6 ways to nail your digital networking
Always on LinkedIn or prefer to lurk in the shadows? However you like to network, there's never been a better time to polish your digital profile.
Fun fact: while over 700 million people are on LinkedIn, only 1% regularly post. Of the remaining 99%, just 9% of us engage, leaving a 90% majority either absent or just lurking. Reassuring news for lurkers but with lockdown preventing the usual face-to-face networking – not to mention a fragile job market – there’s never been more reason to up your game.
Back in the good old days of face-to-face, I met Devon LinkedIn expert, Jennifer Corcoran of My Super Connector who’s just shortlisted in the Top 50 Advisors of Enterprise Nation, the UK’s leading small business network and business support provider. So, being a clueless lurker, LinkedIn-wise at least, I tapped her up for some professional networking advice.
Jennifer, HELP! How do we stop lurking and start working it?
1/Know your platform
LinkedIn is currently the number 1 space to grow your personal brand faster than anywhere else online. With over 722+ million professionals on the platform it’s a fantastic opportunity to network.
There are 3 versions: the free version, Premium and Sales Navigator. I’m all about organic reach but from time to time you may want to upgrade to Sales Navigator if you’re focused on search whether that is for a new role or finding your ideal client.
I don’t rate Premium at all so save yourself the time and money and get the free version working for you. Regardless of the version, success lies in your ability to build trusting and meaningful relationships with your connections and network.
2/ Nail your profile
If someone searches your name or company in Google, your LinkedIn profile will likely appear within the first few results. That hit could be the key to your relationship going forward but you only have a few seconds to make that initial first impression so you have to own it.
Your pic: Consider investing in a professionally taken headshot. Stats show LinkedIn members with a profile photo receive 21 times more profile views and 9 times more connection requests. By investing in a professional headshot, you are telling the world that you mean business. When I got my first one, people started to notice and connect with me more and I’ve never looked back.
Your headline: so much more than just your job title! You have 220 characters to use here with a focus on keywords for your industry or niche. If you get it right, you can increase your chances of getting clients by 200%. The devil is in the detail, so make sure you add plenty, for example if you are a photographer, fill in the gaps about location, specialisms and so on: Devon-based photographer, specialist in corporate headshots and personal branding shoots for bankers, lawyers and accountants.
Your cover background: your prime ad space and your opportunity to showcase your personality and warm up your audience. Like any professional graphic, make sure it uses consistent colours, fonts and elements for great branding and has a totally professional look and feel. You can create this on www.canva.com or get a graphic designer or virtual assistant to create one for you.
3/ Get ready to mingle
The three main ways to network are your Home Feed, Messenger and Groups. Explore them all to find out what suits your goals and personality. There is no one size fits all approach. Introverts and extroverts network differently, and you need to find what works for you and your needs. I personally do a combination of all 3 methods but for many years I used only messenger alongside a solid profile and that worked for me. (I’m an introvert for the record).
Home Feed: a great place to hang out and post if you’re a brilliant copywriter or marketer. If you’re not you can still make a good impact by curating good content and sharing it with your take. You can also make an impression by leaving comments on existing posts.
Every time you leave a comment you leave a virtual business card as others can see your headshot and headline. I’ve personally witnessed some comments get far more engagement than the original post itself and I’ve had people quote back some of my comments word for word in a workshop.
LinkedIn Messenger: if I had to choose one I would say this is the most beneficial. Posts on the home feed disappear over the course of several days unless they go viral. A direct message goes to someone’s email box and I personally read every DM whereas the algorithm will not push out your posts to all your network. Messenger is perfect for introverts and for solid relationship building.
LinkedIn Groups: you’re allowed to join up to 100 groups but I suggest focusing on 5 max or you’ll get overwhelmed. You can find Groups via the search box or by having a little nosey of someone’s Profile. Scroll to the bottom and in the ‘Interests’ section you can see what groups they belong to. (Don’t be shy – get checking out mine as you may find one that is perfect for you.) Posting in a Group can feel less overwhelming then posting on the home feed so again another great place for introverts to hang out. I’ve connected with some amazing people through groups – the fact they already belong to a group shows they are willing to network.
4/ Be social
It’s a social network so you need to be active to get it truly working for you and not sit back passively relying on others to shape your network. Don’t be in the 90% of lurkers!
Stop agonising over the connection requests you receive and who you should or shouldn’t connect with. Decide who you want to connect with, learn to use search and go find them! For the record I connect with anyone I think looks interesting. It’s very much a personal choice. If they don’t look interesting, I click ‘ignore’ and move on. It’s your network and you’re in control.
A lot of people say, “I don’t want to connect with strangers” which always baffles me. When you go to a face-to-face networking event you connect with strangers! When you apply for a new role you meet recruiters and HR directors you didn’t previously know. Stop limiting yourself and your opportunities.
Just as with face-to-face networking, the same rules apply online. In order to generate that ‘know, like and trust’ factor with your audience you need to be consistent and clear in your approach. Having a ‘spray and pray’ approach never works so commit to a plan, whether that’s showing up daily, weekly or monthly.
If you really want to make an impact I would advise posting daily (Mon to Friday) or weekly. It’s all about quality content that helps your network. I see some monthly posts get some great results too.
The algorithm currently favours one post a day so any more is overkill. Follow the 80/20 rule which states that 80% of the time you are educating, motivating and inspiring and the 20% is a soft push from you about your product/services.
6/ Be community focused
It’s all in the giving! Ask your network how you can help them and deliver. Engage with posts, make introductions in messenger and post valuable content which will help them. Be a resource and in time you will become known as a person of value and people will come to you. ‘Build it and they will come’.
So many people rush in to putting out self-promotional content and then complain nothing is happening. It’s the online equivalent of attending a face-to-face event and saying ‘me me me me me’. See how boring that is? Stop talking at your network and start talking to them. Asking how you can help is the secret to networking success.
Want to know more, more, more?
Jennifer is running a LinkedIn Live on 25 November at 11am on My Super Connector. It’s FREE so get in touch if you want to nail your LinkedIn game. And if you’ve been inspired, you can vote for Jennifer at Enterprise Nation Top 50 Advisors.