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LinkedIn – One Of The Best Ways to Network Online

In this 2nd part of How to Make the Most of your LinkedIn Profile, we focus on what to do after you have built your initial profile and how to network around LinkedIn to really maximise your contacts. Again many of these things will seem obvious to seasoned networkers but they are often overlooked and can reap substantial benefits.

Top Tips For Maximising Your Network on LinkedIn

1. Post in The Q & A Section

This is another way to get your name out there in the rapidly growing LinkedIn Community. Find relevant questions that you can answer with some level of expertise in the Q and A section and if your answers get selected as the best answer 3 times you get a flag on your profile showing that you are considered an expert in that area. This means your are more likely to come up in searches and people are more likely to contact your with business expertise requests.

2. Join Relevant Groups

There are lots of industry and interest specific groups on LinkedIn. These are like mini Internet forums where you can post links, conversations on latest news and ideas and jobs. You can do a keyword search in the groups’ section and see what groups are of interest to you and/or to your potential clients. Joining and posting in these groups allows you to expand your network with relevant contacts, gain new ideas and see what opportunities are available to you. You can even create and manage your own groups and invite relevant contacts, which you can then send newsletters and individual or group messages.
All updates from the groups can be set to be sent to your inbox so you can easily keep track of what is going on. Being part of the community in LinkedIn helps you get your name out there and can often result in developing new business or finding solutions to your business problems.
This is a great tool, especially if you are new to Internet forums and want to keep your communication in one place. Do note however it is often considered bad practice to use these groups to spam or overly promote your business, it is better to be subtle and build links based on common goals and interests.

3. Search For New Contacts

After you have joined relevant groups and added all your existing contacts, it is a good time to start searching for new contacts to approach. You can search by job title, keywords, companies and industry bringing up a list of people who meet your criteria within your network including 2nd and 3rd degree contacts, and contacts from your groups.
If you have an upgraded account you can see more details and also have the opportunity to use InMails to contact relevant persons directly. If the contacts are 2nd degree contacts you can ask the person you know and knows them, to introduce you, or you could use the connect request to see if they would like to join your network. Be warned however; if you send too many requests to people who say they do not know you, you can be restricted from your account so it is always better to try and contact them first (by ringing their company and asking for them, or through introductions) before sending a request.
When you search for contacts you can continue networking around LinkedIn by looking at the left hand side of the person’s profile where it says “other people also viewed” which often brings up further relevant individuals. You can also click on the individual skills and see who has left referrals.

4. Use InMail

Unfortunately InMails are not free. However if you upgrade your account for a small fee per month (unless you are very heavily using this feature) you get the ability to directly contact anyone within your network (2nd and 3rd degree connections and groups) directly. This is much more professional than sending a contact request and means you will not become “Linked-out” for abusing the contact system. People generally are very open to receiving InMails and this is a good way of initiating contact with potential clients and suppliers. Again it is considered bad practice to use this for Spam, however a relevant, well-written request often goes down well. The other benefit is that if you do not get a response within 7 days your get your InMail Credit back.

5. Respond Quickly to Contact Requests

No one likes to feel ignored or to be kept waiting. All contact requests can be forwarded to your business email so it is easy to respond to them quickly. Be selective about who you add, however note, that every person you add to your network expands your own. So by allowing contact requests you are effortless building your own bank of contacts. It is considered very good practice to send a quick note to anyone who requests contact and to reply to any questions they ask in the request. This makes it clear that you are actually paying attention to the contact rather than just mindlessly clicking the accept or reject button. Please also note that by rejecting the request you are putting a mark against that person. If the request is polite, please consider archiving the request, so that even if you do not want to be part of their network, they do not get a black mark against their name.

6. Give and Request Feedback

Word of mouth goes a long way. If you have done a particularly good job for one of your contacts, or they have done a good job for you, make sure you give and request feedback. These then act as instant referrals and really help promote you and your business. Remember the more feedback you give, the more likely you are to get it back. Some companies even add a feedback request link to their invoices and emails rather than the standard feedback forms, so that any endorsements instantly appear online.

LinkedIn – A Small Business Essential

In summary, LinkedIn is really an essential tool for anyone who wants to build their business profile online. It is especially good for small business, as many of its features are free and easy to use. By following the above tips and spending a little time each day to check and update your account, you will find that you will gradually build your network and as a result your business.