If you are not using LinkedIn, you are committing a crime against your professional ability to become a superstar. Even more, if your LinkedIn profile does not show up on the first two pages of a LinkedIn search, recruiters will never find you. Stop wasting your precious time checking Facebook updates — instead, gain recognition as an expert in your field and practice your star power via LinkedIn.
Beware: LinkedIn may catapult you to new heights after just a few weeks of consistent efforts. In this post I’ll share 5 essential steps to help you make this dramatic leap forward in your professional life.
You can find plenty of success stories of companies and individuals reaching incredible success by using various LinkedIn solutions. Companies like HubSpot, TekSystems, Athena Health and others report outstanding marketing results. Others, like these 24 professionals in various fields, believe that LinkedIn was the key to their success.
For me, I can personally attest that LinkedIn has helped me tremendously to achieve results, from finding and building relationships with donors for my non-profits (leading to over $250,000 in donations), to identifying top business prospects both overseas and domestically — and connecting with them offline within days. It’s helped me in business, non-profits, publishing, and more. My point is that if I can do it, you can do it too! So let’s get down to business.
Let’s begin with a simple question – what goals are you currently pursuing?
Are you looking for a new (first!) job?
Are you trying to increase your sales leads?
Are you seeking to expand business partnerships?
Are you looking for donors or sponsors for your nonprofit?
Are you selling your services?
These are important questions. You need to have a laser focus on what exactly you want to achieve through LinkedIn. With those goals in mind, follow these five essential steps to BUILD your LinkedIn success:
B: Build an inspiring and engaging client-oriented public profile
U: Use your current network of contacts
I: Identify new prospects
L: Lead an engaging and regular communication with your connections
D: Deliver outstanding service to your existing and new business partnerships
We’ll take each of these steps in turn, but remember that overall, the key is to make your best intentional effort to achieve your goals every single day. It takes regular incremental steps (which means time and hard work). But that effort pays off!
B.U.I.L.D. Your Bridge to LinkedIn Success
B: Build an inspiring and engaging client-oriented public profile
Your profile should project your personal brand in the best light possible. Differentiate yourself from others by providing a unique perspective on your industry sector, and your specific skill set.
Begin with creating an irresistible LinkedIn Profile geared for the success of You, Inc. That means that you should optimize your profile, emphasizing your key skillset and utilizing top keywords in your field for each section of your LinkedIn profile. According to LinkedIn Senior Data Scientist Mathieu Bastian’s blog, “members who list skills on their LinkedIn profiles receive an average of 13 times more profile views than those who don’t.” Remember, people look at your profile first – this is your direct platform to showcase your professional credibility and reputation. Don’t take this task lightly, but don’t get overwhelmed either. Hey, even President’s Obama profile needs some tweaking! If you’re interested in learning more on how to optimize your profile, here are some useful tips for beginners.
Beyond this, actively seek quality recommendations and endorsements. They definitely add to your rating and help you come across as a credible source.
Once you have your profile, are you done? No! Always be honing your profile. It works just like a sculpture – the more touches you make, the closer to Michelangelo’s David you are. For example, Alexandra Watkins, an advertising copywriter recently featured on LinkedIn Blog, suggests that you may need to consider writing your profile from the first-person perspective and adding conversation starters. “Your profile shouldn’t be a dry recitation of past jobs – spice it up with the things that make you a great person to work with,” says Alexandra.
U: Use your current network of contacts
When your profile is all set, it’s time to make an assessment of your LinkedIn network, your LinkedIn assets.
Let’s start with the number of your connections, especially related to your company or nonprofit industry sector. How many do you have? Can you tag or categorize them? Who among your existing connections are called movers and shakers in your industry? When was the last time you sent a direct message to them?
Categorize your prospects by filtering your contacts based on industry sector, geographic location, job titles, etc. Spend at least one hour a week to identify your top prospects for further follow up.
I: Identify new prospects
Maintaining existing connections is important, but if you don’t add fresh ones, your LinkedIn well will dry up quickly. You absolutely have to add another important component to your plan – daily outreach to new prospects. There are a number of ways to do so: connecting with individuals one at a time; joining groups; and conducting advanced searches.
Let’s take individuals first. One of the best and most simple tools to reach out to quality leads and business prospects is to use warm introductions to your 2 and 3 level connections through your existing 1 level connections. This method usually brings the most results, especially if you are meticulously working on it and plan at least 2-3 meetings or more with your newly found counterparts offline. LinkedIn works best when you combine active online outreach with the magic of coffee.
Then look at who’s viewing your LinkedIn profile. Did you just look at their photos and wonder why in the world they’d come to your profile? Or do you actively engage with those individuals? Remember these people might have other goals beyond curiosity. Check them out and send a short note – “hey, I saw you checking my profile, is there anything I can help you with?”
Add relevant connections weekly (or even better, daily). Your plan should be to develop at least 500 connections to be fully “visible and effective” on LinkedIn. That means planning and daily execution. Start with a goal of adding 50 contacts a week and in just two and a half months you will be there! Remember, never send cookie cutter invitations – always personalize your message. This shows that you care. Also, you may want to test Rapportive, which is a free Gmail plugin that shows the LinkedIn profile details of the person emailing you. Rapportive helps you define the right response to people you don’t know.
Enable LinkedIn Group Thinking
Groups provide a wonderful opportunity to identify and connect with new prospects. Many people make the mistake of signing up for groups from their industry. For example, wealth management professionals will hang out with their peers, instead of joining groups where their potential prospects are.
