Engaging with connections: Do this properly and you will build your brand on LinkedIn
By Bob McIntosh, CPRW, MBTI
This is the third in a three-part series about LinkedIn, and using LinkedIn to build one’s “brand.” In the December Messenger Bob began this series with a discussion of how to create a powerful profile. In February, he discussed the issue of connecting with the right people – and the right number of people.
So let’s say you have a finely crafted profile and you’ve started building your connections. Good job! But you are just two-thirds of the way to your goal of creating a personal brand using LinkedIn. The final component of your effort is to engage with your connections.
I’m often asked by my clients how often they should use LinkedIn. My inclination is to tell them that, like me, they should use it at least two hours every day. But I know that is unreasonable for most busy professionals. In fact, it borders on insanity.
So I suggest they do at least half an hour, four days a week. Still, their eyes glaze over and I hear groans of protest. But I stay firm on this requirement.
Why is it important to be on LinkedIn so much? It’s important because if you want to be “top-of-mind,” you need to be present. In other words, you must consistently communicate with your connections to successfully brand yourself as an active and thoughtful professional in your field.
Here are seven simple ways to communicate with your connections:
1. Share Updates
This is the easiest way to communicate with your connections and brand yourself as a thought leader in your LinkedIn community. However, what you write must be carefully thought out and add value to people’s lives.
So I’m not talking about tweet-like updates (although you can share updates on Twitter) every day stating you’re looking for work. I’m talking about illuminating updates that prompt participation.
Your updates might be about what’s going on in your industry. You can provide important tips (remember, you’re still an expert in your occupation). And/or you can share inspirational quotes.
2. Publish Posts and Share Articles
By using LinkedIn’s “Write an article” feature to share your writing, you are gaining visibility and, therefore, enhancing your brand.
Again, it’s important that your writing provides value. If it doesn’t, you’re wasting the time of your connections.
Another great way to supply useful information to your connections is by acting as a curator. A curator is a selfless LinkedIn member who shares the writing of other LinkedIn members. In addition to educating others, you are building relationships with fellow writers by sharing their work.
Don’t forget to “like,” “comment,” or “share” your connections’ updates. This shows you appreciate the efforts they’ve made to contribute on LinkedIn. That said, in my mind, it is far better to provide an intelligent comment than just to “like” someone else’s article.
Even if you’re unemployed, you should take advantage of this feature. You can demonstrate your expertise within your industry, thus strengthening your brand.
3. Participate in “Groups”
“Groups” went through an overhaul more than a year ago. Some believe this feature has suffered from LinkedIn’s attempts to enhance it. (Not sure what I’m talking about? Read LinkedIn Announces Major Changes to Groups by Greg Cooper, another LinkedIn coach and trainer, for an explanation of the enhancements.)
Nonetheless, it’s important to participate in conversations that are going on in your particular groups. When you participate in a group discussion, your connections will see your input streaming on their home pages.
To brand yourself effectively, be certain that the conversations you start – or the contributions you make – add value. Don’t indulge in the silly arguments that pop up in some groups.
Remember: Recruiters could be members of groups that you are in. They may read your contributions to the group. Make sure you write intelligent, non-negative comments. This is all about branding yourself as a capable, positive job candidate.
4. Send Direct Messages to Your Connections
LinkedIn recently made another change in the way you communicate with your connections. Now, instead of sending individual messages, all your communications are grouped together in an endless stream. It takes some getting used to, but it has proven to be an effective change.
Every once in a while you should ping your connections, letting them know how you’re doing in your job search. This is another way to stay top-of-mind.
Keep in mind that your messages don’t have to always be about the job search. Sometimes, it’s nice to send an informal message, commenting on something like your connection’s daughter’s soccer game, or send a link to an article you think your connection might appreciate. Doing this will brand you as a concerned connection, not someone who thinks only of themselves.
5. Endorse Your Connections for Their Skills
You’ve probably read many opinions from people on the topic of endorsements. Well, here is another: Add me to the list of people who prefer receiving or writing thoughtful recommendations. And I’m not alone.
So, in particular, don’t get click-happy when endorsing connections. This will make you appear disingenuous and damage your brand.
Endorsements have a purpose greater than simply showing appreciation for someone’s skills; they act as a way to touch base. In other words, they are another way to communicate with your connections.
6. Use the “Companies” Feature
I saved one of the best features for number 6. The “Companies” feature epitomizes networking on LinkedIn. It allows you to find people who are in a position to help you. It encourages you to be proactive.
In my LinkedIn workshop I tell attendees they should have a list of companies for which they’d like to work. Next, it’s important to build foundations at these companies before applying for jobs at them. This means building a network of key connections.
Once you’ve located the person with whom you’d like to connect, you manually connect with said person by going to their profile, clicking “Connect,” and writing a personalized invite. Failure to send a personalized invite will hurt your brand. You’ll be seen as lazy.
7. Use the “Jobs” Feature to Network
Using LinkedIn’s “Jobs” feature is not your best way to land a job. It is, after all, just a job board. (A very low percentage of job seekers are successful using job boards.) But I wouldn’t discount LinkedIn “Jobs.” Use it in conjunction with your networking efforts.
In many cases the person who posted the position is revealed, providing you with the option of contacting them. My favorite feature of “Jobs” is the ability to see which of your alumni work at companies of interest.
Engaging with your connections is the only way to stay top-of-mind on LinkedIn. You may have the best possible profile and 5,000 connections. But if you are not active on LinkedIn, your results likely will be disappointing.
Bob McIntosh is a career workshop specialist, LinkedIn trainer, and LinkedIn profile writer. He taught the PDC class last December in “Mastering the New LinkedIn for Job Search & Professional Success.” Visit his blog: Things Career Related.