LinkedIn is one of the most viable social channels for building more professional connections. Whether you’re looking for new job opportunities, business partners, external resources, mentors, clients, or employees, LinkedIn is one of the best online places to find them. Still, the “fishing” approach to LinkedIn, which involves setting up a profile and then waiting for something meaningful to happen, is practically useless. If you want to reap the full benefits of the social channel, you need to stay active in the community and work hard to build your base of connections.
Implementing these seven regular habits will help you increase the number and quality of your connections on LinkedIn:
Filling out your profile completely and accurately is one of the most important first steps in engaging with LinkedIn—it’s so important that by now, virtually everybody knows it. But most people view this as a once-and-over-with strategy, as if their careers never grow or change. If you want to successfully build new relationships, you have to revisit and update your profile often. Depending on the pace of your business, perhaps monthly. Review what you’ve said about yourself. What’s changed? Do you have a new job? New responsibilities? New skills or interests? Keeping your profile up-to-date will help introduce you to new groups faster and make sure all your new contacts know who you are in this moment.
This is a first step that often gets neglected. You might have reached out and connected with everyone in your department, or maybe everyone in your company, but what about people you’ve worked with in the past? Or people you’ve gone to school with? All of these are valuable connections that will help you establish a foundation on the social media platform. Then, make it a habit to connect on LinkedIn with everyone you meet in real life, whether they’re new employees, new clients, or professionals you’ve met at networking events.
LinkedIn Groups are one of the most valuable social tools available online. Get involved with as many groups as you are comfortable with, with the understanding that the only way to be successful in a Group is to participate regularly. Choose Groups that are relevant to your skills and industry, but don’t shy away from the Groups with lots of members, even if they’re overly general in topic. When someone asks a question, jump in with your answer. When two people spark a debate, choose a side and state your opinion. Make yourself known in the community.
Asking for help is one of the best ways to build an initial bond, at least according to Ben Franklin. Pose a question to a Group (or maybe just to your connections) that requires a response, such as asking for advice on a certain problem you face. Odds are overwhelming that someone, potentially someone else looking for new connections, will drop in and dispense that advice to you. Not only will you walk away with more practical knowledge, but you’ll have a group of new people who are aware of you and your position.
Liking and sharing is cheap. All it takes is the click of a button, which makes it far easier than even typing out a question or a response. People share content and material on LinkedIn all the time, and it’s in their best interest to achieve as many engagements as possible. If they see you’ve liked or shared their material, they’ll think of you warmly, and they’ll also be more likely to share material of yours in the future. Again, this is a habit to increase your exposure—the more times people see you engaging, the more influence you’re going to gain.
This is a critical step in building connections—the actual request. You don’t want to reach out and try to connect with people you’ve never met before. Doing so can give you a bad reputation, and might even get you flagged as a spammer. Instead, reach out only to people you’ve already contacted on the platform, even if it was just a passing gesture like a shared piece of content. Mention the touchpoint in your request, and make it a point to reach out to as many “touched” people as possible.
You have to be an active contributor to the community if you want to earn a greater reputation. That means producing your own content and insights, and giving them to the community. Share articles from your personal blog or new conclusions you’ve reached both in a Group setting and on your personal profile. People who like what they read of yours will naturally reach out with you for a connection.
Once your number of connections has increased, more doors will open to you. You’ll have more options in terms of clients (or employers, or employees, etc.), and you’ll have far greater influence in the industry. The content you share will have more eyes on it, the posts you make will carry more impact, and anyone doing background research on your level of authority will see that you have more. With virtually no downside, there’s no reason not to start implementing these habits immediately.