Meeting and connecting with professionals who can benefit your company is critical for business success. Business leaders had to rely on in-person networking events in the past. However, a significant amount of today’s business networking happens on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is the premier social network for business owners and professionals, with more than 930 million users worldwide. It’s an excellent platform to connect with potential customers, investors, strategic partners, vendors, advisors, employees and more. You can use LinkedIn to meet people for the first time virtually or as a follow-up to an in-person meeting.
We’ll share seven tips for making the most of your LinkedIn networking and explore the benefits of utilizing this powerful social platform.
Tips for successful networking on LinkedIn
As with any business-related social media presence, using LinkedIn comprehensively is crucial. It’s not enough to create a profile and wait for suitable contacts to find you. Here’s how to make the most of your LinkedIn presence.
1. Make your LinkedIn profile stand out.
A good first impression is critical when networking in person ― and the same holds true for online networking. Before you start networking on LinkedIn, ensure your profile is complete and optimized. Be sure to address the following:
- Add a LinkedIn profile photo: Don’t underestimate your profile photo’s importance. LinkedIn profiles with professional-looking headshots get more views and interactions. If you can’t afford a professional headshot, use a smartphone to take your photo using a professional background and wearing suitable attire. The ideal size for a LinkedIn profile photo is 400 x 400 pixels.
- Include a headline in your LinkedIn profile: Your LinkedIn profile is like your resume, so you want it to look as professional as possible. This includes adding a compelling headline that lets others know exactly what you do and your areas of specialization. Along with your profile photo, your headline is the first thing others see when landing on your page. Make it attention-grabbing so it connects to your target audience.
- Complete your LinkedIn profile summary: Your LinkedIn summary highlights 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, keep this section brief and easy to skim. Use keywords to help professionals and recruiters in your industry find you. 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 appear in their search results. They’re more likely to connect with or consider you for their content marketing needs.
- Add your experience to your LinkedIn profile: Although it’s tempting to regurgitate your resume in this section, LinkedIn lets you be more creative. Only include experience relevant to your business or projected career path. Add a few bulleted sentences for each experience, highlighting your achievements with action words.
- Add recommendations and endorsements to your LinkedIn profile: You can showcase professional recommendations on your profile. Recommendations are like professional job references. Ask colleagues, bosses, clients or other individuals you’ve had good professional relationships with to write recommendations that mention your proficiencies. Glowing recommendations add to your credibility and authority. The more endorsements you have, the more credible you look to people viewing your profile.
2. Connect with people and personalize connection requests on LinkedIn.
After completing your impressive LinkedIn profile, it’s time to connect with other users. Having over 500 LinkedIn connections helps you appear established in your industry. However, don’t add connections mindlessly. Connect with people in your industry you could see yourself working with in the future or who could provide you with valuable insights about your business or career.
Always include a personalized note when sending a connection request ― avoid using 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. This way, you won’t come across like you’re on a random adding spree to bump up your numbers.
3. Interact with your connections on LinkedIn.
Once your requests are accepted, you must start building relationships. As with social media marketing, it’s essential to comment on your connections’ posts, like and share their content and periodically send them a message to see how they’re doing. When a connection comments on or shares your post, writes you a recommendation or makes an introduction, send them a message thanking them. Try to respond to all messages you receive through the platform. Networking is about creating relationships. If you’re a silent LinkedIn connection, your relationships will never grow.
4. Post engaging content on LinkedIn.
Posting content on LinkedIn is like executing a digital marketing strategy. Present yourself as an industry expert by posting interesting and educational content. Sharing a great article you’ve read recently is a good start. However, to make valuable connections and represent yourself as a talented thought leader in your industry, craft your own thought leadership articles on LinkedIn.
Publishing an article on LinkedIn lets you share your expertise with your connections and help more users find you on the platform. Use hashtags in your post when publishing your article to attract the type of people you want to engage with to grow your professional network. Networking is a breeze on LinkedIn when you establish your voice, and the comment section of your articles is a great place to start a conversation.
Consider the type of content you share carefully. Posts that entertain, inspire, teach or tell a story tend to get the most user interaction. Consider using a mix of content to reach your target audience.
Use visuals, including photos, brand videos and polls, in your LinkedIn posts to diversify your content and keep your connections engaged.
5. Join LinkedIn groups to enhance networking.
Join LinkedIn groups related to your industry to get noticed and make meaningful connections. If you join several active groups, thousands of people in your industry could potentially see your profile and connect with you.
