Online networking has never been more important than it is today. It’s become one of the primary ways in which we connect with and stay top of mind with our professional contacts.

You should always keep your network “warm” and your LinkedIn connections updated because at some point, you will 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 – these should include your 4 relationship buckets as business development coach Karen Kahn suggests: contacts inside the firm; past and current clients; personal and professional network and industry contacts
  • Recruiters and headhunters you’ve connected with in the past
  • Influencers and people you admire 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 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 moved on to new companies
  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.

Reach out to them in the coming weeks in a casual way just to reconnect.

Also, did you know that you can export your LinkedIn connections in a CSV file and then open it in Excel? This makes it very 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.

Add an updated profile photo and a business-focused cover image. 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.

Use these updates to update your resume as well.

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 send 1-2 customized LinkedIn connection invitations and 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
  • And of course wish then a happy birthday. I never believed in the value of including my birthday in my profile but I was proved wrong, I did it this year and I got no less than 200 or more messages and a few of them lead to warm leads and renewed relationships, which was an added benefit so you just never know

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 suggests, to add to the dozens of congratulations they’re likely to receive. Instead send a short personalized message either by LinkedIn messenger or email.

Go a step further and send a congratulatory gift to VIP connections (clients, prospects, mentors, referrals and others who have helped you) when they land new roles or get promoted.  Making a small effort like this can build such a strong relationship.

Also, make sure you update your CRM as well with this information because most people don’t send an email with their new contact info when they switch jobs anymore. It’s up to you to do the due diligence to find out where they landed and information like this is really important to update your mailing lists.

Step 4: Share content

Share content you’ve written or your company has written. You can also share business articles from news sources such as American Lawyer, Inc, Forbes and Harvard Business Review. I also find data from legal intelligence company Leopard Solutions to be very timely and useful to share on social media.

The key is to be helpful with what you share and to always think about what will resonate with your connections. Value-added, useful content is how you can become a go-to authority on LinkedIn.

Final thoughts

Your goal with LinkedIn is to maintain a consistent presence on the platform with helpful content and to be in touch with your connections on a regular basis.

This helps to strengthen relationships and give you touchpoints to demonstrate your expertise.

Staying in touch and building strong relationships using LinkedIn is one of the most important things you can do 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.

Stefanie Marrone advises law firms of all sizes, professional service firms, B2B companies, recruiters and individuals on the full range of marketing and business development consulting services designed to enhance revenue, retain current clients and achieve greater brand recognition. She also serves as outsourced chief marketing officer/marketing department for small and mid-size law firms.

Over her 20-year legal marketing career, she has worked at and with a broad range of big law, mid-size and small firms, which has given her a valuable perspective of the legal industry. Connect on LinkedInTwitterYouTubeInstagram,  sign up for her email list and follow her latest writing on JD Supra.