One of the keys to building a strong professional and personal brand is building genuine relationships. Whether you're hunting for a new job, trying to scale your business, grow your tribe, or build personal contacts of like-minded and similar-interested persons in your network - there's one social media platform you shouldn't overlook: LinkedIn.
Ever since I graduated college, LinkedIn has been my go-to social platform for connecting with other professionals. I even call it my "digital rolodex." By using it strategically, I've been able to convert online connections into real-life opportunities. This includes scoring brand partnerships for my podcast and landing high-profile press opportunities such as getting spotlighted on the Apple Podcasts homepage three times! However, my favorite part of using the platform is being able to find and connect with dope professional in industries I'm interested in and respect.
Here are some quick ways that you can make sure you're utilizing the power of LinkedIn to fuel your professional connections and network successfully.
1. Make sure you have a strong personal profile
If you're going to use LinkedIn consistently, making sure you have a strong and complete profile is necessary. Start by making sure you have a captivating and professional-looking headshot. (No cellphone selfies, please.) Then, take the time to craft an attention-grabbing headline that showcases who you are and what you do. Some opt to showcase their current role and company here, but you can also use this space to be creative with your answer to "Who are you?"
Then, go through your profile and fill out all the necessary sections including your work experience, education, volunteer work, skills, accomplishments, and interests. Be as thorough as possible, insert keywords, and include links that showcase your work portfolio. If possible, try to get others to leave recommendations that speak to your personality and work ethic, experience, etc. This part of your profile is a constant work-in-progress, but starting strong can help as your professional reach evolves.
2. Treat LinkedIn as your digital rolodex
In the sales world, a CRM is a customer relationship manager - or a tool that allows you to keep track of everyone in your sales funnel. I like to use LinkedIn in a similar fashion by keeping track of everyone that I've ever met professionally. It's a step in my personal follow-up routine, especially after attending meetings, conferences, or industry events. Depending upon who the person is, I'll send a detailed follow-up email and then send a personalized LinkedIn friend request. The standard LinkedIn request is not unique or compelling enough to make someone want to connect with you. Though you may remember who you're trying to connect with, the person may not remember you. My simple formula for is this:
"Greeting + why I'm interested in connecting + thanks!"
For example, if I meet a fellow writer at a local meetup, I'll usually send a follow up email and LinkedIn friend request that reads something like, "Hey, it was great meeting you at the NYC meetup. Let's keep in touch. I'd love to connect here on LinkedIn."
If you've never met the person you want to connect with, lead with your reason for connecting. "Hey XX, My name is Rana and I'm a fellow NYC writer. Would love to connect as there may be ways for us to be a resource to one another." Unprompted, random friend requests usually go unanswered or get declined.
3. Utilize the search featureGiphy
One of the best features of LinkedIn is its search function. You have the ability to insert keywords and search for people, jobs, or content. When searching for people, my favorite combination is to use "company name + role." For example, when searching for a podcast executive at a big brand, I searched "head of podcasts + company name." The search resulted in a list of people at that company that had podcasts in their job title (past and present.) I was then able to scroll through this list to find the appropriate contact profile.
If you're hunting for a job, you can also input keywords such as desired role and location to search for a specific opening catered to your needs. LinkedIn also has a jobs tab that allows you to get ultra-specific with your job search terms. Take the time to explore the search features here. You'll also have access to see which of your connections currently work at said company. You can use this knowledge to message your connections to ask for referrals or get insight on the company and job listed.
In general, LinkedIn's search feature is a great way to view others' professional histories. I use it all the time to learn more people that I'm interviewing or meeting with. If you're going on a job interview, use it to get more insights on your interviewer's past or company that can help inform the questions you ask during the interview. With LinkedIn, you have no excuse as to why you shouldn't be prepared in these type of professional circumstances.
4. Become a thought leaderGiphy
LinkedIn provides many ways to establish yourself as a professional thought leader by using your opinion to stand out and share value-added content to your connections. Unlike other social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook - LinkedIn is built solely for professional connections. If someone's on the platform, chances are they are looking for career, business, or professional inspiration.
Back in 2014, I was an early adopter to LinkedIn articles and enjoyed sharing content that related to my experience as a young professional. I realized the power of the platform when one of my articles "10 Ways To Rock Your Next Interview" went viral. From that article alone, I amassed thousands of followers who, to this day, engage with my posts and content because of the value I bring to their professional lives.
Interestingly, as you build your professional brand, others will likely be watching as well. I once reached out to a producer at Fox that I was connected with to learn more about her job responsibilities. She responded by letting me know I had been on her radar and she wanted to book me for a segment based off an article I wrote that I had previously shared!
5. Don’t be scared to take it to the DMsGiphy
Once you've connected with someone - why not take it a step further? LinkedIn is the place to initiate business speak via a direct message. If you find someone that you want to connect with professionally, approaching via direct message should be straightforward and respectable. Chances are (and depending upon their profile), they are less likely to be inundated with messages and more likely to respond to your message.
Here's an example of a message I recently sent to a connection at a company I thought would be great to connect with:
Hope all is well! My name is Rana and I'm the founder of Dreams In Drive - which is a community helping millennials learn how to take their dreams from PARK to DRIVE. I'd love to chat with you about possible ways to work together as there is a DEFINITE intersection between our missions. Do you have time for a quick 15 min call to talk more about this?!
In this message, I stated who I was and why I wanted to connect and included a clear call to action. You can change up your approach, but always make sure your ASK is clear. Be as genuine as possible without appearing too needy or demanding.
With any social platform, it's all about how you use it. Each platform has its challenges and opportunities to win, but LinkedIn is one of my personal favorites for building and sustaining professional relationships. For all my girl bosses out there, if LinkedIn isn't part of your weekly social media must-dos, I highly recommend you add it to your list. The opportunities for expanding your professional reach and building your tribe are limitless.
Featured image by Getty Images