Professional networking is no longer confined to swapping business cards at conferences and after-work happy hours. In our new age of virtual networking, you can connect with c-suite executives, new talent, and potential clients… without leaving your desk. 

Unlike most social media platforms, LinkedIn is a purely professional ecosystem: Your profile is your modern-day resume, and your activity is modern-day business networking. 

There are more than 706 million professionals on LinkedIn. If you want to develop meaningful business connections and establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry, this is where you need to be, too.

Planning to make waves marketing your personal brand on LinkedIn? Follow these key steps, from choosing your profile picture to writing engaging posts.

Step 1: Make Your Profile Memorable

You wouldn’t send someone to an unfinished website, and you shouldn’t connect with someone on LinkedIn if you don’t have a “wow”-worthy profile. When someone arrives on your page, you want them to convert (or in this case, connect with you on the platform). Remember, there are millions of professionals with LinkedIn profiles. Yours needs to stand out! 

Choose a Strong Profile Picture

This doesn’t necessarily mean “suit and tie.” In the same way, you’d choose a Facebook or Instagram picture that showcases your personality, you want to choose a LinkedIn profile picture that showcases your brand. 

For instance, if your brand is athletic, you may want to consider using a photo of yourself that reflects that. When a potential new connection arrives at your profile, this is the first thing they’re going to see. You want it to be compelling — whether that be a clean and crisp headshot or a photo that’s authentic to your brand.

At the end of the day, your profile image should showcase your version of professionalism. 

Pro Tip: Your header photo should also be authentic to your brand. It’s also a part of the “first glance” your new connection will get when they arrive on your page.  

Write an Impactful “About”

As someone scrolls through your profile, this is the second section that stands out. It’s also the only part of your profile where you can speak directly to your audience. In your “about,” take advantage of the opportunity and share what you do and who you help. 

There are two different strategies: 

  • keep it short and sweet.
  • write a slightly longer description that speaks to your audience. 

Both of these can work to make an impact. Whether you decide to pack a punch in a few sentences or take a lengthier approach, just be sure you’re writing with your ideal connection in mind. What do you want them to know about you?  

List Your (Relevant) Professional History 

Anything you mention in your “about” should be backed up with past experience, but you don’t need to take it all the way back to your first job in high school. Your professional history should be filled with relevant past experience that you feel comfortable sharing. 

Determine where your meaningful work history begins (for most, like me, it’s their first job after college), and include relevant work experiences from there on out. 

Back it up with Recommendations

Once your potential new connection sees your profile picture, reads your “about,” and skims through your work experience, the recommendations drive home your credibility and expertise. It’s third party validation, AKA, the third piece of the puzzle you need to hit this out of the ballpark. 

It gives people a transparent forward-facing reference from clients and teammates who you’ve worked with in the past (something your paper resume can’t provide). Take some time to build out this section. When someone gets here, you want it to confirm what they suspected: they need to add you to their network. 

Related: Personal Branding Guide for Entrepreneurs and Executives 

Step 2: Build Out Your Network

Once your profile is polished up, you’re ready to start sending out invitations to join your network…but do yourself a favor and don’t get click-happy. Your goal shouldn’t be to connect with anyone and everyone. You need to be strategic. 

Pro Tip: Aim for at least 500 connections on LinkedIn, because once you cross that threshold, you’re in the “500+ club.” Even if you have 501 connections, you’re now in the same category as those with 6,000.

Determine Your Goals

Before creating a list of professionals you want to connect with, you need to determine why you’re marketing yourself on LinkedIn. What do you want to accomplish? 

Do you want to…

  • expand your contacts so you can get a new job? 
  • build an audience that follows your content? 
  • create a list of prospects that could use your products or services? 

Having your goal in mind narrows down your focus and helps you hone in on which professional connections will add value to your network. 

Choose Your Niche

Think about the audience for your LinkedIn content — who do you plan on speaking to? Who will your content resonate with? What niches do you want to be involved with? Don’t be afraid to get industry-specific. 

When you speak to everyone, you’re speaking to no one. You can be broad (I want to connect with people who work in social media marketing) or granular (I want to talk to CEOs of small start-ups that are in need of an expert who manages social media strategy). 

Use this knowledge to strike up a conversation and start making connections. You can follow the #socialmedia hashtag and comment on interesting posts, or search for small start-up companies to find new professionals that you’d like to connect with. 

