Whether you’re trying to wrap up a job search, lay some groundwork for a future career move, or cultivate influence and credibility within your industry, networking on LinkedIn is so much more than collecting contacts.
We Asked: How to Network on LinkedIn
We reached out to 10 experts with a series of questions to learn the best tips, techniques, and examples for how to network on LinkedIn.
Below you’ll find answers to these LinkedIn networking questions:
- What is your favorite underutilized LinkedIn feature for networking?
- How should you connect and follow up on LinkedIn after a networking event?
- What are some effective ways to take LinkedIn networking offline?
- How can introverts best utilize LinkedIn to overcome a common aversion to in-person networking events?
- What is the biggest misconception about networking on LinkedIn?
- Are there any profile red flags people should address that could be hindering their LinkedIn networking efforts?
- What are some ways someone could offer value to their growing LinkedIn network?
What is your favorite underutilized LinkedIn feature for networking?
I love writing articles and how-to guides on LinkedIn for passive and in-person networking. It’s a great way to establish credibility, and there’s no barrier to entry.
LinkedIn articles are also great for in-person networking. Whenever I speak with people in networking environments, I always try to add value to their current situation. If that ever involves a job search or personal branding, I can offer them links to my specific articles and how-to guides. This helps me to stand out as a helper. This often leads to connection requests on LinkedIn as well. That way, I can keep in contact with them after the in-person interaction. I also gain a new advocate for my services and resources. It’s a win-win every time.
Read more: How to post on LinkedIn (and how I got 100k impressions) by Madeline Mann
How should you connect and follow up on LinkedIn after a networking event?
The magical formula to following up on LinkedIn after a networking event is to ensure that there is some discussion about LinkedIn at the event.
Ask the person you would like to connect with if you could follow up on LinkedIn. If the person says “yes,” then this is a perfect segue to following up in your customized note that you send along with your connection request. In your note you can mention the event and something memorable about your discussion. Elude to the fact that this is the follow-up previously discussed.
Ensure that you profile is optimized as well as your career story. Make sure you have a profile photo because if someone doesn’t remember your name, they will often remember your face. Do all that you can to illicit positive memories from the event, the meeting, and the discussion.
Make your note (up to 300 characters) pertinent, praiseful, and professional. For example:
“Just following up on the discussion we had at the Commerce Career Mixer by connecting with you on LinkedIn. It was so nice to meet you and learn more about your transition into the world of Digital Marketing. I learned so much and look forward to meeting you for a coffee next month. Best, Sharon”
It’s easy to meet someone at a networking event, grab a business card, and never look back. Instead of connecting in vain, make it a habit to follow up with your new contacts.
Immediately after exchanging information, ask to connect on LinkedIn. Send a personal note with your connection request to remind your contacts how/where you met and reference something you talked about at the event. When they accept and respond to your note, it leaves a paper trail you can to refer to later.
After about a week and while your name is still fresh, follow up. A coaching client recently used this strategy with an industry professional who’d mentioned being short-staffed. I advised her to research the company and its challenges. In the follow-up message, she referenced their previous conversation at the event and shared her interest in joining the team. She included her value proposition along with a resume. A week later, she interviewed face-to-face with the department head and accepted her new role.
While all connections won’t result in a job offer, you’ve still expanded your network and an opportunity to share ideas, ask questions, and build relationships.
What are some effective ways to take LinkedIn networking offline?
LinkedIn accelerates and scales the relationship-building process, making it faster and easier to build mutually beneficial, long-term relationships. Requesting a meeting will:
- Build a closer relationship
- Enable you to tap into their knowledge/expertise
- Establish trust/familiarity
- Allow you to highlight your skills/expertise
- Lay the groundwork for future meeting
But you can’t just ask someone for a meeting or conversation during your first interaction on LinkedIn. To earn the right to ask someone for a conversation (or favor), you need to build a connection with the person. You do this by finding a common professional interest, leaving a thoughtful comment, or showing interest in what they are doing or sharing.
There is another networking rule that applies here. It’s the “give to get” rule. Earn the person’s trust by showing you care about them. Offer the person you’d like to meet something. It could be sharing news and trends you’ve learned about in your industry, offering help or advice, or you could introduce them to someone you think they should know. Showing respect is often all it takes to make the person want to meet with you.
How can introverts best utilize LinkedIn to overcome a common aversion to in-person networking events?
Attending job-seeker networking events are difficult for many people as it requires them to conjure up the energy and courage to meet with others who are unknown to them. For people who prefer introversion, networking events can be even tougher. I know, because I’m an introvert.
LinkedIn empowers introverts to reach out and make soft introductions to other LinkedIn users in their area. LinkedIn is particularly appealing to introverts who by nature prefer writing versus speaking. I have engaged with local LinkedIn users to the point where I feel I know them and would enjoy the opportunity to meet them at a networking event. The same procedure of developing soft introductions would apply to job seekers.
What’s important to note, however, is that engagement is key. Yes, you must develop a network of like-minded people, but it can’t end there. Engage with them through direct messaging, commenting on their posts, sharing articles of interest, and commenting on those articles. By doing this, you will allow others to get to know you. When you finally meet them in person, they are no longer unknown.
Typical networking events involve meeting many people to find the few that can impact your career. For an introvert, that burns a lot of our limited social energy.
Introverts excel in one-on-one or smaller group interactions. LinkedIn is a great tool to cut through all the trial and error of a typical networking event and only connect with the right people.
Using your introvert strength for research and LinkedIn’s search feature, you can search by job title, industry, and location to build a list to network with. You can also save that search and see new people.
