LinkedIn now has over 400 million members, so anybody who wants to build, monitor, and nurture professional connections must have a presence on this social media platform. It’s the go-to network where companies and professionals can meet, exchange ideas, and find great talent — across town, across the country, or across the world.
But to make the most of this extraordinary tool you need to build your personal network.Today, I’m going to show you how to increase LinkedIn connections and generate more leads for your firm.
Consider this: when you attend an in-person networking event, you probably do at least some preparation ahead of time. After all, you want to make a great first impression.
The same is true for your LinkedIn profile—the online version of your first impression. So how do you put your best foot forward and stand out from the crowd?
Here are a few key tips:
Use a professional photo. You wouldn’t attend a professional event wearing jeans and a t-shirt. The same goes for your LinkedIn profile picture. Wear professional attire and have a professional take your photo. This isn’t the place for snapshots of you and your dog.
Create a killer headline. LinkedIn uses your current position at your organization as the default headline for your profile. You can do better. Think of your headline as a mini (120 characters or less) elevator speech that describes what you do and how you are different.
Here’s an example of a simple but playful headline from Hinge Senior Partner, Sylvia Montgomery:
Hip & seasoned AEC marketer. At the caffeinated intersection of practical & measurable marketing. Author & speaker.
Use the Summary section wisely. Here is another chance for you to shine. Use this section to share your story and explain how you got where you are today. Write in the first person and explain how you help clients. It’s not enough to say that you are great at what you do. Consider describing how you approach problems and what you do differently to solve them. Use bullet points to list strengths or specialties.
Complete your profile. Make the effort to complete your entire profile. Fill out anything that is relevant, including links to articles you’ve written and professional organizations you belong to. If you set up your profile a few years ago, check that it’s up to date.
If you’ve already reached out to your friends and colleagues, it might be time to expand your online network of connections. Your network is what you make of it, whether it’s to keep in touch, generate leads, or find a new job.
The best time to connect with people is shortly after meeting them in person. You could find them on LinkedIn by searching their name and hitting “Connect.” But you’ll have better results if you send the people you want to connect with a personalized message to remind them who you are and when you met.
LinkedIn sends this default message: “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”
Edit this message to explain your reason for connecting. Make sure to mention anything you may have spoken about to help jog their memory.
If there’s someone that you want to connect with but haven’t met personally, see if you have any connections in common. Then ask your connection to introduce you. If want to make it easy on them, you could even craft a message for your connection to use.
Engaging in Groups
Taking just 15 minutes out of your day to engage in relevant LinkedIn Groups can help build your network and generate leads. Use this as an opportunity to share your organization’s content and share your expertise.
Read the group rules and abide by them. Most allow for discussion but frown upon spammy discussions or sales tactics in groups. No “Check out our new great product” posts. Blasting your services is a surefire turn off and can also get you banned from the group.
Ask a question to start a discussion, and make sure it is relevant to your audience. Use an open ended question to ask how others have solved a specific problem. For example, instead of asking “Do you use social media?” try a question that’s more likely to stimulate discussion, such as, “What social media tactics have helped your firm generate leads?”
Post content that is relevant to your audience. This means sharing a healthy mix of your firm’s content as well as external content.
Engage. Don’t start a discussion and then ignore the conversation. Monitor your LinkedIn notifications for responses and continue to engage. To keep a discussion’s momentum going, end your responses with another open-ended question. Also, make an effort to comment on other conversations and offer your expert opinion or experience.
Don’t ignite a hater. Remember that LinkedIn is a professional network. If someone posts a snarky comment, most people will recognize it for what it is. Avoid the temptation to respond in kind. A simple, polite response is usually sufficient.
By now, you should have a better idea of how to increase your LinkedIn connections, engage in groups, and grow your influence online. Make LinkedIn a key part of your professional networking.