If you’re reading this, you’re probably trying to figure out the best ways in how to network on LinkedIn.
If you’re like most people, once you move beyond the generic “add connections” option that LinkedIn has, you might want to specifically search for and increase your connections with people that you want to engage or collaborate with. The challenge is that restrictions exist within LinkedIn that may prevent you from inviting others to your network that you don’t personally know. You are entitled to try to connect with people without knowing their email address, but once five people respond to your invitation to connect by noting that they don’t know you, your ability to connect will be restricted.
So how to network on LinkedIn in light of these restrictions, in consideration that it is also very difficult to message 2nd and 3rd degree connections?
Let’s begin with an inbound approach that can help entice our target people to want to network and connect with us.
[Note: If you are a college student looking for advice on how to network on LinkedIn, check out my post on how college students can leverage LinkedIn]
Make Your Profile Stand Out
Making your profile stand out requires you to focus on three key areas: your profile photo, headline, and the status of your overall profile. While it may be tempting to use the same standard profile photo across all of your social media profiles, LinkedIn is dedicated to professional work, and you should take the time to procure a professional profile photo. You do not have to visit a professional studio, but you should use a photo with a quiet, neutral background, wear appropriate attire, keep the frame above your shoulders, and look into the camera. Doing all of this with a self timer will suffice.
To make sure your profile stands out, take the time to fill out every single portion of the page. LinkedIn pages are more likely to come up in searches when they are completely filled out, including all relevant skills and education. In keeping with this, make sure you update your headline. Your headline functions as a summary of who you are and what you do, and is the first thing potential connections will see.
Post Engaging and Relevant Industry Content
Posting engaging and relevant industry content makes it easier for new and existing connections to flourish, as it provides a way for connections to people to start off with a solid source of conversation. Demonstrating that you know about your industry and are interested in the latest innovations and news articles in that industry makes you far more appealing to users in search of employees, and makes you far more interesting to continually engage with after you’ve received requests from people looking for additional industry connections.
Discussions on personal LinkedIn profiles can be sparse, and regularly posting content can ensure users see that you are a force to be reckoned with.
Now let’s switch to gears to the outbound method of finding and engaging with other professionals.
Let’s first look at how you’ll find people you’ll want to network with.
Identify People to Connect With
Finding LinkedIn users to connect with is one of the most important parts of using the site, as it allows you to engage in discussions with thousands of people you might not otherwise encounter. LinkedIn exposes you to the type of people working in your industry, and even though you may only really get along with or engage regularly with a handful of people, engaging with new users can help you develop strong online relationships, which can eventually translate into strong relationships in person.
To accomplish this feat, use the advanced people search, which does far more than simply give you a photo of people, or give you a window into possible connections via their profile picture. Instead, the advanced search allows you to seek out people from specific companies and areas, and people who list specific interests or skills.
Read the contact settings
There are many people on LinkedIn who aren’t engaged on the platform. They signed up and forgot about their profiles, or they just simply “checked out” for some reason. Some may indicate in their contact settings that they are not open to receiving connections, but if they include their contact details here, or anywhere else on their profile, you have implicit permission to contact them. If you want to be cautious, first contact them and let them know why you want to connect. Also mention how you can help them. Then ask if you can connect on LinkedIn for a mutually beneficial – and connected – relationship.
“Read” the profile
A LinkedIn profile says a thousand things about someone’s attitude toward online professional networking, and by thoroughly reading the profile, you can determine how active a particular user is on the website. In general, the more active people are on LinkedIn, the more they will understand the value of business networking and thus the more willing they will be to connect if you send a personalized invite. This is especially the case if they are a LinkedIn LION or Open Networker.
Warm Leads are Always Preferred
As in real life, how to network on LinkedIn is all about introductions through a “warm” lead, or someone your target connection actually knows, who can make a personal introduction on your behalf, often leads to the greatest success. Rather than relying on a cold call or email, get in touch with the person who connects the two of you and ask him or her for a formal introduction. If your targeted user is a third-degree connection, find someone who could facilitate an introduction between you and a person who is actually connected to your targeted user.