As introverts often dislike small talk, you can view your new connection’s newsfeed to see what they are posting about and start a real conversation.
The goal is to eventually build relationships in person, but using LinkedIn can cut out a lot of the hit-and-miss nature of networking events.
What is the biggest misconception about networking on LinkedIn?
Most job seekers limit their LinkedIn connections to people they already know. Get your feet wet by aligning yourself with industry professionals you’ve never met, including people who work for other companies but share your same title or target job title.
By networking with these newfound colleagues, you expand your reach and employee referral opportunities. If you get sweaty palms just thinking about awkwardly meeting someone at events, coffee dates, and expensive lunches, networking through LinkedIn opens the doors for Q&A sessions via your inbox or phone.
These informational interviews are once-in-a-lifetime chances to gather insider information straight from the source. What you uncover could ultimately be the difference between your next job and a dodged bullet. When you’re unsure of what to say to a potential connection, find a common interest or say congrats on their new article. They’ll be more inclined to entertain your inquiries and you’ll feel less “cringe-y” about reaching out to complete strangers.
The biggest misconception about LinkedIn networking is that quantity is better than quality.
I see a lot of people connecting with as many people as they can, but a connection with no other context is nothing more than a button click. Without a relationship, that connection likely isn’t going to lead to the results you want.
Instead, I recommend people hone in on a handful of people who can really make an impact on their goals.
When you have your people, go deep on engagement.
Try to get to their posts early with a reaction.
Don’t just leave a bland comment like, “love these tips!” Take the time to read through their post and then write something that adds value to the discussion.
Use their posts and profile to get an idea of their message, their goals, and their initiatives. Then find ways to add value there. Introduce them to someone who can help, share a resource (article, podcast, video, etc.) that’s relevant to what they’re talking about. Show that you’re paying attention and are willing to take action to help.
That’s going to set you apart from the crowd and help you forge a relationship with that person. As the value you give grows, so does the likelihood of that person reciprocating.
Are there any profile red flags people should address that could be hindering their LinkedIn networking efforts?
When I look at a LinkedIn profile, my eye moves from the top to the bottom of the page. From a recruiting perspective, I consider the following to be red flags:
- Has the person shared a profile photo? If not, I wonder what they don’t want me to know.
- Next, I look for signs that they will see my outreach if I send them a message or InMail. If I don’t see at least one of the following…
- A green dot denoting that they’re currently on the site
- A premium membership icon
- Activity such as posting or commenting on post.
- …then I assume the person doesn’t visit LinkedIn very often. This lack of activity makes me reluctant to try to engage with them.
- A sketchy work history. When I recruited I always knew how long a new hire would have to stay with my client to make an impact. I would then look at potential candidates’ most recent 10-year employment history and divide 10 by the number of employers on their LinkedIn profiles. That gave me an average tenure per job for each person. If someone’s average tenure was less than my client’s number, it was unlikely I would contact the person. The only thing that would mitigate this would be a description of compelling achievements in each job.
So, be active enough on LinkedIn to inspire recruiters to make the effort to contact you, make an impact in your jobs, and share that information on your LinkedIn profile.
Read more: LinkedIn Profile Writing Guide by Jobscan
What are some ways someone could offer value to their growing LinkedIn network?
LinkedIn allows us all the unique opportunity to showcase our expertise and provide value to other professionals all over the globe. As LinkedIn users continually expand their reach, here are a few simple ways they can offer value to their growing network.
- Share meaningful articles, resources, or relevant industry content while offering a unique perspective and asking for others’ input.
- Write testimonials, give endorsements, and provide recommendations– based on some real interaction of course.
- Initiate a phone call, lunch meeting, or coffee appointment with the purpose of building an authentic relationship through learning more about their current priorities.
- Offer encouraging words, compliment them, or answer questions through commenting on others’ posts.
- Publish helpful articles with practical advice that others can implement in their own lives.
- Take the initiative to introduce new connections to others in their industry or recommend groups they may be interested in based on their interests.
- Create and moderate a LinkedIn group that focuses on solving a specific problem.
If your LinkedIn network is the engine of your professional growth, value is its fuel.
Value comes from your experiences, knowledge, expertise, skills, and stories of successes and failures.
The more you share your stories, the more people will connect with them. Ultimately it’ll help you to expand your network.
Applying these tips on LinkedIn will skyrocket your value offerings:
- Use different kinds of content to share your stories. Monotony kills the value proposition. Use text, images, gifs, videos, audiograms, PDFs, infographics to share your experiences and knowledge through your LinkedIn posts and articles.
- Drop your thoughtful comments on others’ content to offer value. By dropping 5 comments a day on different posts, you can easily add value in 5 different topics. It also helps you to build your visibility on LinkedIn.
- Reach out to people through messages. It seems difficult to initiate conversations with strangers. But these conversations are the soul of networking. These conversation help you to exchange insights with different people from different industries and backgrounds.
- Use LinkedIn groups to share value in a particular niche. Create a LinkedIn group and invite people to join the group who may find it beneficial. Then begin insightful conversations everyday. LinkedIn groups provide the best way to offer value focused in one specific domain.
- Whichever way you choose to engage with your network, just “Be you while adding value.”
Don’t try to copy anyone. Your uniqueness is your value proposition. It’ll make your network trust you. And that trust is everything which you’ll ever need to grow on LinkedIn.
Use these tips in your day to day LinkedIn activities. Over a period of time if you’re consistent enough, you’ll observe staggering results.