Networking is a proven strategy to make connections in your industry that can further your career – and these days, you no longer have to wait for the next local networking event. With social media sites like LinkedIn, you can network anytime and anywhere from the convenience of your laptop or mobile phone.
With nearly 740 million users, LinkedIn has changed the way professionals network. The platform allows you to apply for jobs and connect with former co-workers and like-minded professionals. But the main reason LinkedIn is such an awesome place for networking is the ability it gives you to connect with the biggest names in your industry that you would have never had the chance to meet before.
So how do you network on LinkedIn and develop relationships that can skyrocket your business and career? Check out these tips to learn how to network on LinkedIn like a pro.
1. Make your profile stand out.
A good first impression is always important when you’re networking in person, and it’s the same for online networking. Before you start networking with your LinkedIn account, make sure your profile is filled out and fully optimized. Every section of your LinkedIn profile should be complete, with no obvious blank spaces or gaps.
Never underestimate the importance of your profile photo. LinkedIn profiles with a professional-looking headshot get more views and interactions than ones without, so never leave your profile picture blank. If you can’t afford to have a professional headshot taken, you can easily take your own picture with a nice top or blazer, a professional background, and a smartphone.
FYI: The ideal size for a LinkedIn profile photo is 400 x 400 pixels.
Your LinkedIn profile is like your resume, so you want it to look as professional as possible. This includes a great headline that lets others know exactly what you do and specialize in. Besides your profile photo, your headline is the first thing others see when they land on your page, so you want to make it attention-grabbing in a way that speaks to your target audience. Try to subtly emphasize how you benefit others with your work.
Your LinkedIn summary is essentially a longer version of your headline. This is the section near the top of your profile where you can highlight your personal brand – what you do well and how you can benefit potential clients or employers. Although summaries can be up to 2,000 characters, you should keep this section brief and easy to skim.
Keywords are a great way to help professionals and recruiters in your industry find your profile. Strategic keywords in your profile give you an advantage in networking. For example, if you use the keyword “content marketer” in your summary and another user on LinkedIn searches for that term, you’re more likely to come up in their search results, so they’re more likely to connect with you or consider you for their content marketing needs.
Although it may be tempting to simply regurgitate your resume in this section, LinkedIn allows you to be more creative. Only include experience that is relevant to your business or your projected career path. Add a few bulleted sentences for each experience, and highlight your achievements with action words.
LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to showcase professional recommendations on your profile, similar to a professional job reference. Ask a few colleagues, bosses, clients or other individuals you’ve had a good professional relationship with to write a recommendation for you. This can add to your credibility and authority. Consider offering to write them recommendations in return.
2. Connect with people and interact.
When your profile is complete and looking impressive, you need to start connecting with other users. You appear established in your industry when you have over 500 connections on LinkedIn, but you don’t want to add connections blindly. Connect with people in your industry whom you could see yourself working with in the future, or who could provide you with valuable insights regarding your business or career.
Always include a personalized note when you send a connection request, as opposed to a generic LinkedIn invitation. A quick message introducing yourself or explaining why you wish to connect will help you establish a relationship with your new connection, and you won’t come across like you’re on a random adding spree to bump up your numbers.
Once your requests are accepted, you need to start building relationships. Comment on your connections’ posts, like and share their content, and even reach out periodically by sending them a message to see how they’re doing. Networking is about creating relationships, and if you’re a silent LinkedIn connection, your relationships will never grow.
3. Post engaging content.
Don’t sit back and let everyone else post awesome content on LinkedIn; present yourself as an expert in your industry by posting interesting and educational content of your own. Sharing a great article you’ve read recently is a good start, but if you truly want to make valuable connections and represent yourself as a talented thought leader in your industry, you should be crafting your own articles on LinkedIn.
Publishing an article on LinkedIn will not only allow you to share your expertise with your connections, but it can also result in more users finding you on the platform. Use hashtags in your post when you publish your article to attract the type of people you want to engage with and grow your professional network. Having a voice on LinkedIn will make networking a breeze for you, and the comment section of your articles is a great place to start the conversation.
Think about the type of content you share. For example, studies show that social media posts that entertain are most likely (67%) to encourage users to like or comment, followed by posts that inspire, posts that teach, and posts that tell a story. You can also use visuals (photos, videos, polls) to diversify your content. Consider using a mix of content to reach your target audience.
Tip: Post on LinkedIn at least once a week, preferably two to five times a week. Although you can test different posting schedules to see what works best for engagement with your specific audience, the best time for posting is generally between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
4. Join LinkedIn groups.
If you want to get noticed and make meaningful connections with industry contacts on LinkedIn, a great strategy is to join LinkedIn groups related to your industry. For example, a quick search of the group section for the keyword “tech” results in about 22,000 groups. If you join a few active groups, thousands of people in your industry could see your profile. That’s a lot of potential additions to your network.
For this strategy to be effective, you need to interact with the LinkedIn group. Participate in discussions, answer questions that showcase your expertise, and share relevant content. Remember that groups are about community, not all about you. Focus more on being a valuable member of the group than on selling yourself. You want other members to notice you without being annoyed by you.
LinkedIn networking is a great way to make positive connections in your industry, not only in your area but globally. You never know what opportunities could arise when you can build meaningful relationships with experts, recruiters and potential clients online.
Skye Schooley contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.