Your eventual goal is to be introduced to your second-degree connection, who can then facilitate the introduction with your third-degree connection.
But what if there is no one that can make the introduction on your behalf? That’s when you’ll want to consider sending them an invitation to connect.
Send Connection Requests to a Potential Connection with a Personal Note
When you send connection requests on LinkedIn, be sure to answer one of the most important questions on the site: WIIFM, or “What’s in it for me?” Asking questions like these before you send a request is vital, because it means that you are able to send requests that provides a legitimate reason for them to accept your request. Communicating with people through messages allows you to make connections while letting them know why you would be a wonderful connection or resource for them. This can be simple, such as identifying your continued interest in the kinds of content they are interested in, or more complex, such as detailing your job history and your ability to make in-person relationships flourish in your industry.
Join the Same LinkedIn Group
A simple tactic you can use to contact someone on LinkedIn without sending them a connection request is to join one of his or her LinkedIn Groups. Of course, this only works if your desired contact has the default settings on, which allows group members to send messages to each other. At present, the option to send a message to a group member does not appear as an option when you find a common group member on an advanced people search result; instead, you will be prompted to send an InMail. No worries: simply navigate to the same group that you are member of, do a member search, and you will have the option to send a message from that user interface.
Send the “Hail Mary” InMail
When all else fails in how to network on LinkedIn, we have the InMail. InMail is a paid LinkedIn service to contact people who are not first-degree connections, which I consider to be the equivalent of a “Hail Mary” toss in a football game. LinkedIn promotes the use of InMail as being a very effective way to communicate. Currently, only paid accounts to get access to InMail. Though some people might shirk at the idea of paying for such a service, consider it a business investment that may have lucrative potential. Everyone’s experience will be different, so you should at least experiment with the InMail and determine your own ROI.
Don’t Forget Your Manners
Just as you should continue to foster warm leads in the “real” world, you need to do the same online. Don’t forget that, behind every online persona, there is a real person. Whenever you communicate with someone online, you should personalize your communication and give him or her a reason to connect to you. Always remember that manners apply online just as they do offline, and LinkedIn (as well as all social media sites such as Twitter) is simply an example of “new tools, old rules.”
What have your experiences been in reaching out to new people and learning how to network on LinkedIn?
The above is a summary of selected content from my critically acclaimed LinkedIn for business book “Maximizing LinkedIn for Sales and Social Media Marketing.”
Hero photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash
How To Network On LinkedIn FAQs
Yes, LinkedIn networking works. LinkedIn was designed to build connections. It is the best way to create positive connections with other professionals and experts in your industry worldwide. The platform gives opportunities to its users to create an online resume that they can use to find jobs or build their credibility. In addition, they are free to create relationships with experts, potential employers, recruiters, and clients virtually.
Here are the best ways on how you can get more connections on LinkedIn:
1. Send an invitation to your past and current co-workers
2. Invite your former and present classmates
3. Connect with the LinkedIn group members from groups that you joined to
4. Complete your work profile
5. Complete your education profile
Effectively market your business on LinkedIn using these tips:
1. Always include rich media on your posts
2. Optimize your posts with relevant keywords and tags
3. Determine the best time to post
4. Do LinkedIn live
5. Study your LinkedIn analytics
6. Learn how to target the right audience
Whether you should network through LinkedIn or email depends on your goal. If you want to expand your network professionally, LinkedIn is the best option for networking. However, there are still some who prefer email. Whatever means you want to use, what’s important is you learn how to network efficiently and effectively. Figure out the style that works best for you and create a game plan.
As a beginner, it’s critical to set up your profile on LinkedIn and complete the must-have items in it. In this way, your profile will shine from the others. Once you got your profile set up, you can start building your connections. You can start with your current colleagues, employers, friends, and classmates. Make connections as many as you can because it will help you become visible.