You’ve spent hours perfecting your LinkedIn profile. You’ve built a network of hundreds of LinkedIn connections over the years, and reaching that “500+ connections” mark may or may not have made you almost as proud as the birth of your firstborn son.
Okay, that last one might have been a bit of an exaggeration. But continuing on…
Most business owners understand how important LinkedIn is, and they invest a lot of time into building their network of LinkedIn connections because, hey, that’s what you’re supposed to do. Or is it?
NEWSFLASH: It’s not just about the numbers.
Of course, a primary goal of social media is always to increase your followers, likes, connections, etc. The higher the number, the more likely it is that you will be viewed as the expert in your field that you are.
But why focus on connecting with yet another person on LinkedIn if you aren’t optimizing the connections you already have?
According to good ol’ Google, “connections” are “people with whom one has social or professional contact or to whom one is related, especially those with influence and able to offer one help.”
Let’s pull out some important words there. “Contact.” “Influence.” “Help.”
Based on those words, here are three important ways you can – and should – be growing your business through your LinkedIn connections. Don’t waste your time sending another connection request until you do these three things!
- Contact: Review each of your existing LinkedIn connections. Whom have you not contacted in the past 6 months…or at all? Consider sending them a message to ask them to lunch, and discuss how your relationship with each other could be of mutual benefit. If it’s a good fit, plan to stay in contact with them, at least quarterly, for the next year.
- Influence: Remember Joe Schmo from college? He might have influence now that you wouldn’t have expected then, and he might let you use that influence. Here’s how to find out:
- Use the LinkedIn Advanced Search function to search for your target market of prospects. Are you a financial advisor hoping to target doctors? Search “doctor” and then, in the left sidebar, narrow down the location to your targeted geographical area.
- In that left sidebar, under “Relationship,” select “2nd.” This will show you the people with whom you and your prospect have a connection in common. In the case of the doctor, look under the doctor’s name. Directly beneath their location in grey, you’ll see “# shared connection(s)” in green. Click that and you’ll see the 1st connections you have in common – here’s where you might find Joe Schmo and/or some of your other 1st connections.
- Send a message to one of those 1st connections that simply says something along the lines of “I noticed you’re connected to (name of 2nd connection). I was going to reach out to him/her; do you mind if I mention your name?” If they respond, you now have the opportunity to use the power of their influence in your outreach to that prospect.
- Send a short message to the 2nd connection. Reference your mutual 1st connection, briefly introduce who you are and why you might be a good connection for them, and invite them to lunch. Note: If you will be sending a lot of these messages, consider a LinkedIn Premium account so that you have more “InMails” to use.
- While you’ll likely get only a small percentage of responses, the prospects you do meet with could become a client for life – all thanks to the influence of Joe Schmo.
- Help: Your LinkedIn connections need help spreading the word about their business, just as you do about yours. Take the time to share some of their posts on your LinkedIn profile – it’s as simple as a couple clicks. Down the road, when you need to get the word out about a new product or want to invite people to an event, those connections whose posts you diligently shared will remember you. Ask for their help in sharing your post and, because you helped them, they might just be willing to do so. Now, you’ve not only maximized your own LinkedIn connections, but also their connections as well.
What are you waiting for? Log into your LinkedIn profile and start implementing these recommendations today!
–Emily Crider, Social Media & Project Manager