6 tested tips to get the most out of LinkedIn

If you truly want to grow your LinkedIn network, then joining groups and making use of the contact lists you already have can help considerably.

LinkedIn gives access and exposure to important people. It helps attract customers, keeps you in front of existing clients, creates partnership possibilities, provides referrals and introductions, generates invitations to talk at conferences or events, and servies as a platform to amplify your voice.

Many traditional PR pros don’t fully understand what it takes to make LinkedIn a connection generator. Not only must you have a LinkedIn profile that gives off a professional vibe, but you must understand ways to organically grow your connections.

Here are a few tested tips to make a LinkedIn profile stand out:

1. Invite your email contacts to connect.

Upload email contacts into LinkedIn to grow your network. Grab the low-hanging fruit for seeding your network with relevant connections.

With LinkedIn, you can import existing email contacts from Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook and other email accounts into the network. Start by connecting with people you already know and trust. Shantanu Narayen, CEO of Adobe, says, “Your existing contacts on LinkedIn are literally marketing gold lying on the ground ready to pick up.” You may have concerns about allowing LinkedIn to access your contacts, but it’s really no different from sharing your personal information on other social networks or website applications. The point is to use an existing contact database to save you time down the line.

2. Let your colleagues guide you.

There are more than 350 million LinkedIn users. Do the math. You have a lot of connections waiting for you. As you sift through the heap of LinkedIn profiles, do yourself a favor and make the search easier. Tom Treanor, Director of Marketing at Wrike notes, “You can find a target’s colleagues by looking at the ‘People Also Viewed’ column on the right side of a LinkedIn user’s profile. Usually the people listed there are coworkers or clients of the target.”

3. Add it to your signature.

Add your “vanity” LinkedIn URL to your professional email signature. People click on this not only to validate your background and get more context, but it’s a surefire way to grow the number of connections.

4. Establish context as you extend invitations.

As you reach out to connections you do not know directly, provide context in your invite. Call it LinkedIn “etiquette” if you like, but know your chances of making the connection are greater when you provide detail and don’t sound spammy. Include information such as where you heard or saw the contact and your reason for connecting.

5. Use groups to broaden your base.

LinkedIn groups are a wonderful resource for discovering relevant, new connections.

Groups are becoming harder to wade through, since a lot are not managed too well and they’re often overrun with spam. However, there are still plenty of top quality groups; you just have to do some research. Great groups for PR professionals online include: Solo PR Pros, Public Relations and Communications Professionals and, of course, PR Daily.

6. Use groups to find new, individual connections.

Do not use LinkedIn groups to market your brand. The key is to be informative. Join and participate in groups to connect with people who are a good fit in your LinkedIn network. When you share a group membership with someone, send an invitation to connect based directly on this association. Firs,t go to the desired LinkedIn group and then click on “Members” to begin to pull up the list of members in the specific group.

Scroll through the members until you come to those who are not listed as first-degree connections; send a personal message that says that you want to connect. Then let the person know you are in the same group. When you hear back, proceed to send an invitation to connect. Remember, however, you are no longer allowed to customize a connection invitation sent to a mutual LinkedIn group member.

Allie Gray Freeland is a Marketing Communications Consultant based in Kansas City. A graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Journalism, her passion lies in the art of business communication. Email her here.

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