Check out the LinkedIn Group Directory and do a thorough search. Once you’ve figured out two to three groups of interest, become an active member providing useful content or commenting on important discussion topics. Don’t be a bragger or flood groups with too many comments. As Jeff Haden suggests in his 11 tips to find the best LinkedIn Groups, sometimes you need to just “pause and reflect.” It’s okay to stay silent for a day or two assessing your feedback.
Eventually, for effective prospecting, I suggest joining at least 20 professional LinkedIn groups and regularly taking part in group conversations, commenting on relevant topics or providing useful links.
If you are a group owner, you may wish to engage your members by prodding their active involvement through a series of questions. The easiest way to begin is to offer a “minute of fame” in designated discussion threads. Philip Calvert, Social Media Network Founder and LinkedIn guru, suggests a number of useful conversation starters, such as:
- Share your social media IDs (Facebook, Twitter, Quora, etc.)
- Share your product or service information
- Share your favorite business books or motivational quotes
You can find other topics for easy discussion starters here.
Bill Arruda provides useful advice including on how to reuse and repurpose your LinkedIn content for other social media sites, emphasizing relevant experience in your profile and group discussions, and constantly expanding your LinkedIn network.
Advanced Prospecting on LinkedIn
Surprisingly, many professionals do not use LinkedIn’s Advanced Search capacity to prospect. And it’s very easy to figure out.Let’s just imagine that you own a thriving startup and need to find top venture capitalists in the San Francisco area.Where do you start?
We are going to use the magic of the Advanced Search. This button is located on the upper right corner. Look for the People field and select this option. In your Relationship criteria list make sure that you have all the boxes checked, including the “3 + Everyone Else” option. Next, indicate your search item – “Venture Capital” in the Title box. Use the same Venture Capital in the keywords section. Minimize your geographic search to just 50 miles from the downtown SF area postal code. How many connections did you find?
Once you pulled up the list, you have the option of using the “Save the list” function, which means that LinkedIn will regularly update you on what’s happening with your contacts along the way.
What does this mean for you? Well, really you have abundant information in your hands. You can easily start a conversation with any of your prospects just by diving into a wealth of information from their profiles.
Do you follow me?
Now, some people say that they can’t connect directly with the contact they want to reach, because they don’t have the paid LinkedIn service.
You may not realize that you can connect with people directly through the LinkedIn Group connection. If you are not yet in a group that your prospect is a member of, then consider joining your prospect’s group.
L: Lead an engaging and regular communication with your connections.
If you are a silent watcher, LinkedIn is a waste of time (go catch a movie instead). To meaningfully engage, you need to provide relevant content and regularly interact with your connections. Each of your status updates, each of your article links may attract someone in a decision making role who’d be interested to learn what else you have to say. So make sure that you communicate regularly with your followers.
One of the most effective tools to engage your audience, showcase your expertise and, most importantly, care for your contacts is to utilize LinkedIn status updates regularly. I have been experimenting with various schedules, but my best ratio is 1-2-1 beginning with a top quote (inspirational or motivational and not the usual ones), followed by 2 article links and final quote of the day at 6 pm. In fact, quotes pulled more clicks than the articles and I consistently get compliments and engagement for posting these quotes.
Lots of people ask me where I find my quotes. It’s not hard, but it does take time to find one that fits for you and your followers. I suggest starting with Goodreads or Brainy Quote. My top sources for the articles are Inc., Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Forbes and HBR. These are great resources for the themes my audience and I are interested in. Find yours and shine. It works, believe me!
D: Deliver outstanding service to your existing and new business partnerships.
None of us can expect to have a great network that is always servicing our own needs. To make your network work for you, you need to work for everyone else. You must be an indispensable connector and deliver outstanding service to your contacts. How? Ask and engage! Learn what your contacts are interested in, what they need, and link them up with others you know who can fill those needs. Make an action plan which includes daily actions to add value to your network. Become a catalyst, and actively support your contacts. Give professional advice freely; it will come around and be paid back richly later. The more you give, the more you receive!
These people may be your gold mine. But to realize it, you need to make the first step – help them out with something they need.
The Key to Success: Details and Incremental Steps
Overall, these five steps boil down to one big lesson. What’s the difference between being a major LinkedIn achiever and being an ordinary, static user? Simple: intentional concentrated effort and regular incremental steps to improve your profile, increase your footprint and expand your outreach.
Think of these incremental steps as extra laps that you’re adding to your LinkedIn track. Your profile should have extra keywords, extra calls to action, extra achievements. Your summary must include a grabbing call to action and examples of what you can do for others. When you are making your every day LinkedIn status updates, try to find the best quote that you feel can make a difference, add a link to the best article for this particular day that will help someone in your audience to do their job better. When working with your connections, add value by connecting your best contacts to one another through a warm introduction. Remember, the more you give, the more you receive.
Similarly, when you are doing your prospect outreach, linger for a little longer in your Advanced Search. Experiment with different keywords, explore various geographies and try to find that golden connection. In summary: make your best intentional effort to achieve your goals every single day.
Andrey Gidaspov is a published author, international business expert, and a passionate “dot connector.” He is passionate about connecting people and ideas, creating new social ventures and helping non-profits find new funding streams. Follow him on Twitter (@AndreyGidaspov) and check out his blog (www.gidaspov.com) for more useful tips on creativity, innovative marketing and fundraising.