You must interact with any LinkedIn groups you join for this strategy to be effective. Participate in discussions, answer questions that showcase your expertise and share relevant content. Groups are about community ― not all about you. Focus on being a valuable group member instead of selling yourself. You want other members to notice you without being annoyed by you.
6. Use LinkedIn to reinforce offline commonalities and vice versa.
While some people on LinkedIn will accept nearly any connection request (these are designated as LIONS, which stands for LinkedIn Open Networker), others are more wary. If someone is in your extended network ― second- or third-level connections ― you can see at least part of their profile. Use this information to assess whether you have anything in common. For example, maybe you attended the same school, worked for the same company or are members of the same LinkedIn group. Mention any commonalities in your connection request. If you have nothing in common, you can comment positively on one of their recent posts.
Similarly, if you meet someone at a trade show and want to reinforce the relationship by connecting on LinkedIn, mention that you met and reference the name of the trade show and when it was held.
7. Invite LinkedIn connections to connect further.
While it’s great to include links to your original LinkedIn thought leadership articles, ultimately, you want contacts to visit your website, whether they’re a potential client, partner, vendor or another connection type. Consider sending contacts a link to your blog to get to know you and your company better. If a client relationship has progressed down the sales funnel, send them to a product page or your website’s About page. If you have an email newsletter, invite contacts to subscribe by sending them a link to its sign-up page.
Take relationships a step further by inviting contacts to meet you in person. For example, if you plan to attend a public event, like exhibiting at a trade show or giving a speech at an industry association, send individual invitations on LinkedIn to relevant contacts. If a contact is seriously considering purchasing from you, offer them a tour of your facility or do a product demonstration.
Trade shows are an excellent in-person way to grow your email list. Have a sign-up sheet available for booth visitors and create a welcome email to send after adding email addresses to your system.
The benefits of networking on LinkedIn
Should you use LinkedIn for networking? Absolutely! Here’s why.
1. Everyone is on LinkedIn.
Nearly every American professional, regardless of job title, has a LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn lets you directly connect with critical business contacts you may never have met.
2. LinkedIn is an invaluable source of information.
Everyone’s LinkedIn profile is like a resume, making the platform an excellent source of information about potential customers, partners, investors and other stakeholders. You can get clues about each person’s background, abilities, experience, skills, motivations and beliefs by browsing their profile, content, recommendations, endorsements, interactions with other posts and contact networks.
Before you connect with someone, use LinkedIn’s search tools (especially if you have the Sales Navigator) to discover people who meet your criteria. For example, you can search by location, industry, title or company size to find prospects that match your customer personas.
3. The more you connect on LinkedIn, the more you can connect.
After establishing an initial LinkedIn network (first-level contacts), you gain visibility into your contacts’ contacts (second-level contacts). You can see third-level contacts and can send invitation requests to them. The more people you have as first-level contacts, the larger your pool of second- and third-level contacts and the more you can expand your network.
If you want to connect with someone beyond your available extended network, you have two options:
- Join a LinkedIn group your prospect is also a member of so you can send them a connection invitation.
- Ask a first-level contact to send an introduction request.
4. LinkedIn lets you showcase your expertise.
A robust profile showing relevant experience, accomplishments, recommendations and endorsements demonstrates your experience and expertise to potential contacts. Include third-party content that boosts your credibility, such as the following:
- Industry events where you’ve spoken
- Television, radio or podcast interviews
- Case studies you’ve created
- White papers you’ve presented
Additionally, showcase your knowledge by writing articles, posting links to smart and helpful information and interacting with others via insightful comments and observations in LinkedIn groups or other people’s posts. All of this makes you look experienced, professional and highly qualified.
5. LinkedIn has credibility.
LinkedIn is known as the professional social platform. Users are there primarily to further their business goals, not for entertainment or social interaction. Just as a company without a website seems suspect, a businessperson without a LinkedIn profile gives the impression of not being serious or professional.
6. LinkedIn is free and available 24/7.
Unlike most business contact databases, LinkedIn is free to use ― although you’ll need to pay to use the Sales Navigator or place ads.
Additionally, LinkedIn is always available. This is particularly important if you’re doing business internationally or in other time zones. Use the platform during your workday and wait for connections to respond.
LinkedIn networking is an excellent way to make positive connections in your industry, locally and globally. You never know what opportunities could arise when you build meaningful relationships with experts, recruiters and potential clients online.
Syed Balkhi contributed to this article.