You like pictures of your boss’s kids on Facebook. You follow influencers in your industry and tweet out relevant articles on Twitter. And you stalk the accounts of bloggers and your favorite brands for inspiration on Instagram. But when it comes to your career, LinkedIn is by far the most useful social platform. You can keep up with developments in your field, engage in conversations with others in your industry about relevant topics, see who is hiring, and fill your digital rolodex with connections that can benefit you professionally.
But despite its importance, few of us are actually utilizing it to its full potential.
Be honest: Your account sits dormant until an unexpected round of layoffs sends you scrambling to update your resume, connect with employers and send out a mass batch of “would love to connect!” messages to potential employers. The truth is, LinkedIn is a great way to promote your personal brand or product, while also making contacts in the industry that will prove beneficial to your career — and not just when you’re looking for a job.
“But when I’m not actively looking for a new role I just don’t have the time!” you say? Harnessing the power of the platform doesn’t mean you have to set aside a chunk of time every single day to manage your account. What it does require is tapping into some of the most useful tools, and employing some tricks of the trade to get the most from your experience.
Last fall, LinkedIn Lead Generation Specialist Trevor Turnbull hosted a webinar with the goal of helping you do just that — and it was packed with ways to hack the system and get the most out of the platform. Missed it? That’s okay. Luckily for you, we tuned in and noted some of the need-to-know tips for navigating LinkedIn and using its features to your advantage.
3 Ways to Make the Most of Groups
1. Leverage Other People’s Groups
Most of us tend to join groups of our peers: fellow freelance writers, or coders, or high school teachers. While these are important connections, it’s also key to seek out groups that your target audience exists in already.
“This is a mistake that a lot of people make: Don’t just join industry or local groups that your peers belong to,” said Turnbull. “Those are very valuable groups too, but you’re not going to sell anything to the people that are in those groups that are made up of your industry professionals as well as local other professionals in your local area, in most cases your competing against them. So instead, you want to join the groups where your target audience already exists.”
Perhaps as a video editor, you seek out a group made up of people who own production companies in the metro area. A freelance writer may benefit from joining a digital news editor group. A PR representative may request membership in a magazine editor or local TV producer group, where his or her lifestyle products may have some appeal for coverage. This is often the opposite of how we seek out potential groups. So, actively be mindful of keeping an eye out for those groups that are filled with your target audience.
2. Overcoming the Hurdles of Joining a Group
So you’ve identified the groups that will be beneficial to advancing your career, building your personal brand or promoting a product or service. Now how do you earn a spot on the list? While groups used to be open, and relatively easy to join, a recent update to the rules around groups make it harder to be granted access. When you do a search for the groups relevant to your goals, you’ll have to ask to join — so the first hurdle you must overcome is being granted a spot as a member of these groups.
“You can no longer can see the owner of a group, so open up the LinkedIn accounts for the admins,” said Turnball. “Message them to inquire about joining the group; you will first need to connect with them.” To do this, Turnball recommended choosing the “friend” option to make sure it gets into their inbox (they won’t actually see that you identified them as such) and send them a short message, like below:
“I want to ensure you’ve seen my request to join your group. As a _____, I feel I can add a lot of value to your group and its members.”
3. Utilize the Search Feature Within Groups
Once you’re been granted a coveted spot in some of the key groups (keep in mind there is a limit of 100 groups you can join, so choose wisely), they become a great tool for more effectively searching the platform. Whether you’re looking for people to pitch your product to, are interested in connecting with potential employers, or looking to expand your network in a certain field, groups can help.
“Once you belong to these groups and you start to take advantage of the advanced search within LinkedIn, you’ll find it extremely easy to find your target audience,” said Turnbull. Instead of using the main search bar on the site, narrow down the pot by first clicking on a specific group, and searching within that framework. (The search bar will be on the top right of the group page.)
“That’s the best part of these groups; you don’t have to go and do the hard work to find [the right contacts]. They categorize themselves for you just by the fact that they belong to these groups where your target audience exists,” Turnbull added.
