We all know that having a well-developed professional network has a plethora of benefits. It’s the exact reason LinkedIn is valued at $1 billion.
You meet people through work and make a connection. You may not be thinking about it at the time, but you may need to or want to call on this contact in the future. Maybe it’s for a job. Maybe it’s for a sale. It could be a referral or a comment to boost outreach.
But what does a professional network mean in terms of real value?
Well, that’s dependent upon your efforts.
How much do you nurture it? What value do you bring to them? Are you connecting with the right people?
Let’s dive in.
Why are you connecting?
There are several reasons to connect with people on LinkedIn. Here are a few:
- You know the person and want to keep in touch with them on a professional social media site. Maybe you don’t know them (or like them) well enough to stay in touch with them on Facebook or Instagram, but you’d like to hold onto their contact information in a more professional setting.
- You have a goal in mind. This goal could be to get a job with a certain title or with a certain company. It could be to gain exposure to a specific industry. Gaining connections in the space you want to occupy gives you content exposure you might not gain otherwise. You can even use it to connect to and reach out to the specified hiring manager on a job posting.
- You’re hiring. LinkedIn is a phenomenal tool for headhunting. You can use the platform to post job openings, or you can use it to review candidate profiles. This is a useful tool to quickly gain insight into someone’s professional and educational experience.
- You are trying to sell a product or service. I leverage LinkedIn Sales Navigator heavily in my role as a Sales Director at NatureBox. I use this to find members of my target audience, decision makers, and information about the companies I am targeting. Occasionally I will find a second connection with someone I will use as my “in” to make a pitch. There are tons of success stories of people finding and closing clients this way.
Who are you connecting with?
This is a tricky one. There are some LinkedIn purists who believe that you should only connect with people you know in real life. They believe LinkedIn is like your online Rolodex of people you have worked with in a professional capacity. That’s a perfectly fine way to manage your connections if you want to limit your outreach, development, and connections.
The truth is, there are a plethora of opportunities to connect with different people for different reasons.
Maybe your goal is to work in Channel Marketing, so you decided to start connecting with VPs of Channel Marketing in specific markets or segments. Maybe you are interested in working at Google, so you go on a connecting spree with Google hiring managers. The idea is that you are introducing yourself to people who can get you where you want to go.
This doesn’t mean you should connect with anyone under the sun.
The people you connect with will also define your user content experience. If you don’t know them from Adam, remember that you will still be seeing their posts (and they yours). Additionally, if one peek at your page reveals you are a salesperson and your only content is selling a product or service, you are likely not to make that connection.
As best practice, I recommend sending a quick note to anyone you connect with. It could be a quick hello to someone who knows who you are, or a “Looking forward to connecting and learning more about your marketing expertise”. Either way, it’s a good idea to show your intentions and humanity.
Make your profile sparkle
There is nothing worse than popping over to someone’s LinkedIn profile to notice that there is no photo, under 500 connections, no recent posts or engagement, and outdated experience.
It’s as if that person made their profile, logged out, and decided never to login again. Unfortunately, that’s not how this works.
If you are using your profile to keep in touch with connections, sell a product or service, achieve a goal, or hire someone, you absolutely have to do better than that.
Here are a few things you really have to do in order to achieve one of those goals
- Keep your profile updated. That means referring back to it to edit things as they change. Even if you don’t regularly use LinkedIn for work, it should still be maintained. Keep an updated headshot, make sure your experience is correct, and add any certifications or education you have gained regularly. If I search your page right now, would anything be incorrect or missing? If so, update it.
- Engage. Congratulate your connections when they get promoted or start a new job. Comment on interesting posts. Join groups with other professionals in similar fields. For example, if you work in hospitality, join hospitality groups like this one. Post original content regularly. If you are a sales person, create content that drives potential customers to meet with you. If you are in school for marketing, create posts that spark conversation about marketing trends. The more you comment and post, the more engaged you will be on the algorithm which will then drive others to your content.
- Keep it professional. This is not Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. The occasional personal post about a marriage, a graduation, a childbirth is completely acceptable to share with your professional network, but provocative selfies and controversial political opinions are best saved for your personal socials. As a woman, I also (unfortunately) have to say that LinkedIn is also not a dating website, so it’s best not to “slide into my DMs”. For a better list of what not to post, check out this article by Business Insider. \
With Great Power…
LinkedIn is an incredible professional social resource. I can name countless clients and colleagues I have maintained relationships with, customers I have sold to, and things I have learned all thanks to the platform.
It has taken me years to curate a profile I am proud of, and even then, I am still learning more about all that LinkedIn has to offer. If you quizzed me on Sales Navigator right now, I’m not even sure I would pass.
Still, I have terrific engagement, wonderful conversations, and a solid foundation from which to grow. These tips will help point you in the right direction so you can achieve your goals through this powerful online resource.
Oh… and don’t forget to send me a connection!