15 ways to leverage LinkedIn for your professional networking strategy
Updated: Sep 4, 2019
LinkedIn has become one of my favourite social media platforms, and an important component of my business strategy. I have been on LinkedIn for well over 10 years but it was only when I started to understand its purpose a few years ago, that I really started to use it constructively.
A critical shift in my mindset around what LinkedIn actually is, was all that it took to pivot LinkedIn from being a repository for my CV, to a platform for:
building professional relationships,
repositioning myself after changing careers,
engaging in conversations and thought leadership,
building a global network, and
serving others by sharing knowledge (my own and curated content from others).
Here are 15 tips that I hope will help leverage LinkedIn in your career or business.
1. Think of LinkedIn as a 24/7/365 online conference
There are over 580 million people on LinkedIn worldwide. Even if half of them are active, that’s a lot of potential for networking across geographic regions, time zones, industries and levels of expertise. No matter what time of day or night, there is activity happening in real-time on LinkedIn, and the best way for me to conceptualise LinkedIn, is as a 24/7/365
networking event, conference or workshop.
What do you do at these sorts of events if you want to use them well?
You talk to people.
You tell them about yourself.
You ask them questions.
You build a relationship.
You find out how your skills can be of service to them, and
hopefully, you follow up and keep in contact afterwards.
All of these things can be done on LinkedIn, and what's more, done with an almost unlimited network of people across industries and across the globe. It's the equivalent of a networking event of hundreds of millions of prospective future employers, colleagues, mentors and career sponsors.
If LinkedIn is the conference, then your profile and/or business page is your stand at the conference and your posts, articles and engagement on LinkedIn is the equivalent of key note speeches, conference presentations, and networking within the conference between sessions.
If you think about LinkedIn in this way, how will that change the way you use LinkedIn?
READ MORE: 3 lessons from a year of marketing myself
2. What’s your strategy for being at the 24/7/365 online conference?
When you go to a conference, workshop, networking event do you go for the free food, or do you have a bigger strategy? I will admit, in the early days of my career I had no idea that having a strategy for attending a conference was even a “thing”. That awareness came later.
I still don’t particularly enjoy networking in big crowds, so part of my strategy is to identify two or three people that I want to engage with at an event and keep my focus on that. The same applies to LinkedIn – it can be incredibly overwhelming (as well as diluting) if you are trying to engage with everyone.
Part of my strategy for being on LinkedIn has been to niche down to 3-5 topics that I want to build a presence in, and I try to stick to those topics. By niching down, it’s made me focus in on who my audience is and who I am trying to have a conversation with.
Who do you want to be in a conversation with on LinkedIn, and on what topics?
3. Your profile is your stand or real estate at the 24/7/365 conference.
How are you using your profile to optimise your presence on LinkedIn? If you are not optimising your banner, your profile photo, your headline and the first three lines of your profile section, you might find that people are just “walking” past you.
Your banner is one third of the first section of your profile and is essentially a place for free advertising. Use it to ask a question, have a call to action, include your motto, have a photograph that represents what you do.
Just don’t leave your banner blank. It’s like having a stand at the conference and forgetting to bring any of your marketing materials with you!
4. Your LinkedIn profile is likely to come up first in a Google search – are you ready for that?
Whenever I meet someone new, whether virtually, or in person, I Google them to find their LinkedIn profile. Why? Well, because it's one of the easiest ways to:
get a sense of your professional identity and network,
find out whether other people have recommended or endorsed you,
get a sense of how actively engaged you are, and
gather information that isn't typically covered in your CV.
I am not alone in researching a prospective client on LinkedIn - this is the first thing recruiters and prospective employers do when they receive your CV. When a job-seeking graduate (or anyone for that matter) has no profile, a partial profile, a dormant profile, or a very limited network of connections, it quickly creates a perception that you are not actively marketing yourself, raising your profile and seeking ways in which to connect with mentors, peers in the industry and prospective employers.
5. Shape your audiences’ expectations with a good profile picture
LinkedIn has become an important search engine for research. One of the key things that people do before they meet you, is look for you on LinkedIn so that they can get a bit of background on you, but also so that they can recognise you if they have never met you before.