Don’t Forget to be Personal 

When you reach out to the people on your list of ideal connections, write a personal invite

The beauty of LinkedIn is that you can connect with people that you wouldn’t be able to meet otherwise, like C-Suite executives at various companies. The problem is that many of these key players are getting 20 or 30 invitations to connect per day

This invite is your one chance to make a good first impression, so make it personal. You’ll be more likely to stand out from the rest (and stand out in their minds). 

Related: What’s the Difference Between Content Marketing and Social Media Marketing? 

Step 3: Keep Up the Hard Work 

As with all great things, you won’t get results on LinkedIn with a one-and-done strategy. You need to continue getting online, making connections, engaging with posts, and sharing creative content. 

These four steps can easily be integrated into your weekly (or better yet, daily) checklist. 

Log in to LinkedIn 

If you didn’t know, LinkedIn knows how often you log on… and knows if you’re an active user or not. If you are, they’ll reward you by pushing your content higher in other people’s feeds. 

LinkedIn wants active users on their platform making connections, sharing posts, and engaging with content. If you leverage the platform in the way it’s supposed to be used, your content (and profile) is more likely to be seen. 

Manage Your Connections 

You’ll also want to check your LinkedIn invites when you log in every day. If you want to grow your network, you’ll want to respond to these invites. If you’re not going through these potential connections at least once a week, they’re going to forget about you.  

Let’s be real: a connection that sits in your inbox, waiting to be accepted, is worthless. 

Comment on Other People’s Posts 

Any opportunity to chime in conversations happening on the platform is an opportunity to make an impression. When you interact with your connection’s content, it will help you be seen on LinkedIn and open the doors to new meaningful connections. 

When you comment, your intent shouldn’t be focused on connecting with people who can benefit you or bring you business. It should be to connect with people you find interesting because you find them interesting. Don’t blow up everyone’s feed with “cool post!” — think about what you want to contribute to the conversation. 

Write and Share Engaging Content

If you’re not posting on LinkedIn, your comments may be seen, but you’re going to get lost in the mix. If you connect with someone but never post anything to your profile, your connections aren’t going to remember you.

You don’t necessarily have to write 1,800-word blog posts every week (more power to you if you do), but you should share a post that’s thought-provoking and meaningful at least once every two weeks. Figure out what feels reasonable and authentic to you, and pick a pace. 

The more you post, the more people will recognize you, the more engagement you’ll get, and just like any other platform, the more your brand will continue to build. 

Types of content you can create: 

  • A post that links out to your blog. 
  • Repurpose existing content, like a photo or a graphic.
  • Post an article directly on the platform. Here’s how to write articles on LinkedIn.
  • Share a status that’s thought-provoking and valuable.

Remember: LinkedIn is a community. It’s not all monologue. People are currently having really interesting, workplace-specific conversations on the platform. If you want to make waves, make sure you create a space for meaningful dialogue in the comments on your posts. 

Related: Digital Content Creation Hacks

Tips for a Successful LinkedIn Strategy 

Use the Right Tools

Both LinkedIn Premium and Sales Navigator can provide you with a lot of data and insights. Sales Navigator can help B2B businesses identify prospects, and LinkedIn Premium is great for finding new business connections.

Be Intentional

The name of the game isn’t getting 13,000 followers on LinkedIn — it’s making meaningful connections. If you build a huge audience, but your posts are only getting a few likes and a couple of views, it means that you’ve connected with the wrong people.

You want to be intentional with who you bring into your network. It’s better to have a small network that engages with you rather than a big pond of people who don’t really pay attention to what you’re saying. 

Experiment with Different Ideas 

There’s a lot of room for creativity on this platform because it’s not rooted in photography and visuals. There’s no pressure to create artistry as there is on visual platforms like Instagram or Youtube. 

You can test post a raw video of yourself talking, share slides, share visuals. Keep it professional, but try out different mediums and see what makes an impact.  

Take the Mental Leap to Make Connections Online 

This professional social network is new terrain. We’ve been taught to leave thoughts and emotions at the office door, come in, and get the job done — for everything else, there are after-work happy hours. 

With LinkedIn, this mindset has shifted. In order to successfully market yourself on this platform, you need to share your insights and questions with posts and comments. Keep it professional (don’t say anything you wouldn’t say in person), and get comfortable with putting a stake in the ground in this online community. 

Think about this: If you’re actively posting things, your connections will remember you. If you’ve already connected with the CEO of a company when they post a job opening, it’s almost like they know you. You’ve made a (virtual) impression, and have a leg up on the competition. Take the leap and begin making waves on LinkedIn. It’s a vast opportunity to build your personal brand and grow your business. 

 

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