In the age of social media, it is said that your network is your most important asset. But unlike financial assets, where we invest a lot of time and effort, our relationships are not often granted enough of our attention. This mix up of values comes at a cost, as a healthy social capital is a crucial component of a healthy business. Enter LinkedIn: The world’s largest professional network and the most effective way to form and nurture your relationships.
LinkedIn requires a different approach from other social networks, where relationships built on weak links and ‘Likes’ are commonplace. To build a network of truly valuable connections, it is first important to redefine how you value your online relationships, and only then you can move on to the next step: growing your network.
In this quick guide we will cover the four main steps in the process: optimising your profile, making new connections, personalising invitations, and nurturing your relationships.
Optimising Your Profile
The first thing most people do when they receive an invitation is to check out the invitee’s profile. But even before that, a decision could possibly be made based solely on your headline. It should be short—less than the maximum 120 characters—and succinctly describe what you do, for example ‘Web Developer Who Works With SMEs to Create Amazing Online Experiences | Company Name’.
You may have noticed the use of keywords in the headline, and this is by no coincidence. LinkedIn search operates in the same way as Google does, filtering results based on authority and relevance. Therefore, make sure you include keywords in your description and other profile sections to improve your chances of being found. A great way of doing this is to add a ‘specialty’ section at the bottom of your profile description. Here you can list any skills or associated phrases commonly found in job descriptions that will help those looking for your skills find you.
The next step to take for SEO is to personalise your URL. By default LinkedIn generates a URL full of numbers which only hinders your online visibility. It is best practice to change this to your full name—either first name before your surname or, if already taken, first name after.
Making New Connections
We all know LinkedIn’s unique feature that allows you to see who has viewed your page. This is a great place to find connections that may already be interested in your business or services, but if you are just starting out on LinkedIn and building up your network, you first need to establish your presence. Luckily you can do this quickly by doing two things: connecting with your clients, and joining groups. The former is pretty self-explanatory; Say you have just secured a deal with a new client, you can immediately follow up with a LinkedIn request. Groups take a little bit more explaining. You can become a member of up to 50 groups on LinkedIn, allowing you to spread yourself between those that are industry related, networking focused, and learning centered. Becoming a member of a group gives you a commonality with all other people in that group, and thus a greater chance of making a connection.
Once you’re in the group, you will want to start engaging: sharing your own content and that of others, participating in discussions, and generally making yourself known. When you feel you are ready to reach out to one of the members, you can do so by running a filtered search and creating a list of prospects based on job titles, physical location, or a range of other criteria. Once you’ve found a potential connection, click ‘connect’ and select the groups option under ‘How do you know this person?’
Now it’s time to craft your invitation. As mentioned, if you are connecting with someone who is a member of a common group, you already have a shared interest to work with. This is a good rule to stick by when reaching out to someone you don’t really know, simply do a bit of research by digging into their profile and finding something interesting to comment on. Your invite may then sound something like this: ‘Hi Jene, I noticed you have also been a marketing professional for more than fifteen years, we are a rare breed! It would be a pleasure to connect with you.’ Adding a simple personalised touch like this is a sure fire way to increase your invitation’s conversation rate.
Nurturing Your Relationships
A network is as dormant or as valuable as you make it. With LinkedIn it’s easy to keep in touch with your connections through the ‘LinkedIn Contacts Feature’, which monitors updates and encourages you to interact with your connections on a regular basis. You can also take advantage of their dedicated publishing platform where users post original and curated content. The platform allows you to follow and engage with publishers, as well post your own content, and build your own followers in the process.
Your network may be your most important asset, but much like money, the value comes in how you use it. Whether you are looking for a consistent stream of inbound leads, or maybe a change of career, LinkedIn provides the tools for growing a wide network of valuable connections that can support you in reaching your professional objectives.