As a platform completely dedicated to the concept of networking, LinkedIn is an undoubtedly powerful tool for making new connections and boosting your professional reputation. But, honestly, it’s one that many people fail to put much effort into.
Let’s face it, sometimes you get sick of work and scrolling through Instagram or perusing recipes on Pinterest is way more fun than composing polished introductory notes and endorsing your old college roommate for her public speaking skills. Believe me, I get it.
But, you really don’t want to fall into the trap of creating a LinkedIn profile and then promptly forgetting about it. Trust me, this platform has a lot to offer—as long as you put in a little work to use it to its full potential.
Not sure how to get started? I’ve got you covered. Here are six essential tips you need in order to leverage the power of LinkedIn and make the most of that profile you haven’t brushed up in years. Let’s knock off those cobwebs and get started!
1. Update your profile frequently.
First things first, before you begin trying to make the most of LinkedIn, you’ll want to ensure your own profile is in tip-top shape. After all, if you’re planning on making some new connections, you want those people to have the most accurate and updated portrayal of your skills and knowledge. That profile that says you’re still a college marketing intern, when you graduated and have been in the working world for three whole years? Well, it’s not doing you any favors.
So, sit down and spend a few hours tuning up your profile. Switch out your photo to something more recent that clearly shows your face. Add any new positions and read through all your previous job descriptions to ensure they adequately capture your duties and also have been switched to past tense. Finally, put a little elbow grease into re-doing your summary. Of course, you want to make it something professional that explicitly shares your skills and expertise. But, don’t be afraid to inject a little personality either. Keep in mind this is still social networking.
Also, don’t assume that just because you spent a decent chunk of time fine-tuning your profile now means you can forget about it for a few years again. Instead, get yourself in the habit of reading through your own profile on a pretty consistent basis. It gives you a chance to double check that everything is still accurate, as well as an opportunity to add any new updates or professional accomplishments.
2. Keep an eye on who’s viewed your profile.
As a freelancer and business owner, being able to see who’s viewed my profile is one of my favorite features of LinkedIn. I’ve landed numerous clients and projects through the platform—and typically those people viewed my profile a few times before reaching out directly. To this day, nothing turns me into Nancy Drew faster than when someone views my page anonymously.
Your goal with LinkedIn is to expand your network and make new, meaningful connections.
Even if you aren’t currently in a position where you’re actively seeking work or new opportunities, this feature is still a great benefit. Your goal with LinkedIn is to expand your network and make new, meaningful connections—and this is a great spot to start. These people obviously viewed your profile for a reason, meaning they were interested in some aspect of your professional identity.
So, if I see someone in the “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” section of my page that interests me, I’ll typically send them a personalized invitation to connect. It might sound creepy, but I promise it’s not. I’ve actually started numerous beneficial professional relationships using this exact tactic!
3. Don’t be stingy with connection requests!
This is another common trend I see with LinkedIn users. Many of them are good at accepting the invitations that flood their inbox—but they absolutely never send any out themselves. Why? I have no idea. But, proactively reaching out to people you admire or want to get to know is an important part of using the platform effectively.
The marketing manager at the event planning firm you’ve always admired, that freelance photographer you’re hoping to partner with, or that magazine editor you’d love to have a chat with—you’d love to talk with them all. But, chances are, they aren’t going to approach you out of the blue. So go ahead, send them an invitation to connect and spark a conversation. You never know what can happen!
4. Send personalized messages.
Before blanketing the world in generic LinkedIn requests, I need to make you aware of my golden rule of LinkedIn: Always, always, always personalize your connection message. When requesting to connect with someone, LinkedIn will automatically fill in text that looks something like this:
I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
Bland and boring, right? There’s nothing about that note that makes me actually want to connect with the person. That sentence tells me zero about who that person is or why we should be connected.
This is why it’s so important you personalize every single invitation request you send out. In case you weren’t already aware, yes, that field is completely customizable—as long as you stick within the limit of 300 characters. So get a little personal! Tell the person exactly why you want to connect. Here’s an example:
I hope you’re doing well!
My name is Kat, and I’m a Wisconsin-based freelance writer. I’ve been a long-time admirer of ABC Magazine, and I love the monthly column you write. I’d love to connect and continue to follow your work.
Looking forward to staying in touch, Julie!
5. Focus on building relationships.
Adding people on LinkedIn can be fun. But it’s important to remember that your goal isn’t to see your list of connections grow bigger and bigger. Instead, your emphasis should be placed on building quality, meaningful relationships.
This means you shouldn’t feel pressured to connect with every human being under the sun. Instead, spend your time searching for people who you think could really benefit your career path. Whether they’re leaders in your industry or people with skillsets that you think could help you down the road, you want to focus your time and energy into building a valuable network.
You shouldn’t feel pressured to connect with every human being under the sun. Instead, spend your time searching for people who you think could really benefit your career path.
Building meaningful relationships also means you need to follow through. Don’t just fire off dozens of connection requests and then never pursue any sort of interaction. Instead, use your requests as a starting point for a conversation. Then, be sure to stay somewhat in touch with that person by “liking” any interesting posts and congratulating them on new positions or accomplishments. Nobody’s saying you need to send lengthy emails back and forth each and every day—but you should make some effort to stay in the loop.
6. Utilize LinkedIn Pulse.
Have you heard of LinkedIn Pulse? It’s a LinkedIn feature that allows you to self-publish content. Now, before you roll your eyes and think, “Well, I’m not a writer, so that doesn’t matter to me!” hear me out.
You don’t need to be a writer to post content on Pulse—that’s actually the point, anyone can do it. Using this platform to publish your original content can definitely take your profile up a notch. Why? Well, your profile gives the cut and dried facts about your knowledge and expertise. It tells people what you’re good at. But publishing a post on Pulse? It shows people. It gives you some credibility.
So, go ahead and author something about your views on changes in the healthcare industry, your favorite photography equipment to use, or how you manage to keep a classroom full of third graders focused on their assignments. It’s a space meant for sharing your skills and views—even if you’re not a writer.
Even better? Since LinkedIn is such a highly trafficked website, Google is more likely to index this content and display it in search results—meaning you’ll get yourself in front of even more eyeballs. And if you’re a blogger? Republishing some of your own posts on LinkedIn is a great way to grow your audience!
At first glance, LinkedIn might seem like a stuffy, useless site that you only created a profile on because you felt like you had to. But, if you take some time to dig in, you’ll soon realize how undeniably powerful this platform can be. So sign into your account, put these tips to work, and prepare for some great results!