LinkedIn is a great place to keep track of all the people you’ve worked with, and maintain connections you’ve already made. But it can also be seen as a huge conference where everyone’s invited, it’s free to attend, and it never ends. And it’s not as intimidating.
LinkedIn has some features that let you connect with professionals that are usually hard to reach. Here are three ways to effectively network on LinkedIn:
1. Ask connections to introduce you to the 2nd degree
Introductions are great way to connect with 2nd degree connection; that is, a “friend of a friend.” Whether you want the inside scoop on a company, or to find someone with a particular skill set, chances are that someone you know knows someone that can help you.
Let’s say I was seeking an interview the president of at Arnold Worldwide, a prestigious advertising agency in Boston. If I go to Arnold Worldwide’s profile page, I can see exactly how many employees are in my network (in my case, 331… so there’s a good chance that at least one person will help me out).
Your closest connections appear first, so I can see right away that I have at least five 2nd degree connections, one of them coincidentally being the president. I can now go to her profile and click “Get introduced through a connection.”
A list of all of your mutual connections will appear, and you can select which one you’d like to make the introduction. Select the connection you’re closest with. In my case, I ran into Anand this week at a networking event, so I’d probably ask him first. Also, choose to be introduced through one connection at a time, waiting a few days between requests.
Then write a message to the target and the introducer. Don’t stick with the default LinkedIn message. Explain to the introducer why exactly you want to talk to that 2nd degree connection, and make sure you emphasize how much you’d appreciate the introduction. Also send a message to the 2nd degree connection. Keep the message brief, and state your objective clearly so that he or she isn’t wondering why you need to be introduced at all.
2. Join and participate in groups
Groups are opportunities to find people with similar interests and skills. They weren’t very appealing when groups were new because it was really difficult to search for them. Now it’s easy to find relevant groups with the search tool (I typed in social media and found the Social Media Marketing group; just what I was looking for). Then you’ll usually need to be approved by the group owner. Hence the importance of having a well-written profile.
Once you’re a member of a group, you can “share” the group with friends (which is the same as inviting them, since they won’t have to be approved). Or you can even take the initiative to create your own group.
Participate in the discussion when you have something meaningful to contribute. Don’t contribute for the sake of getting your name up there. Pose questions to the community, and thank people when the post looks like it’s not getting any more responses. You can also share news articles with your groups.
Perhaps the best feature of groups is that you can contact other group members directly. You can send them messages without being a premium LinkedIn member, and you can add them to your network without needing to know their email addresses.
3. Ask and answer questions
The Answers section is a place for you to ask and answer questions for many different topics. And when you browse through the questions, you will be surprised at how many people are at least 3rd degree connections. Although you might be tempted to ask “I’m looking for a job, know of anything????” that’s not a good way to approach this feature.
When asking questions: post relevant and interesting questions that could foster open discussion or even debate. You can use your question to share information about yourself, but don’t make it obvious that your fishing for opportunities. Try not to ask a question that can be answered by a simple Google search.
When answering questions: reply with insightful responses, and think out your answer before submitting. Also, check back later to see if anyone has responded to your reply. If you answer on a topic that you have written content on the web (an newspaper article, blog post, research journal, etc.), link to it! It’s a great way to show more about who you are.
You can strive to become an “expert” in a topic, but it takes a big time commitment. Every time the questioner chooses your answer as the best, you get one expertise point. This system has its flaws, but you can become known as an expert on your subject of expertise if you communicate often and intelligently in the LinkedIn community.