Apparently having a profile photo makes your profile 14 times more likely to be viewed. It’s also your first opportunity to make a good impression. So make it easy include a photograph of yourself that:
looks like you (ie up to date and looks like you on a daily basis)
is a head and shoulders shot (60% of the photo should be your face)
is engaging (smile naturally)
shows you in a clothes that you would wear to work
has a clean blank background behind you so that you are the focal point.
6. Your LinkedIn headline is key to making a positive impression
The advice straight from LinkedIn if you want people to discover you is to place emphasis on keywords that people are likely to search for and that will show up on search engines.
By default your headline is linked to your current position, but honestly that’s a wasted opportunity. Rather than saying “unemployed job seeker” use your 120 characters to describe what you do, what experience you have, what problems you can solve.
“Graduate mining engineer with Leapfrog experience, seeking opportunities in mine planning. Available June 2019” is way more powerful than “Unemployed - seeking work in mining industry”.
7. Key words key words key words
If you want to be discoverable on LinkedIn, keep thinking about what key words people are most likely to search for.
My understanding is that LinkedIn’s indexing system, is based on key words in your headline, in your job title and then in your profile and experience sections. So make sure you incorporate searchable key words into your headline, job title, profile and experience that more fully describe what you do. If you are self employed, replace that with a description of what work you do, if you are a director/business owner, founder of a company, add a description to your title to more fully explain your role.
Start by thinking through and listing the key words/search terms are most applicable to your industry, the work you do, and the position that you want to move into. If you are in the market for a job, the best place to look for key words is in job adverts for the position that you are interested in, and the profiles of people that are in those positions.
8. Make it easy for people to connect with you/find you
The number of times I have searched for a person on LinkedIn but can’t find them because they are using a different name to the one when I met them, simply astounds me. Maiden names, Anglicised names, preferred names, nick names can all make finding a person confusing. My advice is make it easy for everyone and use “former name” option to include other names that you may be known by. It will just make it easier for people to find you – and that’s the point on LinkedIn isn’t it?
To do that just click on the “me” icon, click “view profile”, click the edit icon (pencil), click the “former name” button under First Name and Last Names boxes.
9. How are you engaging with others at the 24/7/365 online conference?
I remember in my early years, going to conferences but being too shy to speak to people. Hiding out near the bathroom, avoiding eye contact and exiting early were some of my favourite tricks. But it meant that I wasn’t seen or heard and I certainly wasn’t building relationships.
It’s the same on LinkedIn. You might have a profile, but if you aren’t engaging with others, starting conversations, sharing your knowledge, and cultivating relationships, you may as well not be there. Maybe you are not ready to be sharing your thoughts on social media. That’s ok. But I encourage you to start somewhere.
If you valued what someone is saying, then like the post! You can now also “celebrate”, “love”, note that it’s “insightful” or show you are “curious” as LinkedIn has recently introduced reactions.
You can comment on someone else’s post (even just five words or a short note to say you appreciated the writer’s thoughts, goes a long way to being seen and heard on LinkedIn.
If you want to push it further, how about sharing someone’s post to your network with a sentence or two on why you thought the post was worth sharing – and tag the original writer (use the @ to tag) – that will give you visibility in their network too.
10. What are you doing to position yourself as a thought leader.
At the 24/7/365 online conference, your posts, your articles and any external documents, photos, websites, videos, and presentations that you link to your profile, are the equivalent of your conference papers, presentations and key note speeches. Use these opportunities to position yourself as a thought leader in your field.
And I can hear a whole load of you saying “But I am not an expert yet so what have I got to say”. And I say to you, “No one is born an expert – but an expert in anything was once a beginner” so start where you are and share what you know".
Have you published your dissertation? Link it to your profile and then write a post outlining your key conclusions.
Do you have thoughts about a topical issue in your industry - write a post and share your thoughts.
Have you recently attended a conference/workshop/event? Write a post about it.
Are you going to be attending a conference in the next few months? Write a post about that and invite people to connect with you at the event.
Do you write a blog? Link it to your profile and share your blogs in posts!
In fact if you are thinking of writing a blog that is relevant to your industry and you haven’t yet set up a blog platform, seriously consider using LinkedIn Publishing as your platform (I have this article written as a blog on my website and as an article on LinkedIn). When you are on your LinkedIn home page and you are about to start a post you will see there is an option to write an article. Articles stay on LinkedIn for ever (unless you delete them of course) and they can be shared outside of LinkedIn which is a clever way of bringing people to your LinkedIn profile!
