LinkedIn is a valuable tool for professionals; if you haven’t figured that out yet, there’s still time. If you’re a small business owner, an aspiring entrepreneur, a freelancer, or even someone who’s employed at a regular job, you should definitely be on LinkedIn. Sure, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have their place, but when it comes to business, no other social platform compares.
Do you need to be on LinkedIn? Yes, absolutely, but you are not going to see much traction unless you build a sizeable network of connections. Sure, you can post your LinkedIn bio, but like most social media platforms, you’ll see little results if you don’t build your network and engage regularly. If you only have 10 or 20 connections and you haven’t responded to your direct messages in months (if ever), it’s time to get up close and personal with LinkedIn and I’m going to show you how.
Some of the advantages of being “active” on LinkedIn:
- You will make connections all over the United States.
- Like-minded individuals will reach out to you (if you grow your network right).
- You can stay on top of your industry by reading industry articles published, shared, and posted by your connections.
- People can reach out to you and give you their business; free marketing at its finest.
- If you’re looking for someone in a particular field or occupation, you can use LinkedIn to find them.
- You can join LinkedIn Groups of like-minded professionals and ask questions, offer advice, and share your input.
For your LinkedIn account to be truly effective, you need to grow your network. However, you want to do it the right way; it’s much more than adding random people with no rhyme or reason. The goal is to build a network of like-minded professionals who you would actually do business with in real-life. In order to build a powerful network on LinkedIn, you have to target people in your industry.
Here’s how to start building a network that will actually serve you:
1. Connect with industry influencers.
Regardless of the field you are in, there are industry influencers in it and you want to connect with them. Don’t know where to find them? It’s a piece of cake; they’re not hard to find. You can start by sending connection requests to authors of major books in your industry. If you don’t have these books at home, just search them out on Amazon. You can also look to industry magazines and periodicals; send the authors of industry articles connection requests. Some authors only have a “follow” option; in that case, you can go ahead and follow them on LinkedIn.
It’s not only a good idea to connect with authors who write about your industry, but I recommend sending connection requests to the people being written about in the articles. To illustrate, a big part of what I do is ghostwrite for entrepreneurs. When I’m reading an article in Entrepreneur, Inc., or Forbes, or another industry publication, I’ll send a connection request to the author of the article and the business owner he or she is writing about. This method is a great way to start connecting with like-minded individuals in your field, whether it’s hospitality, marketing, law, education, security, accounting, fashion, or another industry.
Fortunately, once you start connecting with influencers and authors in the same type of business as you, LinkedIn will start suggesting people in your industry to connect with. Take advantage of this feature – it will save you time!
2. Connect with like-minded professionals.
If you’re on LinkedIn, you want to leverage your account so it works for you; it’s impossible to do that effectively if you’re not connected to the right people. For example, I deal with content marketing; therefore, it’s important for me to be connected to people in the digital marketing space, as well as business owners who need digital marketing campaigns.
If my LinkedIn network was full of hairdressers, stockbrokers, car salesmen, teachers, doctors, and other professionals, who I would never do business with in real-life, my LinkedIn network would be ineffective – almost useless.
In order to leverage the true power of LinkedIn, you need to connect with people in your industry. People you would actually do business with. So, when LinkedIn makes “suggestions,” make sure you send connection requests to the people you could actually do business with, and don’t forget about people who could be referral partners!
3. Handle invitations to connect with class.
I know that LinkedIn says that you should only send connection requests to people who you have met in person, but that’s not very practical. In reality, people send connection requests to dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of people they’ve never met, and what’s the harm in that? In all of the connection requests I’ve sent out, I’ve only had two people get weirded out by the fact that we never met. The vast majority of people I sent requests to kindly accepted them, and I do the same to people who send me invitations.
As you build your presence on LinkedIn, people will start sending you connection requests. Don’t be surprised if you see emails in your inbox, asking you to “accept” an invitation to connect. Should you accept these requests, despite the fact that you never met these people? What if they work in a completely different field? I say go for it, unless of course the person looks shady, though that’s rare on LinkedIn.
My advice: Send connection requests to people in your industry, or in a related industry, but don’t turn down connection requests sent to you from people in other industries because there’s no harm in having 1 or 2% of your contacts coming from different fields. Really, how much are they going to affect you? Now, if 75% of your contacts had nothing to do with your field, that would be another story.
I am pickier with Twitter followers than I am with LinkedIn. Mainly because Twitter is more casual, and I’m not interested in seeing dozens of posts about politics, or products and services that I don’t want to buy. I pick and choose who I follow back on Twitter, but I’m more liberal with LinkedIn because its users won’t be filling my feed with inappropriate images, pics of cute cats or political rants.
4. Respond to your messages on LinkedIn.
As you build your following on LinkedIn, you will receive direct messages. Some of them will be automatic messages, a few will be questionable, but a lot of them will be genuine messages from people who are interested in you.
Regardless of how you feel about the person behind the message, send them a polite reply. You don’t want to give the impression that you’re rude or too important to talk to that person. When it comes to your career, you want to give the impression that you are considerate and professional.
You just never know who sent you the message. After all, he or she could be the next big influencer in your industry and you certainly don’t want them to remember you as someone who rubbed them the wrong way. And believe me, they will remember!
Want to build your LinkedIn network? Follow my advice and just watch what happens when you unleash the power of this essential platform. If utilized correctly, you’ll be amazed at what it can do for your career.
Elainna Ciaramella is an independent journalist, business blogger, and ghostwriter for entrepreneurs and business professionals nationwide. She has written extensively on the topics of business, entrepreneurship, law, and medicine. She is well-versed in search engine optimization, content marketing, and social media. You can connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google +, and Instagram.