It pays to be Social – Maximise your Network on LinkedIn

There are over 2,200,000 LinkedIn users in Australia using the channel on average 5 times a week. This means that nearly 10% of the Australian population is building profiles and making business connections on LinkedIn. With so many members on LinkedIn, how do you stand out to people looking at your profile? How should you optimize your profile to be found by the right people? And, how do you use LinkedIn to maximise your business network and reach out to the influencers in your market?

You should think of your LinkedIn profile as an extension of your own personal brand. If used effectively you can advertise your strengths and gain valuable career or project opportunities. You only get one first impression and with internet users becoming increasingly bored and exiting tabs within seconds, you have to stand out immediately.

I personally have used LinkedIn as a method of connecting with influencers and making business connections. I find it an incredibly useful tool to grow your business network. Here are my top tips on how to maximise your network on LinkedIn…

1.  Complete your profile

Just setting up a profile and leaving it idle is not good enough on LinkedIn. The main purpose of LinkedIn is as a business social network, therefore you should be easily found using the search tools. If you have a blank or incomplete LinkedIn profile then the search function in LinkedIn will not be able to return you for relevant search results.

LinkedIn prompts you on ways to complete your profile to make it easier. Make sure you add your education, experience, skills/expertise and keep these up-to-date. Fill out your contact details. Post a picture-people want to see who they are talking to. Maybe they have been talking to you on the phone whilst you have been pitching a sale and want to put a face to the voice. It certainly won’t hurt you-just make sure it is a suitable photo, not one from your hen or bucks night out.

2. Optimize your LinkedIn for keywords

Have you used the advanced search feature on LinkedIn? If so you will know that you can find people according to their industry, skills, function, languages, etc. Therefore you should treat your LinkedIn profile like a website-optimize it to be found by the keywords you want to be associated with. For example, if you are a marketing manager you should use this as your title, in your summary, experience and skills & expertise.

If you want your LinkedIn profile to be discoverable on Google, then customise your URL to your name. When people search your name your LinkedIn profile should also display. Encourage others to endorse your skills and expertise and recommend you so that search engines have third party recommendations to rely on. These recommendations will also make your profile more trustworthy to other LinkedIn users as you have been praised by a third-party.

3. Invite existing business connections

This may sound simple, but you may not be connected to all of your existing business connections. You can easily find people through company profiles, so have a think about your clients companies, supplier companies and any other companies that have an interest in you. Find your past companies and add the associates you have worked with in the past. Search for your schools, colleges or Universities and add your old classmates-you never know how they could help you now! This will be much easier if you have a complete work and education sections, as you will be able to connect with them through this link.

4. Find your industry influencers

LinkedIn is a great channel to use for outreach. If you don’t know your industry influencers and leaders you can find them through using tools such as FollowWonk or building a Google Custom Search Engine. For more ways to find your influencers and building a rapport with them see my previous blog The DREAM Model.

Once you have established who you want to connect with in your industry you should reach out to them through not only LinkedIn but also Twitter, blogs and Facebook.

5. Answer questions in industry groups

If you are serious about maximising your network on LinkedIn then you should really be active on industry relevant groups. Help other business people by answering their problems-this will establish you as an authority in your industry. Behave in a professional manner. You can make beneficial business relationships through engaging with influencers and potential customers in groups-make sure that you also connect with them.

You should also ask questions-a real expert knows its limits- this is an effective way to build up a discussion with industry experts. Use your status updates to ask questions or share your knowledge. This will ensure you are on the home page and business connections will see your face and update.

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6. Connect with professionals

I firmly believe that LinkedIn is a tool that should be used for networking in your industry. Therefore, you should be connecting and communicating with people that you believe can enhance your network and career. You needn’t have worked with them for a few years to connect with them. LinkedIn is a communication tool that brings like-minded individuals together to shares interests and ideas.

7. Market your profile

You should drive traffic to your LinkedIn page similarly as you would with Twitter. Once your profile is complete and ready for professionals to view then you should start encouraging people to connect with you via LinkedIn. Use your URL in your email signature; add it on your Twitter, Facebook, company blog, private blog and send to your email contacts.

8. Do not sell yourself short

You should do yourself justice by showing of your expertise and knowledge-you never know who could be looking at your profile (unless you have LinkedIn Premium :)). If you have something to offer to people that makes their lives easier then you should be telling them. You don’t have to be boasting on your status every five minutes, but you should be sharing your knowledge in groups, discussions and other people’s statuses. Market yourself on your profile, maybe the next time someone is looking for your type of expertise you may be contacted or recommended.

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Whether you are looking to maximise your network for career opportunities, business deals or establishing yourself as an expert, LinkedIn is an effective way to reach out to the influencers and potential customers in your industry. If you follow these steps you will find quick networking results that are more targeted then using other social media networks.

If you have any thoughts please share. In the meantime, you can connect with me on LinkedIn here and follow Matter Solutions.