11. Set up a LinkedIn business page if you are self-employed/an independent contractor/have a business
Whether you have a business of 100 people, or you are self-employed, if you haven’t set up a LinkedIn business page you are missing an opportunity! Why?
You get to showcase your company in its own right as opposed to you as a single employee.
You can showcase each of your services/products/projects if you want to.
It’s a great way of increasing brand recognition.
But most importantly from my perspective, as the sole employee in my own business, is that you garner a level of credibility and increase your searchability when you have a company page to link to in your experience section, as opposed to listing yourself as self-employed. And then there is the opportunity to use your business page for the marketing and sales posts that you might be uncomfortable sending from your own personal page, which leads me to my next point.
By the way, if you have set up your business page using the personal page format, you should change that asap, as technically in the user agreement that you accept when you sign up with LinkedIn, personal pages can only be used by private individuals.
12. Sell from your business page, engage from your personal page.
LinkedIn is primarily a place to build relationships, trust and credibility as you grow your network. But it is also a magnificent platform for business lead generation. The challenge is that no one likes a hard sell so when you try to push your products and services on people from your personal page it rapidly cuts off conversations.
So the way I am learning to leverage LinkedIn is to use my business page to market my business, and my personal page to engage in conversations and relationship building.
13. Build social capital with recommendations
Do you have people in your network that you would ask to be a reference for you on your CV? How about asking them to write a recommendation for you on LinkedIn then?
Having several testimonials on your LinkedIn profile is a valuable form of social capital, because what it says is “this person was willing to publicly vouch for me”.
It’s the equivalent of an online review, and the same way consumers are influenced by third party reviews of products, recruiters and potential clients and employees place a lot of stock in the recommendations that others are willing to publish on your behalf. A range of testimonials from your peers, bosses, clients, and even people who have reported to you, will certainly provide credibility in the minds of recruiters.
But don’t just be about receiving recommendations. Providing recommendations to other people in your network, is good for your reputation too. If I see someone who has received several recommendations but hasn’t bothered to give any recommendations, it certainly makes me question their values around providing positive feedback.
14. Explore the extensive LinkedIn features (more being added monthly)
LinkedIn is coming out with new features all the time. Here are a few that I am getting to grips with and starting to enjoy:
On the mobile app in the messaging section you can:
send a photo,
send a GIF,
send an attachment,
send your location,
send meeting times straight from the calendar icon, and
send voice notes.
From the mobile app home page, you can now start a LinkedIn live video (on the desk top version you can only attach a video (max 10 minutes in length).
15. Connect quickly and easily using the QR code feature on the mobile app.
Another feature is the LinkedIn QR code, which makes connecting with someone at a business event as easy as it gets, if you both have the LinkedIn app on your phone that is.
You get to your QR code and the QR scanner by tapping the icon in the search bar in the app home page.
Go on try it – here’s my QR code.
As with everything, "what you put in is what you get out". So invest time and energy into keeping your LinkedIn profile up to date, and your conversations dynamic and active. It's part of your networking strategy and contributes to building your personal brand.
I would be very interested to see how you use this blog to work on your personal LinkedIn profiles - so feel free to connect with me and let me know what tips you found most useful! If you want more tips like these, follow my LinkedIn business page, Briony Liber Coaching and Consulting, and/or sign up for my newsletter.
PS. I don’t claim to be a LinkedIn expert/ninja/guru/rockstar. All my tips are based on my experience and taking time to fiddle, tweak and play on LinkedIn to figure out how it works. If you have any special tips I would love you to share them!
PPS. I recorded a podcast with Women In Mining South Africa that also covered some LinkedIn tips. You can listen to the podcast here.
I love conversations and would love to engage with you on your career and how you are managing yourself and your career like a business. I believe "managing your career like a business" means having insight on where you want to go in your career, the agility and resilience to change track when necessary, competence to navigate transition points, and self-awareness to manage yourself.
I help you do that through one-on-one coaching, CV and LinkedIn profile writing, topic-specific workshops and a suite of blogs and other materials available on my website www.brionyliber.com
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