As an entrepreneur, your network is important. Some might say crucial. The more connections you have, the more visible you will be, even indirectly. That’s why many of you turn to LinkedIn, THE professional social network, and it’s a good move! But before you go diving in with your eyes closed on a hunt for more contacts, make sure your approach is the right one to maximize your chances at success and optimize the amount of time you spend on it. So much can be said about LinkedIn, but what I’ll be focusing on in this article are three keys to a great LinkedIn acquisition strategy. If you don’t follow them, you’ll be wasting your time (and yes, I know what I’m talking about).
1. Tend to the appeal of your profile and presence
Before trying to meet other professionals, make sure you too will be seen as one. You would never consider attending a networking event in your pjs, right? So the first thing to do is polish these two aspects: your profile and your activity on the network.
Your profile is the first thing other members see about you. More specifically, two elements on your profile will make all the difference between a yes or a no to your invitations – your picture and your “title,” being the only things they can see without clicking. Do I need to state the need for your picture to be professional? And more than that, it should convey your commitment, your passion for what you do, etc. It is your first impression and it counts. Your profile heading or title provides details about your activity or activities. Of course, you can display “director of XXX” or “entrepreneur in XX,” but is that enough information to spark the curiosity of people outside your network? I highly recommend using the allotted 120 characters to lure in your viewers: add unique details about your business, its biggest success, or even the various roles that warrant your expertise in your sector. To go farther into this topic, you can find a detailed article about LinkedIn profiles here.
Secondly, your presence on the network. This is usually the scariest step. You don’t know exactly what to say, how to say it or to who. Once again, the idea is to make your profile appealing for other professionals who venture onto your page. As is usually the case, my recommendation for addressing this issue is to stand back and take stock. Ask yourself why you want to grow your network. Is it to establish your credibility, to give your visibility a boost, or to profit from the experience of other professionals? Your answer can serve as a guideline for writing posts. Let me explain: if your aim is to boost your visibility as an expert, you need to post information that positions you as an expert, such as sharing a news piece and giving your point of view, giving tips/best practices for issues commonly encountered by your network, etc. You can also take advantage of other people’s visibility by commenting on viral posts on their feeds: if your comment is interesting enough to get a response from the author, it’s an added bonus! Posting regularly is essential. Loads can be said about it, there are oh-so many techniques for optimizing your posts, but that is not today’s topic. I’ll come back to it in another article.
2. Find the right profiles to connect with
You had to know I wasn’t going to recommend connecting with every profile in Luxembourg! 😉 The first consideration that can guide your search is the same as for your company social networks (remember, I talked about it in another article): who is your target? More specifically on LinkedIn, what profile type(s) are your looking for? The answer to this will also depend on how you intend to use the network, as stated earlier in this article. Always place quality above quantity: the more precise the information you post, the better you will be able to focus your efforts on convincing key people to grow your business. Several factors must be taken into account: the sector (of course), the line of business, but also the size of the company, the person’s seniority, their experience, location, etc.
Once your criteria is clear in your mind, you have several options for tracking down the most relevant profiles, including: typing your criteria into the LinkedIn search bar and adjusting the various filters to refine your results, using hashtags to search for people who are active on subjects that interest you, browsing through the contacts of your contacts, etc. There are tools to help with this, but the ones that really work are not free. I recommend trying free methods first!
3. Perfect your invitations
Here we are! Now that you’re proud of your LinkedIn image and have identified the people you want to connect with, it’s time to send out invitations for them to join your network! A bit of work remains before you can make the big click… if there’s one thing never to omit, it’s this: ALWAYS add a personalized message. The professional on the other side won’t take the time to look into what they can gain by adding you to their network: so tell them. Doing so makes a real difference. Personally, I have invitations coming in every week. If I don’t know the person and they do not tell me why they’re getting in touch, they will not get a response. My advice is to spend some time writing your messages. Things like “we’re in the same line of business, we should connect” are no better than not sending a message in the first place. These two levers can serve as a basis: you have something in common with the person (a former colleague, an event, a training course or professional experience, etc.) and can mention it to break the ice. And if not, offer them some added value: advice for improving their site, or the answer to a question they asked in a previous post, for example. This will require a bit of research.
There you have it, you now hold the information you need to start networking on LinkedIn! Will it take more time than sending out invitations more or less randomly? Of course it will! But will it be worth your time? Without a doubt. Do let me know how it works out.
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