10 easy steps to improve LinkedIn networking effectiveness

This was the topic of my CIPR breakfast briefing for the Yorkshire & Lincolnshire group of the Chartered Institute of PR and we had an interesting mix of consultancy/in-house and private/public sector.

What I found interesting was that comms professionals are still struggling to be strategic with their LinkedIn accounts – or to use it as part of their business comms strategy.

I guess we can all be guilty of the cobbler’s shoes story (a cobbler never gets to repairing their own children’s shoes!)

1. Connect with people you know

Because some of our group weren’t being strategic, they were accepting invitations from anyone. We agreed they need to connect with people they know (you are judged by the company you keep).

2. Then build the relationship through LinkedIn with them

Most people were just pressing ‘accept’ when invited to connect with others. There is little point in building up a database of contacts – but not networking with them. Send a personal message to each person you connect with.

3. Target people who you want to do business with

What’s in your comms plan? Who are you targeting to do business with? Some examples of who our workshop wanted to network with were

  • Corporates
  • Former employers/employees
  • Journalists
  • Companies taking on apprentices
  • The arts world
  • Public sector partners
  • Potential members of a professional body

Go on Advanced Search (top right of your profile) and search for people to connect to in these target fields. You could put in keywords, their companies or job titles and press search. You might find people you want to do business with direct or who could introduce you to someone later on.

4. Does your LinkedIn profile match your networking profile?

No-one at the workshop had a profile that perfectly matched the businesses and people they were targeting. Some examples were

  • The summary could have read ‘We are looking to help companies who employ apprentices’
  • A few hadn’t completed their summary and didn’t mention their organisation at all and certainly not that they were looking for partnerships
  • Several mentioned they wanted freelance work – but hadn’t put the word ‘freelance’ on their profile anywhere. So they won’t get picked up in any Google or LinkedIn searches for a freelancer

5. Have you got keywords in your LinkedIn profile?

If you want people to find you when searching for help with their apprenticeship or looking for a freelancer – include these words in Specialities, your summary and elsewhere.

6. Join LinkedIn groups where you want to network

Research the people you want to meet, look at the groups they belong to and see if it would be relevant to join those.

7. Be active in LinkedIn groups

Look at the discussions of the groups you belong to. Frankly some will be rubbish, many will just be about recruitment but occasionally you hit on a really good quality debate. If you see a question ‘does anyone know a great designer in Yorkshire’ – jump in and help. Recommend the designer/s you use and say what they are good for. Don’t recommend yourself! You can build relationships with new people this way.

8. Is your LinkedIn profile complete?

You may have spotted that bar on the top right of your profile when you are in edit mode? If it’s saying ‘85% complete’ it helps to get that to 100% so your profile comes up when people are searching for contacts.

LinkedIn says you need the following to get 100% complete

  • A current position
  • Two past positions
  • Education
  • Profile summary
  • A profile photo
  • Specialties
  • At least three recommendations

Usually it’s the three recommendations that hold people back. Remember, the millions of people on LinkedIn have all had to ask for recommendations. It’s not a big deal.

For tips on how to do this, read chapter 5 in our free ebook on social media for business.

9. Remind people you are there

Networking is about staying in touch and people remembering and contacting you when they need you. LinkedIn is such an easy and gentle way to put your name there regularly. Just post a professional status update every week or so – and your name will come up in the weekly update of all your contacts.

10. Put your head on the other side of the desk

I think the strongest message the workshop was to look at your profile from the perspective of the people you are targeting.

Ask yourself

  • What would they want to know about me for a relationship?
  • What words might they search on?
  • How can I be helpful to others through LinkedIn?

Thanks to Gary Taylor, Metro and CIPR for hosting the event– and thanks to everyone who was so open about their profiles and what they wanted out of LinkedIn. Well, nearly everyone (you know who you are!).

Victoria Tomlinson is founder and owner of Harrogate-based PR consultancy, Northern Lights. A former director of Ernst & Young, she started her career as a graduate trainee for Plessey and later with Bradbury Wilkinson, the banknote printers, travelling around the world to sell banknotes to foreign governments. She joined Arthur Young as part of their start-up marketing team and was made a director of client services on the management committee and managing a 100-strong division. Victoria sits on the boards of Bradford University School of Management, Northern Ballet Theatre and Common Purpose North Yorkshire. She is a Prince’s Trust mentor.