How to Network on LinkedIn…the Right Way!

I get between three and five requests a day to connect on LinkedIn. Do you know where most of those requests end up? I am active in at least six professional groups on a daily basis and see countless posts by members. Do you know what I do to the majority of posts?
The answer to both questions is the same, Ignore!
LinkedIn has emerged as a huge resource for professional networking and promotion but most people do not use it effectively.
If you ever want to leverage your connections into the career of your dreams or if you really want to use LinkedIn to promote your business, you need to use it correctly…i.e. not how most people use it.

Professional Networking on LinkedIn

I am active in quite a few groups from alternative finance to CFA exam preparation and investing. I publish upwards of 30 pages of content across different websites each week so I get a lot of connection requests on LinkedIn.
I would say, of the 20 connection requests I get every week, I accept less than ten of them.
Why? Because I do not know the person and cannot see the value in a connection.
LinkedIn makes it entirely too easy to send out connection requests, so easy that it deceives people into thinking that they are actually networking. How many of your LinkedIn connections do you think would actually be able to remember anything about you, or even how they know you?
Sending out connection requests with no introduction and no follow-up will yield absolutely no benefit in the future. In fact, having so many connections makes it difficult to find the real connections you have and the people that can actually help you the next time you need it.
If you are going to send out a connection request on LinkedIn, follow these steps:

  1. First, think about how the connection can be mutually beneficial. Why should the other professional want to accept your request?
  2. Visit at least one other page about the other professional – whether it be a blog post, their profile on the corporate website or something they have submitted to LinkedIn Pulse. Spend five minutes to get to know them beyond a group post you saw on LinkedIn.
  3. Find their email or contact information if possible. What good is it having a connection if you cannot reach them? If you connect with many others on LinkedIn, you may have a difficult time finding their profile later so it’s best to have another way to contact them.
  4. Send an email to introduce yourself and why you would like to connect. Using the reason why a connection would be mutually beneficial almost guarantees you will get the connection on LinkedIn.
  5. Change the default LinkedIn request note. Your personal note is limited here but try to reference how you know them and why you want to connect.
  6. Follow up after the connection with a thank you and reinforce why the connection can be beneficial for both of you.

This simple process will take you no more than 15 minutes and will make real connections on LinkedIn. Try to check in with what your connections are doing from time to time, checking out any change in job title or anything they publish on LinkedIn. Letting a connection go stale without any messages for more than a year means you’re unlikely to get any help when you need it.

Promoting your Business on LinkedIn

I spend a lot of time promoting my content from various blogs on LinkedIn and other social networks. One of my biggest pet peeves one of the worst things you can do on a social network is to spam groups with irrelevant messages.
You’ve seen these posts. Posts about how to make money working from home in a CFA Candidates group or posts about stock market investing in a group about business networking.
The click-through rate on social media posts is less than 3% for posts relevant to the audience. For those spam posts, the click-through rate is even lower. Not only are you annoying group members by posting irrelevant content but it’s a waste of time because no one is going to click through to the article.
Probably the most important reason not to spam groups with irrelevant posts, it’s unprofessional! After working so diligently to earn the CFA designation, do you want your colleagues to see you as a spammer?
I get upwards of 10% of my visitors from LinkedIn and it can be a great resource for promoting your business, but you have to do it right.
Before posting an article or promoting your post to a LinkedIn group, follow these steps:

  1. Is the content relevant to the group? Even if members are in the same industry as the content, it still might not be relevant. For example: I see a lot of market analysis posts on the CFA Candidates group. Is that content really relevant to the group’s goal of helping people prepare for the exams? Ask yourself why members come to that group and what information is directly relevant to that purpose. If your content is not directly relevant, find another group to post it in.
  2. Add more to the post description that simply pasting the link to the article or content. Social media is about being…social! Copying your link to ten different groups is not social. Describe the content in a brief summary and ask related questions about it. Try to generate a conversation around the content and you’ll have much more success with getting it shared.
  3. Make sure you respond to questions and comments about the content. This is a part of being social and engaging with other professionals. Simply pasting your link and then ignoring any feedback is spamming rather than being a part of the community.

It’s easy to spam LinkedIn groups and to send out connection requests with a click of the mouse, but it’s not networking. Make sure you are using LinkedIn as the amazing professional tool it can be and not wasting your time with poor practices. Use it correctly with the processes above and you’ll build your professional brand quickly and will have no trouble getting the job you want or promoting your business.
‘til next time, happy networking!
Joseph Hogue, CFA

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