As I outlined this post, I became aware of several reoccurring themes in my blogs. The first being I’m not an “expert” on every topic I write about. I’m not anywhere near as effective at LinkedIn networking as I could or should be. Wait—what? You may wonder why I would write a blog on any subject where I admittedly need to improve my own skills. Knowing what to do and doing it isn’t always the same thing, is it? Before I give the wrong impression, I’ve made valuable connections on LinkedIn, met uncountable times over coffee, found like-minded people, added customers, and made new friends—I just need to do it more.

Update Your Profile

LinkedIn isn’t Facebook. It’s a professional network. Don’t post an image of yourself at the beach—not appropriate. A professional head shot is the best, but if that’s out of budget, don’t omit an image. Put on your dress duds and have a friend take the best smart phone shot possible. Some will advise you to list all of your work, intern, and volunteer experiences, and I would agree—if you’re looking for a job, but if you’re looking to attract customers a more focused approach may be more effective. My point is to understand who you’re attempting to reach and share what best fits their interests.

Your business life isn’t stagnant, and your profile shouldn’t be either; update your profile as often as your career and needs change.

Earlier I said LinkedIn is a professional network, it is, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share a little about who you are. Listing your hobbies and interests may help you connect with business people on a more personal level.

Add to Your List

Continue to develop connections. Remember when you added people from your personal contacts, email, and other networks? How many people have been added to those lists since you uploaded them to LinkedIn? Is it time to update?

At least once per month, review LinkedIn’s People You May Know, and add the people you do know. Reach out to customers, vendors, and others in your industry and add them. Business in the 21st century changes fast, young people expect to change jobs. More than ever, today’s competitor may be tomorrow’s customer and your contact at a small firm may end up as a decision maker at an organization you’ve always wanted to connect with. Wouldn’t it be sad if you lost touch with them and didn’t know?

Don’t Spam

Please. No. Auto-responses. When you accept an invitation to connect, reach out with a personal message. (I’m not throwing stones here—there have been times I’ve been too busy to send a message, but I try to make it up with a personal touch at a later time.) Thank them for reaching out, remind them of connections you share, and ask how you can help.

Groups are important—being in the right groups more so. Limit your group involvement to those fitting your business and personal interests. Just because somebody else joined a group or you were invited to join doesn’t make it a good fit. Joining too many groups limits your ability to contribute and participate and may be counterproductive. In group discussion, talk to people—not at them, don’t commandeer the conversation, and try not to get on your soap box (that’s a hard one for me.)

Don’t use LinkedIn solely for promotion; take the time to like, comment, share, and converse with others—be real. Never lie, and that includes misleading through exaggeration or omission. If a friend requests a connection to someone that you don’t know well or feel uncomfortable connecting—don’t do it.

LinkedIn isn’t the place to brag or humble brag—much. Let others do it for you. It is the place to announce milestones such as achievements in education or a promotion. That’s not bragging…it’s sharing information.

Take it Offline

If you know anything about me, you know I believe nothing takes the place of meeting face-to-face. It’s not always possible; I may never meet my friend from Tel Aviv in person, but when it’s doable, meeting in person adds another level of connection that’s difficult to replicate on the internet. Take the time to schedule a coffee, learn what events others attend and join in, or, if it’s appropriate, visit their workplace.

Networking on LinkedIn isn’t much different from networking anywhere else online or off. It begins by reaching out, responding like a real human being, and most of all by doing what you already know you should be doing. Are we connected?  Randy Clark LinkedIn Profile.  How can I help you?

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