When it comes to networking, these days, you actually need a network.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, LinkedIn, the business and employment oriented social network, existed to put like-minded professionals together to share business and work accomplishments, tips and information.
LinkedIn still exists for those reasons, but also represents a way to make those valuable contacts and maintain those valuable relationships without being in the same room.
Dr. Katie Hill, director of the R.M. “Bob” Wood Sales Leadership Center at Arkansas State University, recommends LinkedIn for refining and elevating your business profile to make the connections that can inform and enhance your career.
There are several ways to maximize LinkedIn’s benefits, Hill says, and some things to avoid.
“Some of these things might sound really elementary,” she says. “But I see them not being done.”
1. Be URL-self
Regardless of whether you have the paid or basic version of LinkedIn, Hill recommends using your profile settings to create your own URL, better known as a web address. A more personalized URL makes your profile more searchable and gives you credibility by demonstrating to the LinkedIn community “you know what you’re doing,” Hill says. Put the URL on your business card to enhance your accessibility. Also use your bio to describe yourself in a concise and interesting way. It’s not a resume. Make it clear about who you are as a professional and what your brand is. “After about three sentences, do I know what I really need to know about you?” Hill says.
2. Fly your banner
A LinkedIn banner is the image that sits behind your photo. Customize it by uploading a photo or group of photos to represent your professional side or go to the image and document creation site Canva.com to create your own banner. Avoid the vacation photos and choose images showcasing your brand. If you’re involved in certain professional organizations use pictures of that. A distinctive image makes people more inclined to read your profile.
3. Lean into lean
Keep your network slim. Don’t try to connect with everybody. You want your posts to stay relevant by attracting comments and that means having a network of people with whom you actually have connections and common ground. The algorithm will know if you are linked with dozens of strangers. Limit your hashtags to three to five and tag people in posts that might be useful to them; tagging an insurance agent in an article about premiums, for example. “You want to get people to like it but you also want to get people to engage with you within the first 40 to 60 minutes, to stay relevant,” Hill says.
4. Keep up with housekeeping
Like houseplants or relationships, your LinkedIn profile needs regular attention to thrive. Daily and weekly effort will help you build your network. Congratulate people on work milestones and promotions. Recommend or endorse professionals whose services you know well. “When you write something credible, people are going to want to reciprocate that,” Hill says. Post regularly. Hill says some people take time on Sundays and schedule their posts for the week, but just taking 15-20 minutes each day can be enough to keep your profile fresh and relevant. “Sometimes I just get on LinkedIn with my morning cup of coffee and post,” Hill says.
And one ‘don’t’
LinkedIn should not be confused with Facebook, Hill says. Don’t try to see how many connections you can make. Be specific and targeted. Share information relevant to people in your network, and make sure the people in your network are relevant to you. It’s not about posting cooking tips or complaining about the person who took up two parking spots at Walmart.
“This is your business brand,” Hill says. “Celebrate people’s business accomplishments. Celebrate people in business and don’t connect to people you don’t actually know. It will backfire. … Ask people to make introductions for you and don’t go from posting every day or six hours a day for a week straight and then nothing.”