Last time I checked, I had 2,089 LinkedIn contacts. Whilst I thought that was a relatively high number, I didn’t know for sure – and I had absolutely no idea what to do with them all. People would tell me to post comments and get involved in groups. But, to be honest, I wondered who on earth had the time to do all that, never mind read what everyone else posts and comments on. ‘People with too much time on their hands’ – that’s what I thought. I did wonder (somewhat secretly though) if those who told me how great it was, might be on to something? Perhaps I really was missing out. Three years ago, LinkedIn only had three million users. It now has 12 million. They can’t all be wondering what on earth to do with it, can they?
I quite like networking and introducing people I know to others – so wondered if I could learn how to use LinkedIn better to help here. Here is what I’ve found out:
1. Personalise my invitations to connect: Like everyone else, I used to – up until about Tuesday this week – send invitations to connect using the stock text LinkedIn provides: “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Seemingly, people think ‘You want to connect with me so much that you didn’t even bother to add your own cover note? Thanks, but no thanks!’ So from now I will be personalising each invite.
2. Use my best practices in email and apply to LinkedIn: I am trying to link with professional people and am much more likely to get a positive response from them when I use the same best practices as I do when sending emails in Outlook. No smiley faces from now on then.
3. Learn to use the search tool properly: Rather than relying on the basic search bar atop the LinkedIn page, I need to get to know Advanced Search. If I am looking for a supplier, I need to use a Boolean phrase (use AND/ OR) to obtain results that exactly match my search. I haven’t tried this yet but when I do I should see the quality of my searches improve.
4. Join groups: Few users actually join LinkedIn groups but seemingly they are great places to find connections, post job vacancies or look for potential suppliers. LinkedIn won’t normally let you message somebody if they’re not a connection, but it will if you share a group.
5. Expand my network: Expanding my network and adding connections will increase my second degree connections (people linked to my connections) and my third degree connections. I will receive more informed LinkedIn searches, which will prioritise people connected to my trusted contacts, and in turn I will appear higher on other people’s searches. It’s like increasing my LinkedIn SEO.
6. Add an Outlook button so that I don’t miss any opportunities: I can download a button extension to my Outlook that, when someone sends me an email, will automatically identify whether they’re on LinkedIn and allow me to connect with them at the click of a button. I like that idea.
7. Treat LinkedIn as though it’s one, large open room: Everyone is on LinkedIn for a reason: To network and connect. There’s no point in being timid: People want to be approached. I can do that.
I am now a bit better informed about LinkedIn but suspect there’s still more I can do to really make the most of it. Watch this space.
Ann Elliott is chief executive of Elliott Marketing & PR (www.elliottmarketingpr.com)