and network. An easy way to expand your network is to reach out to prospective contacts with whom you share connections. A really important point here is that you do this authentically and genuinely, and not default to either the LinkedIn default message or something generic when introducing yourself. Remember the old adage about not getting a second chance to make a good first impression. Take the time to craft a message that speaks to who you are, but also to who they are.
When other professionals comment on your posts or likes comments you make on their own posts, reach out and ask them to join your network. While you don’t want to overdo it, do look for ways to keep the conversation going, organically, especially when you meet like-minded professionals who seem to share your interests and appreciate your insights.
LinkedIn is a powerful networking platform. How well are you using it?
Get in touch today to learn more about how we can help you make the right impression and of course, I’d love to hear from you so feel free to reach out and connect with me on LinkedIn!