10 Linkedin Tips for Professionals

My latest tips on building a Client Winning Profile for Linkedin are now on a free, short video – click here to watch it.

Linkedin TipsLinkedin is the “social network for business” and now has over 200 million users.

And many Linkedin users, myself included, have found new clients through it, and enhanced relationships with existing clients. But many others have found it to suck up a ton of time for very little gain. So here are 10 quick tips for getting the most from Linkedin.

1. Make your profile client focused

The first thing you do when you join Linkedin is to create a profile. And since Linkedin has slots for your previous job roles, qualifications, etc. there’s an almost overwhelming temptation to make your profile look like your CV.

Resist that temptation.

When you first meet potential clients you don’t rattle off a huge list of companies you’ve worked for and the responsibilities you’ve had – that would bore the pants off them. So don’t do the same on Linkedin.

Most effective introductions focus on who you help, and what problems you help them solve or results you help them achieve. Then if asked more, you say a bit more about what you do – perhaps giving a little backstory as to why you are uniquely qualified to help, or an example of the work you do.

Linkedin is for making connections – and for the majority of professionals that means clients and business partners, not recruiters.

You need to design your profile to have the impact you want on those connections. Treat it like your introduction at a networking meeting.

Think about the impression you want to make on your potential clients. What will get them interested enough to read your profile? Probably something telling them you work with people just like them and deal with the sort of challenges they have.

What will make them read on? Probably some interesting examples that spell out and “prove” the results they could get by working with you.

What would make them contact you? Well, at minimum a call to action with details of how – a website, phone number or email address.

Whatever you do, don’t just stick your CV details in there.

2. Get connecting – but…

Linkedin works on connections. The most powerful use of Linkedin is to find new clients and business partners through the search function or directly via your contacts’ connections. The more direct connections you have, the more opportunities you have to connect. I still see people who’ve made all the effort to set up their Linkedin profile – but who have so few connections that they don’t get any benefit.

The Linkedin toolbar for Outlook provides an easy way of inviting the your Outlook contacts and people you email regularly to connect with you.

However, there’s a catch…

3…Choose your connection strategy carefully

There are two very different strategies to connecting on Linkedin: “Open Networking” and “Trusted Partner Networking”.

In business networking generally, the value you get from your network is a product of the size of your network, and your ability to “convert” connections into productive business (work, a referral, etc.). You can grow the value of your network by getting more connections, or deepening the strength of each connection (getting to know people better, helping them out, etc.)

On Linkedin, one strategy for getting value is to be an “Open Networker” or LION (LinkedIn Open Networker). Open Networkers focus on growing the size of their network by initiating and accepting connection requests from as many people as possible. Open Networkers typically have many thousands of connections. This means that when they search for useful relationships (potential clients or business partners), for example looking for contacts in specific companies, or geographies or with specific interests or job titles – they are much more likely to find them (exponentially more likely because of the way Linkedin connections work).

The downside of this strategy is that with thousands of connections they don’t know many of them particularly well, if at all. They’re essentially using Linkedin as a giant Rolodex or telephone directory rather than as a way of making deeper connections. That’s neither good nor bad – it just means that if they find someone they want to connect with through one of these “shallow” connections, they’re unlikely to get a strong referral to them – they’ll still have to initiate a relatively cold contact.

The other strategy is to have fewer but deeper connections – a “Trusted Partner” strategy. Here you only connect to people you already know and trust. Most likely from face-to-face interaction, but possibly from online interaction too.

With this strategy you have less chance of finding someone via a search because you have less connections. But if you do find someone, it’ll be through someone who knows and trusts you – and they’ll be able to give a strong referral to you and put you in touch with the person you’re interested in connecting with.

The downside to the “Trusted Partner” strategy is that it’s a bit like going to a face to face networking event and only speaking to the people you already know. You deepen your relationship with them – but you don’t build any new relationships.

Personally, I take a “middle way” and I recommend you do the same.

I don’t actively go out and connect with huge numbers of people. But if someone wants to connect with me, and their profile looks interesting – then I’m very happy to connect with them, even if I don’t know them. If they do turn out to be a “spammer” (I’ve only had this happen once with over 1,000 connections) then I can always disconnect.

This way, my network expands significantly. I meet new people who may turn out to be helpful to me, and I may be helpful to them.

I always try to take the time when people connect with me to send them a message to start a conversation rather than just accept the connection but never speak to them. That way we find out more about each other and it may lead to interesting and valuable discussions. At minimum, it means that if I want to ask a favour later, we’ll actually have interacted before.

4. Use Search to find potential clients and business partners

Many people get going on Linkedin but fail to use it to help their business. Absolutely the most effective way I’ve found to gain business value from Linkedin is to find potential clients and business partners. One of the things I do in my consulting practice is to help clients get more referrals for their business. And one of the key things I teach them is to be very specific in who they ask to be referred to.

Linkedin allows the ultimate in specificity. You can search for exactly who you want to be referred to – by company, by geography, by name, by job title, etc. And you can search across your entire network at once. Or you can look at the contact list of an individual to see if there’s anyone you’d like to be connected to.

Almost everyone I’ve taught to do this has been staggered by just how many people their contacts know that they’d love an introduction to. Yet before using Linkedin they had no idea that they were connected.

Once you’ve identified people you’d like to be introduced or referred to, rather than try to connect them directly, give your mutual connection a call and ask them if they can connect you. That’s much more polite than going directly, and it’s much more likely to be successful.

5. Give recommendations and endorsements to get them

Recommendations are very helpful to have on your profile. They’re a clear indication of the quality of your work and the relationships you form.

But begging for a recommendation isn’t a great strategy.

If you want to get recommendations, use Linkedin to give them to people you’ve worked with and who have done a great job for you. Linkedin will show them the recommendation to approve, then ask them if they want to reciprocate. They probably will.

Similarly with the new Endorsement feature, if you endorse someone, they’ll be notified and you’re likely to get a reciprocal endorsement in return. if you get an impressive number of endorsements you can move them up in your profile to just under your summary. So the first thing people see after finding about about you is that lots of people think you’re great.

6. Have a helpful Professional Headline

When people find you in searches on Linkedin, the initial thing they see is a little box with your name, photo, and your “professional headline”.What most people have in their headline is their job title. “Owner at XYZ Company” or “Principal consultant at ABC Ltd”. By default, unless you change it manually, Linkedin takes the headline from your last job title.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t give people a clue as to whether you might be able to help them, or might be interesting to connect to.

You should treat your headline like your introduction when networking. Focus on what you can do to help people.

My headline, for example is “Straight talking advice for Consultants and Coaches to help them Attract Clients and Win More Business”. It’s much more useful in telling people what I actually do than using an “official” job title like Managing Director. That will get more people to click through to my profile and maybe begin to interact with me.

You can edit your Headline via the Edit My Profile option.

7. Join Linkedin Groups to connect and interact (but be careful)

Linkedin groups are essentially discussion forums for specific interest groups. They allow you to find out the latest news, and to join in debates on topics of interest. You can join groups both of interest to you professionally, and the groups where your potential clients “hang out”.

Some people have reported great success in meeting potential clients and building their credibility by being helpful and answering questions on Linkedin Groups. But be careful. My own experience is that far more people end up wasting hours of time in fairly idle chatter, or in trying to sound clever but with very little impact.

Before you join a group, click on the link to check out the group statistics and look at the activity stats. What you want to see is a lot more comments than discussions started every week. Lots of comments means members are actively engaging with each other. Lots of discussions with few comments means people are just posting their stuff and no one is reading or engaging with it.

8. Use Status Updates to subtly remind your contacts of what you do

Linkedin status updates are a nice way of helping to stay top of mind with contacts. If you were to call or email all your contacts any time you did something small but interesting, it would quickly become seen as pushy or spammy. But updating your status is an non-intrusive way of getting a gentle reminder out.

Depending on their settings, your contacts will get a regular email with a summary of the status updates of their contacts. And they will see the updates on their Linkedin homepage. Mostly it will just be “so and so updated their profile” type messages. So if your status update has something interesting in it (“Ian has just run a seminar on consultative selling skills”) it will remind them of the sort of thing you do and may even trigger them into action.

Recently, for example, I put up a status update saying I’d run a training course on Marketing for Consultants for the Institute of Business Consulting. That prompted one of my old colleagues to get back in touch and we came to an arrangement about sharing training material.

You can also share your latest blog post and other useful resources. Be careful through: Linkedin isn’t Twitter and your connections won’t appreciate you making dozens of updates a day as it will mean they can’t won’t anything from their other contacts.

9. Watch others’ status updates to initiate contact

Keep an eye on status updates from others – it can be a good opportunity to get back in touch – especially if they’ve changed jobs or have set out on a new venture. Even small status changes can help give you something to start a conversation – the sort of smalltalk needed to keep dialogues and relationships going in between more meaty topics.

These days many CRM systems like Salesforce and Highrise offer “Social CRM” features. They make it easy to find your contacts on Linkedin (and Facebook and Twitter) and track their activity on their profile page on the CRM.

10. Keep your use of Linkedin in balance

This is less a tip about using Linkedin, and more a tip about not using Linkedin.

Do bear in mind that Linkedin is just a tool. And it’s one that’s very easy to spend too much time on. Endlessly tweaking your profile to make it just that little bit more perfect isn’t going to bring you any new business. Nor is chatting away on a discussion group to buddies you already know.

Be judicious in your use of Linkedin. Get a good profile. Make sure you’re connected to people you know would recommend you, then harness that network to get introductions to potential clients. In a couple of upcoming articles I’ll show you who to do that in the most effective way.

But make sure you’re not sucked in to spending hours a week playing around with it.

More Linkedin Tips:

How To Optimize The New Linkedin Profile >>
The Number One Linkedin Mistake And How To Fix it (Free Video) >>
The Real Secrets of Linkedin >>

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Comments

  1. strategicgrowthadvisors says

    Thanks for the great post, Ian. As a social media follower myself, kudos for pointing out the things that we should be focusing on.

  2. says

    I thought this was a great post, particularly the bit about networking strategies. It’s something I had been thinking about and experimenting with as I explore social media more deeply. I have pretty much decided on the trusted partner approach, even going so far as to ‘un-connect’ from 2 or 3 people who I felt didn’t fall into my trusted partners category. The way you’ve written it up makes it much easier to explain.

    I think the real benefit on LI comes from community and that’s why 7 (get involved in groups) is so important. Participating in conversations creates a platform to connect with like minded people which means LI is really becoming a tool to grow one’s own professional ecosystem.

  3. says

    At the heart of your post is one constant; technology changes, but people do not. Social networking on the internet has made quantity an easy trap to fall into. Your post diplomatically presents the values of developing Linkedin relationships of both quality and quantity, the different actions that lead to each, as well as how to become proficient in your choice.

    Thank you for a wonderful post.

  4. says

    Hi Ian
    As a relative newcomer to social networking and in particular LinkedIn I have found your comments thought provoking to say the least.

    I must thank John Hotawka for kindly sending me the link to your blog.

    Obviously your advise is aimed primarily at the professional people and companies you help. I just wondered if you have any advise to those of us, like yourself, who provide goods or sevices to those professionals and other companies and are looking to expand our network of contacts generally. Would you still advocate a “Trusted Partner” approach.

    Like you I have already experimented with Twitter and I also use Facebook, both of which I will agree to link with virtually anyone as long as they do not use inappropriate language etc.

    I look forward to your comments.

    Regards

    Simon Fredrick

    • says

      Hi Simon,

      I’d follow the same rules for service providers as I give to professionals.

      A proviso though – my feeling about “trusted partner” vs “open networker” have changed a bit recently.

      Firstly, I’ve found that since my profile has grown I get a lot of requests to connect from people who I don’t really know – but who are subscribers to my newsletter or regular readers of my blog. I feel it would be a bit arrogant to refuse to connect – after all, they’ve invested in me.

      I’ve also come to see that if you think about it, one way of regarding open networking is they are using linkedin to start relationships – just like you would if you went to a networking meeting. At a networking event, it’s fun to talk to people you already know – but the main purpose is to start relationships with people you don’t. Asking to connect to people who you don’t really know can be viewed a bit like that. It’s all dependent on the intent. Do you intend to start trying to spam/sell to them – or are you looking to build a genuine, helpful relationship. If someone asks to connect with me I assume the latter. I can always disconnect later if they abuse the link. And if they ask for a referral before I really get to know them I can say no then. I don’t have to reject the connection in the first place.

      So personally I rarely ask to connect to anyone – my network is big enough that it’s difficult to manage already But if people ask to connect to me I will often agree even if i don’t really know them.

      Ian

  5. says

    Really enjoyed that blog. Been looking for a decent LinkedIn post that covers areas of important, not just the obvious and this achieved it.

    Do you find people use the status update like Twitter now that you have a large network or are the messages of use?

