Better Networking With LinkedIn

Picture of Aliza ShermanAliza Sherman is a web pioneer, author, and international speaker. Sherman is the author of 8 books about the Internet including The Everything Blogging Book, Streetwise Ecommerce, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crowdsourcing and Social Media Engagement for Dummies.

Better Networking With LinkedIn

LinkedIn, the social network for business professionals, is still one of the most powerful social networks online. The entire platform is based around the concept of six degrees of separation – the idea that you are connected to everyone in the world because of who you know or who your contacts know. Small business owners can benefit from setting up a LinkedIn profile for themselves as well as a free LinkedIn Company Page.

Here are three ways to enhance the way you network using LinkedIn.

1. Use It Regularly

Getting the most out of LinkedIn involves both how you use it and how often you use it. The more you use LinkedIn – and use it properly – the more effective it becomes as a business marketing and growth tool. Using it properly includes:

  • Filling out your profile completely.
  • Reaching out to others to connect.
  • Posting to your profile regular.
  • Interacting with your contacts by reading, commenting on, and sharing their posts.
  • Endorsing and recommending others.
  • Asking for recommendations from others with whom you’ve worked.

Once you’ve covered the basics of setting up your LinkedIn presence and utilizing its main features, you need to apply some strategy to better leverage your account.

2. Connect With More People Strategically

The more valid connections you have with people on LinkedIn, the more likely you’ll get warm leads from LinkedIn. But should you only connect with people you know? The founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman, once said in an interview that if you connect with anyone and everyone or accept connection invitations from anyone, you’re using LinkedIn the wrong way. While connecting with people you actually know is a great way to start, at some point you will want to expand your network further.

Limiting the potential of your reach no longer seems like a good idea given the importance of social networking in doing business. You shouldn’t send invitations to connect randomly but instead be strategic while reaching out more widely than your immediate circles. Look at the connections of your first-degree connections and ask for introductions. Review the people LinkedIn automatically recommends to you each time you log in. LinkedIn uses an algorithm to present potential connections to you based on who else you know. Identify people with whom you’d like to cultivate business relationships as well as interesting people in your industry and other influencers you can follow to broaden your network.

3. Join Groups

No matter your interest or industry, there are LinkedIn Groups that have been set up by other companies, organizations or individuals that bring people together for online discussions. Search LinkedIn for keywords related to your business or industry such as Marketing or Real Estate or Retail. Most LinkedIn Groups are open, and you can peruse the conversations before joining. Others may be moderated, and you have to request to join.

Interacting in LinkedIn Groups is similar to any other online forum where discussions and exchanges of information take place, however, the tone and topics are usually more professionally oriented. Check each Group’s community guidelines to understand the rules of engagement. Most Groups ask that people are not overly promotional and that everyone contributes useful information that is on topic. Even without directly promoting your company, your thoughtful and helpful responses can help showcase your expertise and indirectly draw attention to your business.

While anyone can start your own Group on LinkedIn, keep in mind that managing an online forum requires time and attention. If you have trouble keeping up with content publishing and managing and monitoring your social networks, adding online community management on LinkedIn could be an unnecessary burden. Joining an existing Group takes less time and effort but can yield positive results if you actively engage in it.

Overall, setting up then abandoning your LinkedIn profile or Page wastes the potential of being on LinkedIn in the first place. While Facebook is the main place to reach consumers, LinkedIn remains one of the best places to connect with other professionals.