2 Ways to Get More First-Degree Connections
The power of a large first-degree network isn’t lost on us. Actively growing connections is often front and center on the LinkedIn goal list. Unfortunately for many of us, the requests aren’t rolling in, and our own are met with crickets. It’s time to implement some new strategies. Turnbull provided two key ways that we can ensure our network continues to grow with valuable, worthwhile contacts:
4. The Importance of Viewing Profiles
You may be thinking, what do you get out of spending time clicking on other people’s profiles? Shouldn’t we be spending our time getting them to click on ours? Believe it or not, you are (in a roundabout way). It’s all about building awareness.
Viewing is the most powerful thing you can do on LinkedIn, said Turnbull. And we all have access to it. You know that “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” section that you check periodically in hopes that a higher up from one of your most-coveted employers just happens to make an appearance? Well, 76 percent of people surveyed by LinkedIn said they found the “who’s viewed your profile” as the most useful feature on LinkedIn.
“Right now, you maybe have somewhere between 15 and 100 views over the last 100 days and nothing’s happening; no one cares or even knows you exist on LinkedIn,” said Turnbull.
You need to start showing the love ASAP.
“It’s a numbers game: the more people you can look at on a daily basis, the more people will look back at you, which creates opportunity,” said Turnbull. “Look at these people as prospect partners or referrers, they are people, but they are potential business waiting for you to reach out. Just by increasing awareness of yourself and your products and services you can increase the leads of people reaching out. You aren’t even doing much other than viewing profiles and you can get incoming mail in your inbox.”
5. Use the Permission-Based Method to Connect with People
When you do stumble upon those prospective connections, it’s time to reach out. And there are three ways you can go about it:
- InMail (with a premium account, you can send up to 15 a month): “I don’t recommend this as your main source of outreach on LinkedIn. It’s a cold strategy to reach out,” said Turnbull.
- Send messages to people through common groups (you can send up to 15 a month).
- Send a connection request. “This is the one we recommend. Growing your first-degree network by customizing the message you’re sending,” said Turnbull.
It’s all about turning cold leads into warm prospects, Turnbull said, and utilizing the third method, which he dubbed the “permission-based method,” results in a 60 percent increase in response rates. The hack? Choose the friend option. “It never says ‘so and so is your friend’; it’s one of those quirky things on LinkedIn; trust me, choose the friend method. It works every time,” he said.
So what should the message say, exactly? Turnbull provides a simple template:
“Thank you for visiting my profile. I’m looking to expand my network in the (enter industry here) in (enter location here). Would you be open to connecting?” And there you have it. That is the permission-based method. “Think about it this way, you are asking permission to connect, you’re not assuming, you’re not sending a generic message that gets sent 1000 times,” said Turnbull. “Be unique, your response rates will be way higher.”
2 Ways to Stay Relevant and Engaged
Once you’ve joined groups and reached out to connections, it’s about maintaining communication and staying relevant on the platform.
6. Effectively Monitor Responses and Follow Up
Are you guilty of reaching out to someone and then letting the prospect fall through the cracks and never following up? Many of us are. But this can be a major opportunity lost. We get it; LinkedIn can be information overload, and it’s hard to keep track of notifications and messages, especially if you’re actively reaching out to people and trying to grow your network.
“When you’re doing this at a scalable level, you need process and a way to organize [notifications],” said Turnbull. To minimize the risk of overlooking a response, he recommended setting up a custom Gmail account and filtering your notifications that way. “This is the tip that people always say, ‘That was gold. I’m going to go do it right away’,” said Turnbull. “When you set up a custom email and assign it to your LinkedIn account, now all of the responses coming in — replies, new connection requests, etc. — come into one inbox and you don’t have to worry about missing something or overlooking something that could be critical to growing your business.”
7. Position Yourself as an Influencer In Your Field
As much as we all wish we could reach out to people and have them respond, “Perfect timing, I am looking to hire a (coder, writer, engineer) right now!” chances are, it won’t be perfect timing for the majority of people you reach out to. That’s why it’s important to stay top of mind for people for when the time is right, said Turnbull. To do this, he urges people to position themselves as a trusted expert in their field. “Make your profile scream expert when [people] go to do their research before they reach out,” he said.
How do we establish ourselves an expert in a given field?
“Publish content, get involved in conversations, join groups,” said Turnbull. “I strongly encourage you to publish content on LinkedIn. When you go to someone’s profile you’ll see pictures and titles of their published works; it positions you as someone who really knows your business or topic.”
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