An engineering manager who uses LinkedIn at work complained to me about people on the site who annoy him – or to quote him directly – “creep me out.”
“I accept and solicit connections from strangers,” says Joe, who was briefly out of work last year. “But what creeps me out is if I look at their profile, and within minutes they try to connect with me. It’s as if they’re desperate. Sometimes I view profiles that appear on my own profile; sometimes their name rings a bell. But if they immediately contact me, I wonder if this person ever leaves LinkedIn.”
This anecdote illustrates the tricky nature of connecting on the exploding professional networking party known as LinkedIn. I encouraged you in my previous post on LinkedIn for business to add connections often and build your networks aggressively, because that will increase your visibility geometrically on search engines and allow you to find others too.
But you don’t want to be a stalker, either. More later.
Joe used LinkedIn’s now-defunct Answers to get noticed when he was between jobs. Answers may be a casualty of Quora but happily, LI still has several ways to locate people, leads and companies, while inhabiting the middle ground between lurker and stalker.
Should You Invest In LinkedIn?
I asked recruiter and career expert Abby (aka Absolutely Abby) Kohut, rated one of the top 100 influential people online by Fast Company magazine, about LinkedIn for business owners and whether they should pay for LinkedIn.
“As a business owner, definitely,” she said. “It’s an extremely valuable resource.”
Kohut supplied her top four reasons why you’d want to invest in the service: “Number one is Inmail. Two, more introductions. Number three, you can see who’s viewed your profile. That’s extremely helpful. Fourth, many times if you’re not paying, you can’t see the full profiles of people outside your network, only your first and second-degree connections. You won’t see people’s full names either, only ‘Jane R.’”
As a smart marketer, you know that the “inbound marketing” strategy dominates the online world. However, don’t mistake inbound marketing to mean that you don’t initiate contact with people you don’t know.
I was first published as a 19-year-old college student by calling a local music editor and offering to sell him an article I was writing for a journalism class. I remember struggling to keep my voice from shaking on that phone call. That was maybe the second feature article I ever wrote, and I got a check.
But even better, I learned something important about the business world. Get out of your comfort zone, and you’ll be amazed by what can happen.
Using LinkedIn Groups
“You can’t just build it and expect them to come,” says Marjorie Kavanagh, president of Panoramic Resumes, a professional resume writing and job search consulting company based in New Jersey. She stresses participating in relevant Groups with the people you want to influence.
Groups allow you to directly message people whose profiles are closed to non-paying members. You can also share articles in Groups to reach people in your industry.
Another tip: Garnering at least 10 recommendations allows you to join the “Top Recommended Group” and its six subgroups, which provide a “Top Recommended People on LinkedIn” badge you can use in your marketing.
Starting your own Group, a wonderful option for business owners, is simple and free. Don’t use it to blatantly shill for your company though. Use it to create a community. Market your group on your other social media channels. As group manager, you start discussions, share other relevant blogs and respond to member comments. It’s just common courtesy. Group managers can also send out announcements, but don’t overdo it.
“You must share valuable and credible information through your newsfeeds,” Kavanagh says. “If you just read, nobody will know that you’re there. I’ve gotten business just through networking on LinkedIn.”
Take Advantage Of Signal
Another useful feature is Signal, under the News drop-down menu, which allows you to search status updates for keywords. You can search companies (filtering by size or industry), the networks of your connections, everyone on LinkedIn, geographic regions or industries – whatever you need.
Use the Advanced People Search to find who’s out there who might already be in your network of second-degree connections, whether you’re looking for a vendor, a partner, a client, employer or employee. You can save your searches too. You’ll pay for more than three search alerts a week, though.
Leverage Your Network
The other way to find interesting connections is to browse your network’s connections.
When you go to one of your connection’s profile pages, you can see their connections. Then use the Get Introduced function to ask your friend to refer you to that person. Often I skip this and just directly write the person a friendly note. If it’s somebody you know well like a relative, let’s say, you can send the generic invite.
Here’s where you want to avoid “creeping out” the Joes on LI. I rarely send the generic connection request without adding something personal about why I wish to connect with the person or providing some context of where we met offline, if we have.
Treat LinkedIn networking like any other networking by looking for common ground. You don’t approach strangers at a networking event and immediately ask, “Will you buy my product/hire me?” You build a professional relationship and see if it’s a good fit.
For example, Kohut says if someone’s name comes up as having viewed your profile, you can send a brief, cordial note, saying, “I notice you were looking at my profile. I just looked at yours and we have x in common. Can we set up a time to talk?”
That makes you look professional and appropriate, which increases your chances that the person will connect with you if you send a request.
Avoid being a stalker or a lurker and you’ll soon have success on LinkedIn.
What LI strategies have or haven’t worked for you? I’d like to hear your feedback on this or my previous post on LinkedIn for business with tips on strengthening your profile.