In a world where people are forever on the move, every true blue professional knows the power of leveraging LinkedIn for networking. Networking on LinkedIn has enabled users to connect with people in locations they wouldn’t have reached out hitherto and in ways they could not have imagined previously. And while easy access to LinkedIn has led a surge in the number of users and a voluminous amount of data, the key to leveraging LinkedIn for networking is to cut through the clutter and create meaningful relationships.
As a mentor, I have seen many well-intentioned friends & colleagues commit several faux pas while trying to network on LinkedIn. While speaking to group of young professionals recently, I put together a compilation, gleaned over years of experience & research on the topic of leveraging LinkedIn for networking.
Here is a summary of the most pragmatic advice on leveraging LinkedIn for networking:
1. Networking on LinkedIn is not a straight line: Many people are inundated with requests on LinkedIn from strangers for help on job search or industry knowledge on a research project. While most professionals struggle to have time on their hands, given the multiple demands on both the professional & personal fronts, it is virtually impossible for them to create time for strangers. So, if one flips it around to the point of view of the seeker, it is very important for you to establish common ground with the giver when trying to network on LinkedIn. While most articles talk about finding somebody you both know in common, it is not always possible. So, a pragmatic approach here is to bide your time & wait for the right time to add value. For example, if there is a new regulation (such as GDPR), and you see posts/trends from the giver on LinkedIn, it is the perfect opportunity to present your knowledge/thoughts on the subject and establish a connection. Let me highlight a very important subtlety here – without realizing it, you have converted yourself from a seeker (asking for a favor) to a giver (adding value on a topic).
Also read: LinkedIn Myths, Misnomers and Mishaps
2. Leverage the power of scale for networking on LinkedIn: LinkedIn has set 500 as a benchmark for reaching critical mass. There’s no other platform which gives you such a strong collation of professionals in one place, along with features which enable you to scale up quickly – online mode (just imagine how much time it would have taken to connect with all of them physically), customized invites and search function to find common ground (school, college, university, past firms, current firm, professional interests, personal interests, current topics of interest et al). Keep looking for common ground to connect with people from your past and present; hopefully, the effort gathers momentum and you end up connecting with people from the future! The key point here is to be proactive and scout for opportunities all the time.
3. Use pre-connect information for networking on LinkedIn: This is where the sheer power of leveraging LinkedIn as a networking platform comes to the fore. It is rather impossible to get a peek into another person’s mind in the offline world. On the other hand, on LinkedIn, you can get a real understanding of topics on people’s minds via their posts, contributions to discussions etc. And, if you are agile enough, this opens up several windows at various points in time to connect meaningfully with your target audience. For instance, in a discussion thread, a friend of mine noticed a post from a person he wanted to connect with, seeking information on technology partners who could help with bots, and he quickly shared that information, and built a meaningful relationship almost immediately!
4. Leverage LinkedIn notifications for networking: While you do not realize it, LinkedIn is your virtual networking assistant. It automatically props up reminders on birthdays and work anniversaries. Besides, it also notifies you when people get promoted or move roles. Also, there is a new feature which reminds you that you have not connected with one of your co-workers for, say, 2 years. Capitalize on this fully! I have not seen many people leverage this to the hilt. What is given gratis is not always to be viewed with suspicion from the point of view that there are no free lunches in this world!
Also read: Why, How and When Should I be Active on LinkedIn? The Science and Strategy Behind Content Sharing
5. Be active to leverage LinkedIn for networking: There’s no point in being silently active on LinkedIn in terms of being an active consumer, but playing little or no role in production. I know a lot of people who have the ability but are somehow afraid of putting themselves “out there”. You need to share posts and contribute content relevant to your area. It reminds people that you exist, and as you build your credibility with meaningful content from time to time, your networking will shift gears from “push” mode to “pull” mode. You are likely to be flooded with requests for connections fairly quickly.
6. Leverage networking on LinkedIn as social proof: One of the key factors in influencing & building relationships is social proof. Go ahead and create a virtuous cycle wherein by building connections, giving recommendations, getting recommendations & sharing content, you build even more connections. Set the ball rolling, with a never-say-die momentum. However, do remember that quantity can never substitute quality. So, even as you scale up, do so meaningfully.
LinkedIn is the platform to build digital social capital. In the new age world of today, it is not only about who you know, but also who knows you. Do remember that the underlying principle of leveraging LinkedIn for networking is generosity. Real interest in others and the ability & willingness to add value are key factors. As Zig Ziglar said famously, “you can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.“