LinkedIn is a great tool to expand your business network and to do business development. Things become trickier if you need to reach out to people you do not know. Here are some essential tips to get you started.
Create a complete and up-to-date profile
This is fairly obvious, but before you start inviting people to connect, make sure that you have a complete profile with a picture. People will most likely view your profile before deciding if they want to connect with you. They will want to see how you can bring them value and common interests that you share. Make sure your profile is up-to-date, and also make sure that your company page is too.
Grow your network
Build your network methodically and consistently. You will see on your home page the number of connections and the number of professionals in your network. Your network is composed of first, second, and third-degree connections. These are the people that you can search for, whose profile you will be able to see, and with whom you will be able to connect with. Having a large network can be very useful if you are looking for someone or something very specific, like someone who works in antenna design at Company X for example. Remember, quality is always better than quantity. But sometimes you just have to reach outside your current network.
Be personal and professional
This is obvious, but many people forget about this. After you’ve attended an event and collected some business cards, be systematic and connect with the people that interested you. Always write a personal invitation message letting the person know where you’ve met and why you would like to connect. Check your spelling, be professional, and never harass anyone! Respect the fact that some people might not be interested to connect with you. Do not spam!
Sometimes you may stumble on the profile of someone you never met yet with whom you would like to connect. This is fine. Write them a personal message that states that you never met but you would be interested to connect because you share interest X, work in the same industry, etc. In general most people will be receptive if you follow the guidelines of being personal and professional.
Use the Relationship tab
LinkedIn now has a ‘Relationship’ tab on your connections’ profiles below their pictures and beside the ‘Contact’ tab. There you can put notes, reminders, write down how you met, and who introduced you. These are all very useful business development tools.
LinkedIn allows you to join 50 groups and the ability to send messages to mutual group members. Use this opportunity. Join groups relevant to your fields of interests and contribute to the discussions. When messaging someone, state that you share membership to group X. Keep it short, concise, and professional. Eventually, you could even start your own group. One advantage of this is that you can email broadcasts all your group members.
Use OpenLink to message non-connections
Aside from shared group members, LinkedIn allows you to message people who have the OpenLink status. This status is only available to users with premium accounts. When they chose so, this status allows them to be messaged by any other LinkedIn user. These persons have explicitly chosen to be available for messaging so you know that they won’t be upset if you contact them. OpenLink members have a ring of dots icon next to their names.
Use the force of the lions!
‘LION’ stands for LinkedIn Open Networker. They are willing to connect with people that they have never met and accept all invitations, or at least will not state that they do not know you (too many of these and you will have to provide an email address to invite people). These beasts are thus relatively risk-free to invite and are more like kittens than lions. However, they are quite powerful since they often have networks of many thousands first-degree connections. Thus, they allow bridging closed networks and reaching a huge number of people that you normally would not be able to reach. The lions state in their headlines or profiles that they are lions (sometimes with the mention ‘accept all invitations’ and ‘no IDKs’).
So how can you use the force of the lions? Well, the obvious thing is that you could become one… But if you don’t feel like it, you can search for them using the ‘LION’ keyword and invite some of them. Before long your network will reach many tens of millions. There are also lion groups where you can find them. However, always remember that quality is better than quantity. Weight the upsides and the downsides of connecting with people you don’t know. The major upside is that it grows your reach tremendously. The downside is that some unscrupulous people may get access to your email address and spam you. Another downside is that some lions will clutter your Network Updates with junk. This however can be fixed (see next section).
Filter your Network Updates
This will be essential if you add connections that you don’t know (lions for example) or if you have connections that post content that you don’t want to see. In your Network Updates (‘Home’ menu), you will see a ‘Hide’ in the top right of an update. Clicking on it will hide all future updates from this connection (this can be reversed). I thought that I needed that feature before discovering it, so I was pretty happy to find it when I did! Unfortunately it is not available in the Android LinkedIn app.
Be visible and identifiable
Allow others to see who you are when you view their profiles. Go into ‘Settings’ and click ‘Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile (Recommended)’. In return, it will also allow you to check who’s viewed your profile. This might be a way to initiate contact. You can toggle this feature on and off as you need to.
Use Advanced Search
Advanced Search allows you to make very precise searches. For example, you could search for all your first connections working at company X. Premium accounts also provide improved search filters.
Search profiles on Google
For 3rd connections and beyond searches, you will not see the full name of the person (you need to upgrade for that). If you want the full name, you can google the first name and title, like ‘’John S. Design Specialist at Company X’’, and the results will include the full name.
Connect through search instead of the profile button
You have to prove you know people through a mutually listed company or school when sending connection requests through the ‘Connect’ button on someone’s profile. To skip that step, just search for the person you want to connect with, and use the ‘Connect’ button next to the names to immediately send the invitation.
From the LinkedIn Help Center: Introductions let you contact members in your extended network through the people you know. If you want to contact someone who is two or three degrees away from you, you can request an introduction through one of your connections. Your connection will, in turn, decide whether to forward your message on to the desired recipient (if in your 2nd degree network) or on to a shared connection (if in your 3rd degree network).
- All LinkedIn members (even those with free accounts) have a certain number of introductions they can request. Compare account types to see how many introductions your account gets.
- Introductions expire after 6 months if the receiver doesn’t respond.
- Once the member accepts your introduction you can exchange information and do business.
- You won’t become 1st degree connections unless one of you invites the other to connect and the request is accepted. We recommend you only connect with those you know and trust.
The ‘Connections’ / ‘Add Connections’ menu item can help you import contacts from your various email accounts. On your Home page you will also find the ‘People You May Know’.
From the LinkedIn Help Center: You can export a CSV file of your connections from the Contact Settings page. Only the full name, email address, current employer, and position are exported. To export your connections list:
- Move your cursor over Connections at the top of your homepage and select Keep in Touch.
- Click the Settings icon near the top right to reach the Contact Settings page.
- Under Advanced Settings on the right, click Export LinkedIn Connections.
- Enter the security verification text if prompted and then click Continue.
- Click Export.
- Save the file somewhere you can easily find it, like your computer’s desktop.
- Open the file and print (optional).
Participate and contribute!
Try to participate and bring value to your connections. You can comment on stimulating conversations, invite them to join interesting groups, notify them of relevant local events, introduce them to your connections with whom they would benefit of knowing, post industry news, etc. Be genuine in what you do. Participate but don’t overdo it, like posting 20 articles each day and clogging people’s Network Updates.
Get a Premium account
A Premium Account will give you a certain number of InMail messages every month. InMail lets you message anyone on LinkedIn without the need for a connection, for an introduction or contact information. Moreover, if you don’t get a response within 7 days, LinkedIn will give you another InMail to send. Other benefits of Premium accounts include the profile organizer, premium search filters, availability of OpenLink, and more.
I hope that you found this information useful and interesting and I would love to get your feedback!