LinkedIn is the professionals’ place. But you don’t necessarily have to be in a full suit and tie to be playing along. Although my latest blazer with shoulder pads is pretty sweet and I give it five stars.
Whether you’re in the C-Suite at a Fortune 500 company, a marketing manager, a WFH warrior in sweatpants with a pet companion, or a recent college graduate on the hunt for a job, you can find anyone you need to know on LinkedIn.
“Anyone?” you say? Well, there are 810 million users on LinkedIn. But we do believe bigger is not necessarily better. In fact, as with other social media platforms with that many users, it can feel difficult to navigate and make meaningful connections. Connection requests are many, and while building your network is great, these connections actually serve no purpose without effort to give them meaning. There is no reason to collect connections just for the sake of it. We promise they have NO TRADE IN VALUE when you retire. The trick is making these connections meaningful.
In order to do this you’re going to need to get real and get personal. That means sharing photos of your life, your thoughts, and what is happening in your personal and professional world alike. The self-appointed LinkedIn police who keep roaming the site saying “you can’t post that on LinkedIn because it’s too personal” is just that, self-appointed and should not be listened to. We’re not advocating for oversharing, but you should know that some of the most successful and viral posts on LinkedIn are “info-tainment” video posts, heartwarming story posts, relatable humor posts, and personal story posts.
Trust us. It’s time to get real, get creative, and get personal.
With years of experience and great stats to back it up, we know that the first step is a mindset shift. You have to reorient your focus to creating meaningful connections within the community you most relate to and not simply connecting randomly with anyone and everyone. To get even remotely personal you're going to want to curate your audience and make sure those attending the theatre of you are going to appreciate the show you put on. Maybe that sounds like we’re suggesting you pretend, but on the contrary, you’re going to get on a stage of sorts called the LinkedIn platform and perform some of your greatest numbers (your expertise, your perspective, your experiences) and you want to know that what you have to share is relevant and interesting.
So, here we offer three fundamental parts of your LinkedIn process that will set you up for success as you cultivate meaningful relationships on this professional network.
3 Top Tips for Making Meaningful Connections on LinkedIn
1. Make Your Connections Count
Many have had a dormant profile on LinkedIn for so long that they don’t even remember who they are connected to. Perhaps you spent two weeks connecting to people three jobs and four years ago and then gave up. Since that time, your professional circle has expanded, but your network went stagnant. Perhaps you started LinkedIn your senior year in college while looking for a job and then abandoned it with that first paycheck. Whatever the case, now is the time to make your connections count.
Start with your current colleagues and clients. Then expand to your mentors, those you mentor, conference buddies, and past clients. You may be surprised to find out that people you talk with frequently are not a connection of yours on LinkedIn. Remedy that now. But before you go pressing that CONNECT button on LinkedIn make sure that you take the time to send a personalized message letting them know why you’re reaching out.
Want to stand out in a crowd?
You have 300 characters in a LinkedIn connection request so make each word count! You don’t need to personalize each message, but make it FEEL personal. Some examples are:
BONUS MINDSET SHIFT: While LinkedIn is an online platform, one way to make connections count is to consider the online/offline rule. This is our mindset where you remember that if you connect with someone offline (at a conference, in a meeting, at the chamber of commerce, etc.) you want to be sure to connect with them online (on LinkedIn) and vice versa. Other meaningful relationships in your meet in more than one place. You see your friend for a coffee, say hello at the synagogue, sit across from them at your kids’ soccer practice, etc. Rare is the meaningful relationship that has only one meeting place.
The most common objection we get when we share this best practice is that people don’t want to connect with someone when they don’t understand WHY they should be connected. Specifically, salespeople often say, “But they work at company X so they don’t need what we offer.” But that is terribly short-sighted when it comes to making LinkedIn connections count.
First of all, people move jobs throughout their career, secondly networking is not about selling directly to your contacts. It is about building a NETWORK (notice the word connection) where you can know more people and be known by them. You may just be one recommendation away from your most sweet next opportunity. In short, we always say, “You don’t sell TO your network, you sell THROUGH it.”
2. Reach Out
In person, if someone asked you a question it would be horribly rude if you simply stared back at them and didn’t answer. Don’t be that person online. Don’t make the mistake of sending out multitudes of connection requests and then ignoring messages that come back. A daily task that should become muscle memory is checking your messages and notifications on LinkedIn. At the very least, turn on these notifications to your email in some fashion so you’re not ignoring conversations.
If someone is important enough to connect to, they should be important enough to reach out and make the connection meaningful. The easiest way to do this is to make it a regular habit to look at who you’ve connected to in the last month and take a minute to see what they are up to and reach out with something more personalized.
First click MY NETWORK in the top middle of the navigation.
Then click CONNECTIONS in the top left.
Then click CONNECTIONS in the top left.
LinkedIn’s default is to show you your most recent connections back in time as you scroll through the list. If you want to make your connection with Eleanor more meaningful, simply click on her profile and scroll down until you see Activity. Simply press Show all activity, which will bring you options.
The option you want to see is her actual posts, so click on posts and you’ll see what she most recently posted.
This gives you IMMEDIATE access to direct conversations with her about what SHE is interested in instead of what you want to broadcast. In terms of reaching out, this shows respect for others’ opinions and ideas. Start a conversation with her about something she is already talking about. That is a sure way to make your LinkedIn connections immediately more meaningful.
3. Engage and Interact
Only celebrity talk show hosts get away with a monologue.
Otherwise, monologues are boring.
Making the best of reaching out means doing more than simply “liking” someone’s post. Consider if someone speaks to you about a topic they are passionate about and in person you simply smile and give them a thumbs up but have nothing else to say. That would be so weird.
It’s also weird online.
Interact with your connections by commenting about what they have said and perhaps even adding your thoughts. Tag someone else in your comment if you think they would agree, disagree or simply enjoy the conversation and have something to add.
At first, you may not see the point of spending time building up the importance of other people’s feeds, but once you understand how the LinkedIn algorithm works, there is an added bonus to operating this way. Firstly, your face shows up on important digital real estate on every page where you interact or comment. Secondly, comments you make on others’ feeds have a big chance of being seen by all of the followers in that person’s network. This connection, in turn, causes your face and comment to be seen by connections of your connections, thus expanding your network exponentially. Maybe that friend of a friend of a friend is the next biggest business opportunity just waiting for a meaningful connection.
Share posts, write your thoughts, share articles you’re interested in and tag your connections in them. Give shout-outs to others for great things they write or post. Don’t be shy (but be genuine) with your praise and you’ll find that positive engagement and interaction will grow your LinkedIn community in a meaningful way.
Ready to test our tips?
In order to make the most of networking on LinkedIn, you’re going to need to know who you’re connecting with, why you want to connect with them, and then make yourself more personable by reaching out and engaging with great content. Why do we all love to obsess over the numbers while success happens where quality and quantity meet, obsessing about one thing over the other typically keeps people from showing up, being real, and just getting started.
You don’t wear that suit or blazer (even the one with the trending shoulder pads) 24/7. Don’t be afraid to share photos of your hobbies, your family, and your thoughts on the world. Get out there connecting and make it meaningful! You’ll be glad you did.
Don’t let the fun stop now. Check out our social influence course and get the secrets to all of our magic tricks. HINT: It’s not magic, it’s just a series of important mindset shifts followed by healthy networking habits and great online etiquette.