The Triple A Game of Successful Online Networking
Active | Attractive | Alert
A recent article by this author about LinkedIn was first published as an email newsletter, then a blog post, a LinkedIn update with synced Tweet and finally a feature column in the statewide business newspaper of record. It raised a few eyebrows with the lead sentence: “If you’re in business and have decided to forego using LinkedIn, you might want to consider retirement soon.”
LinkedIn absolutely rules online business networking and it keeps getting better. The platform has slowly and steadily grown and added rich publishing features, apps, sophisticated connecting tools and lately its own value content. The communities of business focused user Groups have exploded over the last couple of years. Eclipsing 100 million active users in March of this year, it’s no wonder LinkedIn scorched the New York Stock Exchange with its IPO on May 19th. We’ll also touch on Twitter a little in this piece but that will be a topic for another article post.
I launched my own business, thanks in part to the confidence gleaned from my LinkedIn network. And, my last job search a couple years ago required no traditional resume. My LinkedIn profile was all the potential employers needed and I’m certain it was a key factor in delivering 3 job offers out of 3 companies considered. Finding a job, connecting with trusted clients, vendors and business partners; these are some of the valuable gifts waiting for you on this colleague-connecting powerhouse.
So let’s look at the title-mentioned triple A’s of how to network successfully online.
First you must build a full and compelling Profile. This is your live resume not only for potential headhunters or employers who may have your dream job waiting, but also for potential clients and new, rich relationships. LinkedIn will prompt you to complete your profile and you should heed the prompts until you reach “100% completeness.” This is your chance to shine so don’t squander it!
Next you must work the network. Join Groups you’re interested in. Participate in the discussions with valuable content. Make new connections – reach out to people and invite them to connect using a personal note. Keep your profile fresh with regular updates – weekly or even daily. You’ve got to devote some time, effort and patience here or it won’t work for you.
My crusade to convince everyone to include a picture on their LinkedIn profile won’t cease until we get to 99% compliance. Not having a profile picture is akin to vacating your seat at the conference room table or going to a networking event with a bag over your head. Here’s a fact: Behavioral science has proven that the human face is the most arresting image to the human eye. Without a picture, important eyes will scan right past your profile and may not even notice you in group lists. This is not about being a model; it’s about being a real person, that’s all.
Being attractive on LinkedIn is about showing how good you are at what you do and how much useful knowledge you have to offer your connections. Use LinkedIn apps like SlideShare, Box or Blog Link to share content-rich links and files including video. Keep that content fresh and dynamic. Stay on your value propositions and quality people will be attracted to doing business with you. Tie the Tweets by LinkedIn app to your account if you’re on Twitter and tweet selected LinkedIn updates – there’s even a built in URL shortener.
Here’s where you get proactive in studying what’s going on in your networking media. Twitter and LinkedIn combined are a treasure trove of news you can use as long as you filter who you follow based on your interests and business category. Pay attention daily to your Twitter feed and LinkedIn updates for what’s going on in your business networks. I’ve gained two clients in the last few weeks on LinkedIn just by paying attention, reaching out and responding in a timely fashion.
I recently followed some bread crumbs to a new client by seeing a competitor’s tweet while scanning my Twitter feed. He bragged about his category experience in a public reply (mistake) to a tweeted announcement made by a regional hospital. I was able to discern who the social media manager was, called him and he gladly put me in touch with the Marketing Director. My company and I were able to pitch and win some business while my competitor seemingly forgot all about it.
These are just a few examples of how business development is effectively and efficiently achieved using free online social/business networking tools. I hesitate to use the term “social media” to describe LinkedIn because, while there’s a social component involved, it isn’t about putting up playful posts about your backyard barbeque or afternoon at the ballpark. It’s about connecting for business. That said, business is people and finding the way to their hearts and minds is the key to success. An active, attractive and alert approach will help you gain more traction in this powerful communication space.