How to Use LinkedIn for Networking Success

I’ll be the first to admit that finding time to do social media is a challenge. I try hard to be consistent with what I engage in, but it’s not always easy. Sometimes I get behind or forget to stick to my schedule, but I always get back into it because I have decided that it’s important for my professional success. Since I originally got involved in Kiwanis and The Williamsburg Area Chamber and Tourism Alliance, I have found a great deal of success building and cultivating relationships in the community. I have found social media to be an extension of these in-person networking opportunities and one that you can take advantage of outside of the regular 8am to 8pm in-person business networking hours.

LinkedIn has now been around for 10 years and while I haven’t been in the professional world for quite that long and LinkedIn hasn’t been mainstream for that long, it has risen to the top as a leader in social media, if not for everyone, for the business professional. Often people will ask my why they should use LinkedIn – they feel like they’ve spent enough time on Facebook and it hasn’t necessarily paid off. There was a time when I would have told you that LinkedIn wasn’t more than just a digital rolodex, but LinkedIn has since made some changes to how it provides value to professionals and I now use it more than any other social network.

In the physical business community, I try to be seen as much as possible.  I spend time at networking events and in groups, I serve and have served on committees and boards and I dedicate a good amount of my time to charitable causes for various organizations. On top of that, I am also a resident of the community, so I see people at restaurants and stores in my free time. Every time I see someone I know, it gives me a chance to catch up with them, ask them about their family, see how work is going or ask them about something we discussed the last time we saw each other. It may only be for a few minutes, but people often ask about my life as well. It serves as a reminder to them that I am working in the marketing world and they ask questions about that. I can’t tell you how many people tell me that they need to meet with me to talk about what I am doing or to get a new website going.

I value these interactions because it helps me to stay in the forefront of people’s mind. I hope that when people see me they think about marketing or website design and they are reminded that I could help them. While I know that not everyone is in the market all the time and many others will put things off, it’s still good if I am the first person they think of when it comes time to take action.

How To Use LinkedIn

I have found that LinkedIn gives me the same opportunity, but it doesn’t require that the people I connect with bump into me at a networking function or the grocery store. It doesn’t have to be between 8 in the morning and 7 at night either. What’s even better is that I can amplify what I am doing in the community with some additional touches or impressions on LinkedIn. So how exactly do I achieve these impressions on LinkedIn? Here are six ways that I am able to see people and be seen:

  1. How to Use LinkedIn From a Passive Approach – One thing that many people undervalue is the importance of having a complete profile. In addition to having a profile picture, I’ll repeat that, in addition to having a profile picture, you should be sure you have put in a great description of yourself as a professional, added previous employment and education and add any awards your received or projects that you were involved in that are notable. These things will cause others to see you based on their searches and and present your profile in LinkedIn’s suggestions for who others should connect with. Additionally, when someone is considering you for a job or a project, they will use these details to weigh you against your competition.
  2. How to Use LinkedIn to Establish First-Time Connections – You have to connect with people for the first time on LinkedIn at some point. I try to connect with everyone I know on LinkedIn by either searching for them or waiting for them to be suggested to me by LinkedIn. I also connect my email accounts in order to establish connections with the thousands of contacts I have there. I connect with as many people as I can and I spend about 5 minutes a day connecting with new people that I have had interaction with at some point. Sometimes I connect with people I know of or who I think may know me as an opportunity to open a door of communication with them that I might not be able to achieve in the physical world.
  3. How to Use LinkedIn to Give and Get Endorsements – LinkedIn added endorsements not too long ago.  Endorsements allow you to tell everyone else on LinkedIn that you believe someone is good at something they claim to be expert at. LinkedIn will suggest people for you to endorse and you can choose which areas of expertise for which you are willing to endorse them. People appreciate it when you do this because it helps them with their own credibility on the site. It also serves as an impression. I try to endorse connections at least once a week and spend a few minutes deciding whom I will endorse and for what.
  4. How to Use LinkedIn to Give and Get Recommendations – If you are serious about cultivating relationships on social media, you can write recommendations for people you trust on LinkedIn. Tell others about the experience you had with them and why you are likely do business with them again. Tell others that you recommend they consider doing business with them as well.  I will admit to being slack in this area, but as I write this, I am planning to write one recommendation a week to improve my success using LinkedIn.
  5. How to Use LinkedIn to Share Content – LinkedIn Today was introduced in 2011. It gives users the ability to subscribe to “channels” that they are interested in to get notifications about recent blog posts, articles and updates from people in their network. This is where I spend most of my time on LinkedIn. I try to read articles on LinkedIn every day, spending about 10 – 15 minutes finding content that I think other people may find useful.  I tend to share one or two articles a day with my LinkedIn network. Sometimes I write a comment, other times I just share the article. Almost every day, someone in my network comments on or shares something that I share with them.
  6. How to Use LinkedIn to Share Updates – As with Facebook, you can share brief updates about what is going on with your job or in your company. I don’t spend as much time doing this, but it is a quick way to stay in the forefront of peoples’ minds. Think of something meaningful that has happened with your company or your professional development. Did you get a certification, did your company win an award? These things should be added to your profile as well, but it’s always a good idea to share an update with a link explaining what happened.
  7. How to Use LinkedIn to Share Original Content – If you really care about being noticed on LinkedIn and you are interested in getting your blog noticed, producing content is the way to go. I plan to blog four times a month, but in all honesty, I usually get the chance only a couple of times; however, I always try to think of blog posts that I think others might find valuable, like this one. After I write the post, I take the time to share it with my network on LinkedIn in hopes of helping others out, but if nothing more, people see that I am contributing and it counts for an impression just the same. When sharing content, sharing updates or when producing content for LinkedIn, be sure to check the box to share with Twitter (if you’ve connected your accounts), as it never hurts to get impressions on that network too!

If I stuck to my regiment of blogging once a week and interacting with LinkedIn on a daily basis as I have outlined above, I would spend about 14 hours a month or three and a half hours a week building and cultivating relationships on LinkedIn alone.  The truth is, I likely spend closer to eight to ten hours a month on LinkedIn, but it’s been effective for me. It allows me to amplify my presence in the business community and I have had opportunities come as a result of connecting with people whom I might not know well or at all. It didn’t all happen the first week I started using LinkedIn, but after a few years of using it, I have 791 connections and I am in the top 5% of LinkedIn users. If you compare my profile to others in my industry, I have more endorsements for marketing and social media than most and that looks great for people who may be considering using my services to help their businesses grow.

If you are a business professional, I highly encourage you to spend some time on LinkedIn each week. Most importantly, spend time on LinkedIn Today – even if you don’t spend a lot of time sharing content with your network, there is a lot that you can learn by reading about general business topics and topics specific to your industry.

If you are interested in learning more about how to use LinkedIn or how to boost your presence online and build meaningful relationships in your community and industry, please feel free to reach out to me through the Proximo website or on LinkedIn. I’d love the opportunity to share more and discuss how you can be successful using the Internet as a marketing tool.