Posted by Robert Half on 19 March 2014
Professional networking sites are among the most popular ways of nurturing professional relationships today. Networking online is no different than rubbing shoulders at in-person networking events – it’s important to make a positive impression and follow the rules of the road.
Here are some ways to get the most out of LinkedIn:
Complete your profile
Provide as much information in your LinkedIn profile as you can. This might include adding an appropriate photo as well as updating your professional summary, work history and education. Be sure to add key accomplishments so other users get a clear picture of your capabilities, and request recommendations from past colleagues and managers. They can highlight and praise your accomplishments in a far richer and more credible way.
Request recommendations individually
Treat each request with the same respect you would in “the real world.” A generic message asking all of your connections to endorse you may fall on deaf ears. Think about it. Why create a personal recommendation for someone who can’t write personally to request one? When appropriate (and if it’s permissible by your company), recommend those whom you know the best and trust the most. Be careful, however, of what may be perceived as quid pro quo recommendations. If you recommend someone just as he or she has posted some kind words about you, your kudos may be viewed as “payback”.
Prioritise quality over quantity
Network envy can make some people link aimlessly just to build their number of contacts. Don’t invite strangers to your network merely to make it larger, and don’t be offended when those you’ve never met or vaguely know ignore your requests. Your network is only as strong as its weakest connection.
Be a joiner
LinkedIn offers many groups for people who share certain passions or interests, and these can be a valuable way of keeping pace with new developments in your field. When participating in professional groups, provide useful information and input. Avoid sending direct messages to fellow group members unless you have established a personal connection beforehand.
Say ‘please’ and be respectful
If you would like an introduction to someone in a contact’s network, ask politely and explain why you hope to meet the other person. For example, you might point out that the potential contact is in a professional association of interest to you.
Think twice before you say yes
When members of your network request introductions to your other contacts, don’t immediately agree, particularly if you don’t know the person very well who is making the request. Your reputation is on the line if your contact ends up becoming a nuisance to that individual. It also is common practice now for “hyper networkers” to add as many LinkedIn connections as possible to mine data from your profile and those of your friends.
Make the connection clear
Too often, people connect without thinking. When seeking to make a new contact, remind a person of how you know him or her if it has been a while since you’ve talked. For example, you might reference a recent conference you both attended.
Don’t be one-sided
An “all-about-me” approach won’t get you very far. LinkedIn and similar sites allow you to ask for help from members of your network quickly and easily, but don’t abuse this privilege with constant requests. Also, don’t forget to thank those who lend you a hand, and always look to return the favour.
Act quickly on requests
Patience is a virtue, but not everyone possesses it. Respond to requests that come via your network promptly – within 24 hours, if possible.
Keep it professional
Think twice before posting on LinkedIn, and don’t post too often or on trivial subjects. Your aim should be to become a trusted authority rather than a social butterfly. That said, it’s OK to share personal interests such as athletics and hobbies, as well as a profile picture so that others can begin to know you.
Make a big impact with small gestures
Pay attention to what people are saying or working on. You can offer helpful suggestions, send useful articles or just leave comments, letting those in your network know they are heard and understood. You also can share insights and offer introductions to others. This may take you only 45 seconds of effort but could have a profound impact on the people with whom you wish to develop closer professional relationships.
If you spend just a few minutes on the above each day, you will find that your LinkedIn profile and professional network will grow almost instantly. Be dedicated as it could lead you anywhere.
Want to learn more? Read our article on How to build a professional digital profile.