It’s no secret that LinkedIn is my favorite platform for building my content marketing business! I’ve learned so much from following interesting and smart people, and I have built a network that feeds a steady stream of referrals and qualified leads.
But how should you start intentionally using LinkedIn if you haven’t really tapped into it before? And if you are already using it but it’s not really working…how should you adjust your strategy?
Let’s talk about the five steps that I believe it takes to build an organic LinkedIn network.
Step 1: Have a Complete Profile
Lay a strong foundation for the people who are going to start checking out your profile.
First, make sure your profile is able to be viewed by non-connections. You can set this up under Settings & Privacy > Visibility. Profiles that are locked down will get significantly less traction.
Next, fill in every section you can on your profile.
Start with eye-catching profile/cover photos, and then write a headline that says exactly what you do. It’s okay if it’s just your job title and company name, which is LinkedIn’s default. You could elevate it by including your business tagline, but I encourage you not to get TOO cutesy or clever with this.
Your “About” section can be up to 2,600 characters, so this is where you can tell your career journey, list your skills and accomplishments, and show your personality. You could also just repurpose the “about” section of your website – but remember, this should also be about YOU, not just your company!
List all relevant work, education, and volunteer experiences next, linking each one with the organization’s LinkedIn page when you add or edit it. This adds credibility to your profile. At a minimum, the business you own should have a completed company page so that you can link your profile to it.
You never know where you’ll find commonalities with new connections. Including your college and volunteer experiences isn’t just for “fluff” or “padding”…they can help you build a meaningful network!
Step 2: Post Regularly
Once your profile is neatly and professionally completed, it’s time to activate your profile! Again, you’re trying to lay a strong foundation to support your network-building efforts. People aren’t going to see much benefit to connecting with you if you’re not contributing to conversations or posting good content.
I wrote a blog with 17 post ideas that I encourage you to check out. But seriously…don’t overthink this! You only need to post 1-2 times per week to gain traction.
Your posts don’t have to include pictures/graphics every time, and you can even just post a poll or share articles/posts from others, adding a little of your own commentary before you publish. But above all, don’t be promotional in every single post. You don’t want people to tune you out or disconnect with you.
Step 3: Engage with Newsfeed Content
Ready to start connecting with people? Not so fast! There’s one more thing to do first.
Before you try to build your network, become part of the LinkedIn ecosystem through meaningful engagement. I recommend spending 5-10 minutes, 3-5 times per week, engaging with your LinkedIn feed content. If you’re just starting out, your feed probably won’t seem very interesting, but I promise that it’ll get better the more you engage.
When I say “engage” I mean liking and commenting, with the occasional share thrown in. It’s that easy! Every time you engage with someone’s post, your name shows up in their notifications. And when you leave a meaningful comment, you’re putting your name in front of all their followers, who may take the time to check out your profile and send a connection request. I’ve met people this way – so easy!
If you’re just seeing the same stuff over and over, try searching hashtags related to your industry. This will help the LinkedIn algorithm learn what you’re interested in, so it can show you more interesting content.
Step 4: Connect with Interesting People
After you’ve spent a week or two engaging with your newsfeed, it’s finally time to actually start building your connections. Start with visiting the profiles of people you already know, who have networks that you’re interested in meeting. Go to their profile, click on their connection list, and look for interesting people.
(Seriously…“interesting people.” I like to find people with interesting jobs and entertaining posts. I don’t just connect with people who I can “get something” from. I want my LinkedIn network to be diverse!)
You can also search for people by name, job title, company, or location. This is great if you are specifically targeting certain criteria for your network.
This next point is important: Do NOT send a connection request right away! (there is an exception*)
You wouldn’t just walk up to someone at a networking event and hold out your hand for their business card, right? You’d start with some small talk and you’d learn more about them. It’s the same on LinkedIn.
So, when you find that “interesting person,” check out their recent posts and leave a comment or “like.” If they aren’t actively posting, just viewing their profile gets you into their notifications. I recommend viewing (or engaging with) the profile at least twice before actually sending a connection request – although, they might send you one in the meantime.
When you do finally send a request to connect, make sure you include a brief note stating who you are and why you want to connect with them. It’s easier if you already have a connection in common (feel free to name drop), but you could also mention how you know about their company, the school they attended, or some other tidbit that shows you actually took the time to get to know them. Don’t try to sell in this message!
By the way, LinkedIn now allows you to just “follow” people, if they have that set up in their profile settings. This relieves a little of the pressure to send/accept a connection request, and their content will still appear in your feed for you to engage with on a regular basis.
*The exception to the “don’t send a connection right away” rule is if you already know the person. Perhaps you’ve worked together, went to school together, or even are related. I also connect with all of my clients or people who I’ve met in a prospecting call. Those are easy connections to make!
Step 5: Continue to Post and Engage Every Week
Building your LinkedIn network is an ongoing process. Every week, spend time repeating the engagement and posting steps listed above, and continue to send connection requests to interesting people. Over time, this will become second nature and the connections will begin to snowball.
Pro tip: Keep engaging with your newest connections in the first few weeks/months after they connect. You can easily find them by clicking “My Network” because the most recent connections will be listed first.
Looking for More LinkedIn Help?
If you’re looking for more LinkedIn advice to help build your business, I encourage you to check out these related blogs and articles. Happy networking!
- 17 Post Ideas for LinkedIn
- How to Write a Thought Leadership Article for LinkedIn
- How to Leverage LinkedIn for Your Small Business
- How to Make Real Connections on Social Media
- How Social Media Has Changed How We Do Business
- Building ON Social Media vs. Building WITH Social Media
- 100 Call to Action Ideas for Social Media Posts
- Mandy McEwen’s LinkedIn