The Ultimate LinkedIn Guide, Part 3: Engaging With Your Network
Welcome to the Ultimate LinkedIn Guide!
In part two of this series, we looked at how to optimize your LinkedIn network. This post will address how to engage with the connections within your network in various ways.
As I tell my clients, you can have a stellar profile and large network, but if you don’t engage your connections, you might as well not exist on LinkedIn.
Being Active Vs. Being Engaged
First, let’s talk about the distinction between “active” and ”engaged.” It’s possible to be active on LinkedIn while not being engaged. When you’re active, you’re simply there and not making an impact. When you’re engaged, however, you’re truly communicating with your connections.
Let’s look at some examples of being active, followed by some examples of being engaged. Think about what you’re doing on LinkedIn. If it sounds like you’re just being active, then it’s time to change how you interact with your connections.
Liking What Your Connections Post
There’s not much to say about simply liking what your connections post, other than your connections might appreciate the number of likes they receive. Then they’ll wonder, “What did Bob really think of what I wrote?” This is the ultimate example of simply being active.
Sharing What Your Connections Post
Again, people will be grateful that you shared their post or article, but couldn’t you do more? “I’m glad Bob shared my article,” they will think. “But why did he share it? What did he think of it?”
Posting a Picture and Sharing a Quote
Posting a picture is nice. It adds color to peoples’ homepage feeds. They may pause to look at it.
A picture says a thousand words, right? Wrong. You want to explain why you’re sharing the picture, not leave people guessing. The same goes for sharing a quote without an explanation as to why you shared it.
Writing Brief Comments
Writing comments to what your connections post is a step in the right direction, but your comments should be meaningful. For example, “Great article, Susan,” is not very meaningful.
One excuse I’ve heard from my clients is that it’s difficult to write a lengthy comment on a smartphone. If that’s the case, just wait until you’re in front of your computer and write the comment there.
Asking a Question and Not Responding to Answers
Asking questions is fine; I do it all the time. However, just letting the responses you receive sit is disrespectful to the people who provided answers. Make sure you ask meaningful questions, and join the discussion when people start answering you.
Endorsing Connections for Their Skills
This doesn’t constitute engagement. You are simply clicking on your connections’ skills. Further, you might not have seen the person ever perform the skills for which you’re endorsing them. My opinion of endorsements is well known by my clients. The opposite of endorsements are recommendations (discussed below).
Writing Meaningful Comments
Those who are active post brief, meaningless comments; those who are engaged put thought and effort into what they write.
Here’s an example of what a meaningful comment might look like:
“Great post, @Susan Scanlan. Your statement about a company lacking a social media campaign being akin to living in the dark ages really resonated with me. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other platforms can create that ‘like, know, and trust’ relationship between the company and its customers. You’re also correct in stating that all platforms should be connected, as well as linked to and from the company’s website.”
Note: Always remember to tag a person with “@[name]” so they will be notified of your comment. I was scolded once for not doing this!
Sharing Original Updates
To stay top of mind, your shared updates must show engagement. LinkedIn encourages you to share an article, video, photo, or idea. Take the opportunity to engage with your connections by providing valuable content that elicits responses. A sign that you’ve succeeded would be the number of likes and, more importantly, comments you receive.
Note: Many LinkedIn pundits suggest keeping your status updates to one or two a day. I blatantly break this rule.
Responding to What Others Write About Your Updates
One type of update I find successful is asking an illuminating question. If you’re going to do this, be diligent in replying to your connections’ and followers’ responses. Failing to reply to your connections who answer your question does not demonstrate engagement. I am impressed with people who take the time to answer every reply they receive. I try to reply to all feedback, but alas, I am only human.
Sharing Your Connections’ Articles and Commenting on Them
Instead of simply sharing someone’s article, you should go a step further and share a short synopsis of the message it delivers. Doing this says, “I’ve taken the time to read and understand this article, and I will elaborate on it for the benefit of the readers.” To be a curator is the true definition of networking.
Writing and Sharing Your Own Articles
Writing an article with unique and fresh content shows you’ve considered your audience’s needs and wish to help meet them. My primary audiences are job seekers and career coaches, so I write articles focusing on the job search. You can write an article directly on the LinkedIn platform or share one from a blog, such as Recruiter.com.
Note: Refrain from only sharing your own articles. This will make you seem arrogant.
I would also consider creating and sharing videos a form of engagement. This is a fairly new trend — probably a year old by now — but it’s really taking off among LinkedIn users. If you are going to share videos, make sure you are consistent and produce videos your connections will appreciate.
Sending Direct Messages
Sending individual messages to your connections is the most obvious form of engagement. This is where relationships are cemented.
Mass messages are not considered proper etiquette — but if you need to reach many people at once for whatever reason, you are allowed to message 50 people at a time.
Writing Recommendations for Your Connections
Unlike endorsing your connections for their skills, writing a recommendation takes thought and time. This is a top form of engagement, but I fear it is going out of style.
Following Up With Your Connections
To truly show engagement, you must follow up with your connections. I have developed many relationships by reaching out to my connections via telephone if they live a distance away. If they live closer, I’ll meet them for coffee. One of my connections and I had been exchanging discussions via LinkedIn. Yesterday, we had our first phone conversation. Although we will not do business together, it was great finally “meeting” her on the phone.
Perhaps the most difficult part of a successful LinkedIn campaign is engaging with your LinkedIn connections. To do so requires you to extend yourself beyond your comfort zone — but the rewards to you and your career are worth it.
Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 15 job search workshops at an urban career center.