I have to admit I have rolled my eyes more than once when people ask me “why do you use LinkedIn if you’re not looking for a job?”
In a world connected by computers, LinkedIn has become the best resource to build professional relationships. It is not just the place for recruiters and job seekers to be – VPs, Directors, CEOs … professionals of all kinds are active on LinkedIn.
So, how do I start growing my network and interacting with these people?
1. Search and Research
First, you need to figure out who you want to contact. You can search by role, name, company, and location and filter the results further by first or second-degree connections. I always recommend growing your network with all sorts of connections locally. You don’t want to limit yourself to just your industry or professional niche when thinking about your local connections. When it comes to the rest of the world, however, you should be a bit more targeted and focus on your own industry.
Your global professional networks will help you get more exposure within your industry and also make it easier for you to move on from your role when the time comes. Your local network should be more open. Living in a certain area, you will cross paths with different professionals. Those relationships can introduce you to someone that is of interest for your local business efforts. This advice is not always the same for everyone, since your role and nature of your business may make things different for you, but it does work in most cases.
LinkedIn allows you to reach out to people you might never meet otherwise. It gives you a chance to research them and find where they’re located, what kind of company they work for, their job title, their career path and interests, and much more.
This information is valuable when you want to establish a relationship. You usually have enough data in their profile to find some common ground to break the ice or at least get the conversation going.
I always say “Connect! Connect! Connect!” This is not Facebook where you only want your friends and people you meet in person. This is a professional network and anyone could potentially end up being a good professional link for you, now or in the future. So add everyone you know and start looking for those you would like to know.
Once you find the person you are looking for, you usually send an invite. Make sure you add a note expressing your interest in learning more about them and their initiatives and inviting for coffee or a call. Invites without a note have a higher chance of getting rejected. Also, don’t send 100 invites a day or LinkedIn will block you. I advise to keep it under 50 per day and not every day until you get your first 500.
You’ll be surprised to see that some people are happy to grab a coffee. However, please be careful – choose public places and take security measures such as telling someone else who and where you are meeting.
The group section of LinkedIn can enhance your opportunities of establishing meaningful conversations and being accepted by other individuals. When people see you have a group in common, they see a connection that makes you more interesting to them. Now, you need to be active and post something in those groups so that they get used to seeing your name. If you become a thought leader in groups that are interesting to you, eventually interesting people will reach out to connect with you!
4. LinkedIn Nearby
The latest from LinkedIn comes only with the mobile app. Now, when you click on your network, you can set up the “Nearby” option. This gives you the opportunity to see who from your network is close to you. It only works if both people activate it. This is perfect for conventions where we often miss some of the people we want to meet because they didn’t respond, or we didn’t think they would be attending. Now, you can send a message and say “Hey! I’m at the event too. Let’s meet for lunch.”
All of what I just explained will not work if you don’t have a good profile with a professional picture and a decent amount of activity. When you reach out to people, they check your profile as well. So make sure you have a presentable and friendly profile with a summary, job history, skills, and some articles or posts on your activity board. Remember, people want to connect with people.
So, are you ready to grow your network and business opportunities? Start by following the IIB Council and sending me a connection request!
Expert in Online Communication, Personal Branding & Business Development (BD) and more than 10 years of experience including working with Fortune 500 companies as well as small enterprises in different countries. Currently the BD Manager for Atrium Staffing’s Managed Services Division. She is also a content writer of the Digital Trends section for a monthly subscription of elEconomista as well as other publications, a Co-Chair at the National Diversity Council in Florida & active member of HAPBWA and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando.