Optimizing LinkedIn: Three Quick Ideas For Growing Your Business Network
Why ‘boost’ your network? One of the main reasons users find themselves drawn to LinkedIn is the possibility of expanding upon their current professional contact-base and reaching out to new people in their industry.
While sending out invitations to people you’ve done business with is one way of boosting the size and quality of your network, the number of limitations you can send is by default limited, and it’s contrary to LinkedIn’s User Agreement to send invites to people who you haven’t, in some guise, done business with (in practice, this qualified by the existence of LIONs — LinkedIn open networkers — who have expressed an interest in receiving connection invitations from people who they don’t know).
- Another way to boost the size and reach of your LinkedIn network is to make your profile as attractive and interesting as possible to other users.
- The only limit to the number of connections you can foster through this method is your own discernment in choosing what connections to reject and which to accept, and there exists the added potential to strike up connections with people who you mightn’t have found while searching out new contacts under your own steam.
3 tips for growing your LinkedIn network
Here then are three quick tips that have worked for me to build up relationships with often unexpected but professionally useful second parties, and increased my ‘views per day’ metric indicating interest in my profile.
As a warning: I don’t recommend accepting too many invitation requests from people you don’t know, or have no interest in knowing. The existence of LinkedIn spammers — who add connections simply to collate e-mail addresses to opt-in to massive e-mailing lists — seems to be growing by the day, and unless you want to be making daily use of the ‘unsubscribe’ button, your inbox will soon be flooded with useless, and unwanted, promotional emails from people who invited you simply to try sell their latest e-book, workshop, etc
# 1. Use piped up (|) headlines!
Use the pipe button in your headline. Pipe (|), also known as a vertical bar, perhaps best known to traditionalists for its use in mathematics and physics, is in fact also a popular symbol in computer programming and logic, and now, in LinkedIn profiles!
Adding a few vertical bars into your professional headlines (the line summary below your name) is an eye-catching way of displaying a few pieces of information about yourself without needing space-consuming conjunctions (‘and’, etc) or punctuation marks (full stops, commas) to divide the sentence.
In my experience on LinkedIn this kind of headline seems to be used predominantly by serial online networkers, so while it could be argued that it lends a ‘spammy’ kind of feel to your profile, the fact that it is used by a lot of high-connection users could also be an indication of its usefulness in conveying as many short bytes of data into a profile headline as possible.
Brendan Hayes’ (JCI Cork) headline below is an instructive example of this in practice.
(Screenshot: from Cork JCI member and first connection, Brendan Hayes)
- Finding a quick and grammatically tidy way of mentioning things as disparate as community activism and your budding career in the legal profession would be difficult – particularly within the confines of what should optimally be a one-line tag-on to your name.
- The two pipe symbols instead provide a natural and eye-catching division of Brendan’s three main areas of professional involvement, and neatly encapsulates them into something that renders as only one line of text.
# 2. Write a clean, well-formatted summary
A clean, well laid out summary is akin to a quick ‘executive summary’ of your page; and given that part of the goal of LinkedIn for jobseekers is to bring their skillset to the attention of busy people like executives, this shouldn’t be a neglected part of what you put up.
Formatting and type-wise, a variety of approaches can help break down your summary into little digestible bites, in addition to clearly divided paragraphs, which should certainly be used.
- The humble asterisks (*) is ubiquitous but also somewhat dated looking; this symbol (‣), a kind of emboldened left-to-right bullet, creates quite a strong impression, while interpuncts (·), n-dashes (–) and their slightly wider brethren, m-dashes (—) are all convincing and effective ways of leading into short paragraphs.
- Opinions differ as to how exactly the text itself should be written. Many will vouch for filling the section with third-person blurb (“John is a committed, dedicated, professional” is a typical example), but the inevitable deluge of positive adjectives can create a very self-promoting feel to the whole thing. Others will do the same only in the first-person (“I am a committed, dedicated, professional”) but this can also feel quite false.
- Others again have a penchant for writing in grammatical fragments (“Committed, dedicated, professional.”) but this can begin to read quite unusually if the section drags on for long enough.
My personal favourite is for something quite conventional, that avoids any of the possible pitfalls set out above. Writing in full sentences, rather than fragments, very rarely reads strangely; setting out your abilities seems to be sufficient self-promotion to capture others’ attention, without pairing in jaded adjectives like “dependable”, “hard-working”,” industrious”, “disruptive”, etc, and the combination of short paragraphs and division symbols ensures easy reading.
Related: How Can I Look Amazing On LinkedIn?
I like this summary from Clive Aherne, a chartered accountant by training, current owner at TaxAssist.ie accountants in Cork City, and a well known figure on the local startup and enterprise scene there.
- Clive’s summary gives a quick introduction on his background in accountancy; name-drops Price Waterhouse Coopers, where he was “promoted to senior manager”, and then gives an extensive, bullet pointed, plug for his business.
- It’s an honest, informative, and very readable summary, culminating in a fairly enticing pitch to use TaxAssist for your business accountancy needs.
# 3. Being active in groups
Being active in LinkedIn groups has a few great benefits.
- Firstly, it allows you to use mutual group membership as an option when inviting a new connection.
- Secondly, it allows you to comment on discussions that mutually interest you and your fellow group members, which is often all that is needed to sow the seeds for the beginning of a new business relationship and ongoing ‘connection’.
- Closed (request-only) groups are particularly useful in this respect as they are often moderated by managers who ensure that only people actually involved in what they claim they are are allowed ‘membership’.
Examples, within the realm of Irish media, include:
- “Irish journalists, PR, and media professionals” (disclosure: I moderate this),
- “The National Union of Journalists (NUJ)”,
- and “Irish in Media”.
Groups needn’t be moderated to ensure that they target a niche market, however, and plenty of specialists groups can be found where people can strike up a relationship based on some mutual interest, which needn’t even necessarily be professional in nature.
- The “Homebrew and Microbrew” group counts almost 4,000 members among its ranks;
- more conventionally, the Linked:Golfers (#1 Golf Networking Group Online) has almost 14,000,
- and “Whole Foods Enthusiasts” has almost 800.
Professionally, groups can often hone in on very narrow professional interests which makes them a very useful way of developing professional contacts in that catchment. Examples in this bracket:
- The Ireland-Japan Chamber of Commerce, which has been working since 1973 to promote a commercially fruitful bilateral trade relationship between Ireland and Japan;
- Hedge Funds Ireland, which does more or less what it says on the tin,
- and the comparatively meagerly populated Irish Pubs Germany an online meeting spot for Irish pub owners in Germany.
Related: Creating a Successful LinkedIn Group
Let me know what you thought of these tips below or if you have any other ideas for expanding your network’s reach and depth on LinkedIn!