Online networking has never been more important than it is today. It’s our primary way of remaining connected to and top of mind with our professional contacts. Individuals are quite open to connecting now as we are social distancing so don’t be shy about sending connection requests to people you know but with whom you’ve lost touch.

You should always keep your network “warm” and your LinkedIn connections updated because at some point, you’ll need them.

Here’s a plan for how build and maximize your LinkedIn presence now and in the future.

Step 1: Map out your LinkedIn network

Start by identifying 30 to 50 important LinkedIn connections with whom you’ve lost touch. Categorize your connections into groups:

  • VIP connections: the top 10-15% of individuals to whom you want to immediately reach out
  • Former colleagues
  • Individuals with whom you served on a board, committee or volunteer role
  • Former classmates from law school and undergraduate school
  • Recruiters and headhunters with whom you’ve connected in the past
  • Influencers to whom you may feel less comfortable reaching out
  • Connections you don’t know well but with whom you share a lot in common

The benefits to this mapping process include:

  1. You’ll reconnect with individuals in your network, and discover opportunities and shared connections
  2. You’ll notice that some of your connections have changed jobs, which is valuable information
  3. You’ll have a better understanding of who composes your 1st-degree connections – those you don’t know well in particular –  and can decide about reconnecting or even disconnecting from them.

Reach out to them in the coming weeks in a casual way. Listen without asking them for help, asking how they’ve been, hoping there’s a way you can help them. Being proactive will also help cheer you up during this stressful time.

Also, did you know that you can export your LinkedIn connections in a CSV file and then open it in Excel? This took (while not perfect) is helpful to categorize contacts and also to ensure your LinkedIn address book is in sync with your Outlook contacts.

Step 2: Refresh your LinkedIn profile

Before reaching out to your connections, make sure your profile is complete and showcases your full professional background.

To do this, create a compelling headline and summary, fill out all of your prior work experience and education so you can connect with individuals from prior shared companies and educational institutions.

Also add an updated profile photo and a business-focused cover image. Mention any accomplishments to bolster your profile. Reorder, add and delete skills. Ensure your contact information is added to your profile. Consider uploading rich media (video, podcasts, etc.) and add items to the “Featured” section (prior articles, news clips, etc.) to enhance your profile and prominently display your top-tier media mentions and articles.

Use these updates to update your resume as well – you may need it soon.

Step 3: Stay in touch professionally

Now that you have a direction, an enhanced profile and know who you want to reach, how do you go about it?

Each day 1) Send 1-2 customized LinkedIn connection invitations and 2) leverage three common types of LinkedIn notifications from people in your mapping: birthdays and new job and work anniversary announcements

Birthday notifications

Birthday notifications are a great way to reconnect, if you do it right.

Instead of ignoring it or clicking on the default “Say Happy Birthday!”, treat birthdays as a way to strengthen your relationship with that person:

  • Visit their profile
  • If you haven’t been in touch recently, see where they work and what they’re up to. Does their recent LinkedIn activity present an item you can refer to? For example, have they moved to a new position in their company, or to another location?
  • Send them a short message either by LinkedIn messenger or email.

New job and work anniversary notifications

New job and job move notifications are an excellent opportunity to touch base. Resist the urge to click on the default “Congrats!” that LinkedIn prompts, to add to the dozens of congratulations they’re likely to receive. Send them a short personalized message either by LinkedIn messenger or email. This  often reignites relationships and can serve as the catalyst to getting back in touch with someone.

Step 4: Share content

Share content you’ve written or your company has written, or posts in which you were mentioned. You can also share business articles from sources such as Inc, Forbes and Harvard Business Review. The key is to only share helpful content that is client-centric and to always include introductory text on why you’re sharing it. Extra points if you tag someone in the post and use hashtags and visuals.

Final thoughts

Your goal with LinkedIn is to maintain a steady presence on the platform and to be in touch with your connections on a regular basis with value-added content. This helps to strengthen relationships and gives you touchpoints to demonstrate your expertise.

Invest in your important relationships before you need them. Staying in touch and building strong relationships using LinkedIn is one of the most important things you can do during the pandemic and throughout your career.

Also, remember that it’s never too early or late to use LinkedIn in a meaningful way or to build your network. Good luck and stay safe.