    Thanks

  6. says

    Ian, this article came right on time! I was looking for ways to use LinkedIn more effectively and found your site (via Google). Not only did I enjoy this article but I have read several more of your articles and thoroughly enjoy them. I’m loving what I’m learning :-) I’m going to go work on my LinkedIn profile now!

  7. says

    Ian-
    I had not seen this post before but came across it after seeing your videos on the topic. Very thoughtful and helpful. I too have been a “trusted partner” type person but have found myself moving to a more open network approach as technology has moved on. I find that people began to develop a relationship (so to speak) with your public persona. Put in marketing terms you are establishing a brand.

    As long as you are careful that your brand represents who you really are, I suppose it is a good thing to do. From a personal perspective it feels right. From a business perspective, I find that we are getting new prospects and clients that feel that they already know who we are. That also feels right, at least at this point.

    Thanks for another useful post…lwf

  8. says

    Hi Lee,

    Over time my views on trusted Partner vs Open Networker have changed. I see Linkedin now as more of a networking event. I’m happy to meet/connect with anyone who looks interesting and who wants to speak to me.

    If, down the line, they ask me for a referral or a recommendation that I don’t yet feel comfortable giving I’ll tell them. I don’t need to avoid that scenario entirely by avoiding connecting in the first place.

    After all, what’s the point of networking if you’re only going to talk to people you already know.

    Ian

  9. says

    Hi Ian,

    Thank you for wonderful tips and information provided, the first thing I did is changed the professional headline.

    Really a time saver, past few days I was thinking that how can one successfully, professionally network on Linkedin to seek or pay attention to the site in terms of broadening knowledge and healthy interactions. Your blog was bang on and I loved it.

    Personally I feel that Open Networking would be fruitful to many of the business entrepreneurs and the likes of your too to get the deserved recognition. Similarly, it is advisable and that you righlty said, it is good to network with Trusted Partners. I am follwing the Trusted Partner strategy.

    Ian, what do you think about FB, recently I gave up FB due to the fact that I felt I was wasting time by posting on the wall, addition to that I was not interested on what was happening in other peoples personal lives etc etc… do you still recommend to use FB.

    I am going to post this url in my updates of Lindkedin.

    Thanks again and kind regards
    Sumeet

  10. says

    This is an excellent article and I will definitely refer people to it. In the end, it seems that many aspects of online networking are just translated from offline networking. Social media is as much about sociology as technology.

    I was going to ask a question about your “trusted partner” vs “open networker” approach, but I see that you have already answered it – sort of. I think that pursuing a trusted partner approach makes sense in theory, but in practice may force you into refusing connections with people who are trying to get to know you. This could have a detrimental impact on your reputation and seems to be at odds with the more open online culture.

    Your thoughts?

  11. says

    Great post. Great comments.

    I’ve also transitioned to the stage where I’m comfortable connecting with “good” people. Here “good” is based on their profile and the connections we share. This is essentially an enhanced Trusted Partner strategy since I won’t connect to just anyone.

    My number of connections is approaching the scary “500+” point, which can be perceived as a sign of quantity over quality. I’d rather that the actual number of connections always be shown since 512 connections is very different than 3,872,834.

    • says

      Good point Promod – I share your wish that the exact number was displayed – I don’t really know why they don’t. My 700 and something contacts means I’m popular ;( That other guy’s 12,384 mean’s he connects with anyone!

  12. Dick says

    Hi Ian,

    How would you change your strategies, profile etc on Linkedin, if you are on the look out for a new job? Would you for example make this noticeable in your ‘headline’?

    Thank you very much
    Regards,
    Dick

  13. says

    Jay – I think you’re spot on. In my case there are many people who ask to connect who I don’t know well – but who read my blog, or have subscribed to my newsletter or maybe follow me on Twitter. It’s a bit of a slap in the face to say “no, I won’t connect with you on Linkedin”. It didn’t feel right to me – and I think it could damage your reputation by making you seem elitist. So I changed my policy and became rather more open to this. I feel it fits better with the online spirit of networking too – I’m happy to give people the benefit of the doubt first.

    Ian

  14. says

    Dick,

    I’d certainly update my profile to be more “potential employer focused” and reflect my experience, the results I’d achieved, etc. Ideally some client/employer quotes too.

    Depending on how comfortable you feel doing it – I’d probably update my headline to say somethign along the lines of “Experienced, results driven IT project manager – looking for exciting new roles”. Or something like that.

