While social distancing has made it more challenging to build relationships that will turn into referrals and new clients, it is more than easy to do so, thanks to social media, particularly LinkedIn.
LinkedIn enables you to stay top of mind, showcase your expertise and reconnect with your professional network.
Here are some tips for any business professional on how use LinkedIn for networking and branding, and hopefully turn connections into new business during social distancing and beyond.
- When you increase your LinkedIn connections by one person, you’re actually increasing your network by thousands. For every first degree connection you add to your LinkedIn network, you instantly gain hundreds of 2nd-degree connections and thousands of 3rd-degree connections. And, if one of your connections likes one of your posts, their connections have the potential to see that update. This is one reason why is it so important to actively add connections rather than to just sit back and accept connection requests from others.
- Become a member of key industry groups on LinkedIn where you can find like-minded professionals and share content that establishes you as a subject matter expert and expands your network. Perhaps most importantly, belonging to a group instantly grants you access to sending connection invites to every other member within that group.
- Request to join the alumni groups of any of your former places of employment and reconnect with former colleagues with whom you’ve lost touch who are also members of those groups. Each time you add a company to your list of prior jobs in your profile, you automatically follow that company but not its accompanying alumni group. So, you’ll need to manually find the corresponding alumni group and request membership.
- Also join the LinkedIn alumni groups of each educational institution you attended. Search for contacts through these groups and add them to your network. Make a list of individuals with whom you lost touch and once you connect with them, reach out to touch base – this is the perfect time to reestablish connections.
- Build online rapport and relationships by reposting the content, and liking and commenting on the status updates of VIP connections (clients, prospects, referral sources, etc.). Supporting others helps you build a strong network and stronger relationships.
- If you are on a group Zoom happy hour or networking event, note the participant list so you can connect with each person afterwards on LinkedIn.
- The Advanced Search tool on LinkedIn is another great way to strategically expand your network. Use LinkedIn filters to search by keyword, for example job title, location, company, school. Premium LinkedIn accounts enable you to conduct more searches, with wider search parameters and saved searches; however, you still can get some of these benefits with a free LinkedIn account.
- Staying top of mind is the key to success on LinkedIn. Provide status updates on a regular basis. It keeps you visible to the people in your network.
- Like and comment on LinkedIn posts that you think are valuable and share the posts with your connections and in your groups.
- Curate content from news sources you trust – this is a great way to ease the burden on having to create a piece of content. You can instead scour news sources such as the American Lawyer, Law360, Forbes, Fortune, the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company or the Huffington Post and add introductory content saying why you think it is valuable and expressing your point of view about the piece you’re sharing.
- Regularly write content that is valuable to your connections and share it on social media with brief introductory text on why they should read it. Highlight a few key points in your synopsis, use the @ sign to mention anyone in the post and always use an eye-catching visual and the right hashtags to accompany your post.
- Be generous – like and share others’ posts and congratulate others on their successes, especially your VIP connections. While they may not be ready to hire you at this moment, they will likely be in that position in the future. When they reach that point, you will be top of mind.
- Consider connecting with certain friends and family members. We often overlook mixing our personal and professional lives and oftentimes this is a source of potential business opportunities.
- Connect with anyone who engages with your content or content in which you’re mentioned.
- Connect with anyone who follows you. Note that a “follow” is different than connecting – an individual can choose to follow you (without connecting to you), depending on your settings, in order to receive your posts. I always take it a step further and invite someone to join my network if they’ve elected to follow me.
- Utilize the “People You May Know” feature. The more you use it and choose to connect with the potential connections it suggests for you (based on your connections’ connections, past education, employers, education and interests), the more targeted your future connection suggestions will be.
Building your online brand and network takes time – but I promise it’s well worth the effort especially now in this time of social distancing. LinkedIn will be the most important tool for business networking for the foreseeable future.