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Trade shows and conferences are cancelled for the foreseeable future. Networking groups have moved to Zoom. But you have a powerful tool at your fingertips that can help you maintain and even improve your networking and relationship building…I’m talking about LinkedIn.
Hopefully LinkedIn was a part of your in-person networking prior to our current “at-home” situation – inviting people you met at conference and trade shows to join your network. This is a core aspect of trade show and conference strategies I recommend for my clients but if those aren’t happening, how can we pivot and develop a powerful LinkedIn networking strategy?
Step one is ensuring your profile is optimized. Before you kick off an outreach plan, it’s important that your profile clearly conveys your industry, area of expertise and the value you offer. People will look at your profile so the more complete, the better!
TIP – Make the right first impression with a professional profile photo and a banner photo that is either branded to your company or tells your network something about you. Not sure what to use, the skyline of your city is a great option.
From there, start with your current connections. If you haven’t done so before, download and review your current network. Identify possible business targets or people worth reconnecting with and use LinkedIn messaging to contact them. These messages should be personalized and provide value – not a sales pitch. If you know someone well, this is easier. If not, check out their profile and use something you find there as a starting point for a conversation.
TIP – Look at someone’s recent activity and reference one of their posts in your message.
Perhaps you want to use this time to add some new connections to your network. After all, if you were at a trade show or conference, you’d be meeting new people. Take advantage of the extremely dynamic search capabilities of LinkedIn. Determine 3-4 titles or other qualifiers and search for 2nd degree connections. Why 2nd degree? In my experience, people are more likely to accept a connection request from someone they don’t personally know if they have people in common – the more the better.
TIP – Personalize the connection request. It can be a quick message, but it is important to include one, especially when sending to someone you haven’t met. Look for something in their profile to mention such as a company where they worked, school they attended or recent post they shared. Here’s an example:
I would much rather be meeting you in person at _____ conference but I hope you will accept this introduction on LinkedIn. I was interested in the post you shared about changes to data requirements – you asked some great questions. Look forward to learning more about you.
Finally, a great way to build relationships on LinkedIn is to simply engage with other’s content. A comment goes a long way and is not only appreciated by the author but will help people see you and possibly check out your profile. Go beyond “Nice post!” and take the opportunity to show your expertise by sharing a thoughtful response, ideally one that helps build the conversation.
TIP – Bookmark 10-15 people’s LinkedIn profiles who you consider to be thought leaders in your industry. Create a folder in your browser called “LinkedIn People to Follow.” That lets you quickly click through everyone’s recent posts to see if you can add a valuable comment vs. scrolling through the newsfeed or searching for them. You can also follow hashtags specific to your industry to see content on those topics.
The good news is that developing great LinkedIn habits now will continue to serve you when we can return to the normalcy of face-to-face networking. I challenge you to give it a try and see how much opportunity LinkedIn holds.
To help you, I have a FREE, easy reference guide you can download with tips for your profile, network and on how to engage.