    Ian

  15. says

    Thanks for this useful post.
    Regarding point #1 “Make your profile client focused,” can we see some examples of these kinds of profiles? Or maybe some tips on how to restructure or rewrite to this approach?
    Thank you.

  16. says

    Hi Ian

    I’m not a professional, so I don’t use Linkedin as professionals do. I use it mainly to find contacts, and then verify their email addresses for direct emailing. Linkedin is the best service I know that verifies email addresses. Once I know the correct email addresses, then I add that to gist.com to build a complete social profile of the individual.

    Social networks are great at intelligence gathering including our own http://www.edocr.com. End of the day, the phone and email remain the best tools.

  17. says

    I am going to give point 5 – Give testimonials to get them a go.

    I have 0 testimonials on my account despite having requested some from previous employees previously. I’ll try this approach now and see if I have better success. Thanks for the tips.

  18. says

    Ian,
    Very instructive. Thanks so much. Too many people waste their time on FB and Twitter and Pinterest. Like the way you distinguish between open networking and trusted partners networking.

    I hope you will link up with me on LinkedIn.

    Take CAre,

    Jupiter Jim

  19. Johnny says

    I like your tips, but I think people (especially the older generation) needs to be careful about open network LinkedIn use. As more and more people who’ve more or less grown up with Facebook enter the workforce, they’ll bring their idea of social networking norms with them and will likely think your a little odd or out of touch if you go around friending or linking everyone, especially those you dont know or barely know. Unless, of course, you have something big to offer or discuss!

    • says

      Hi Johnny – I’ve not really found that to be the case – it#s often younger people who are quite open to connecting to someone they don’t know if there’s some sort of connection somewhere.

      Remember – I’m not advocating either open networking or only connecting to people you know. My view is there’s a happy medium where you selectively connecting with both the people you know and some people you don’t who it could be interesting or useful to connect to.

      Ian

  20. Daniel says

    Hey Ian,

    I have just started using linkedin and see great potential in it. I’m in a sales position in Taiwan and I am selling mostly to the US, therefore I don’t really know my clients personally, linked in gives me a good way of staying in touch with clients and find potential clients as well. Feel free to add me on linked in my name is Daniel Kuschinski and I’m the only one on linked in with that name. Also for those of you trying to find new clients and correct email addresses you should take a look at http://www.jigsaw.com which is sometimes even more useful than linked in but also has the downside that is almost entirely only USA contacts.

  21. says

    Ian, I’ve been receiving a lot of endorsements – its a new feature to LinkedIn. Its showing me what people think my best skills are. How do you think we can best use this feature as an opportunity?

    • says

      Hi Martyn – I cover endorsements on this video: http://www.ianbrodie.com/moreclientstv/new-linkedin-profile/

      The long and the short is that endorsements look like they’re here to stay. And while you could argue that they’re not really a good guide to someone’s capabilities, the truth is that people do pay attention to them and if you have a lot of endorsements they’ll think you’re more credible than someone who doesn’t. More details on how in the video…

      Cheers

      -Ian

  22. says

    Hey Ian, I have just started my business and i was looking for new clients. I search a lot of articles but personally i like this article cause you have mention the right points that are useful. I would love to add you on my linkedin profile. Please share your profile with me.

  23. says

    Ian,

    You included a lot of great tips about using LinkedIn. I especially liked the one about watching other’s status updates to initiate contact. You suggested using a CRM, but do you have any other methods? What if you want to monitor updates of people or companies that you’re not connected to? Do you have any suggestions?

  24. says

    Thanks David.

    As you probably guessed from the post, I pretty much follow a “trusted partner” strategy on Linkedin (I’m rather more promiscuous on Twitter!).

    Having said that though, I think in the future it’s going to become rather difficult to keep a relatively closed network. Primarily because your own networking preferences are interlinked with the preferences of the people you network with.

    It’s something I’ve experienced recently: people I know quite well and who I consider trusted partners are open networkers themselves. So if I connect with them my network is “exposed”. If I don’t, I’m kind of insulting them.

    Similarly, as my public profile grows – thanks in no small part to this blog – I get requests to connect from people who feel connected with me because they’re readers, or subscribe to my newsletter. It’s not easy to turn down those requests. They’re made in good faith from people who feel a connection.

    So perhaps in the future we’ll all be open networkers whether we want to be or not.

    Ian

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