Among the social networks, LinkedIn can be one of the most useful when it comes to cultivating critical, lucrative business opportunities, since it has a high concentration of business decision makers. The trick is going beyond connecting with cousins and college buddies to strategically building a "power network" of individuals who should be potential clients.
But building a power network on LinkedIn doesn't happen overnight. Here are seven tips for making the kinds of connections that can benefit your business the most:
1. Optimize your profile: One of the easiest ways is to update your profile picture. LinkedIn views this kind of update as "freshness" and it can help your ranking when others are searching for someone like you.
2. Tell people who you are, who you help and how you help them in your headline: A headline that communicates these points is often what grabs a person's attention when searching the site. I should be able to read your headline and know exactly what you offer and why I should get in touch with you. Be clear and compelling.
3. Fill out all current and past work experiences: You never know who's looking for you, possibly a co-worker from an old job, or maybe a classmate that's suddenly feeling nostalgic and wants to see who they can find online. By listing all of your places of employment -- including your educational institutions -- you can create a larger net for capturing searches. Plus, these connections could be second- or third-tier connections to people you've been trying to meet.
4. Join targeted groups: This can be one of the most effective ways to connect with like-minded professionals who are serious about using LinkedIn to form deeper business connections. Participating in these groups also enables you to share your knowledge and to learn from other members.
5. Create a targeted group: Not only can leading a group give you a certain level of credibility, it allows you to connect with people who are influential within your specific industry.
6. Send personal invites: These, in my opinion, always trump generic requests to connect. The invite is your first communication on LinkedIn, so make a good first impression by writing a personal request and asking how you can help the person, or whom you can introduce them to.
7. Get endorsements and recommendations: This can help enhance your profile, but there's a right way and a wrong way to do this. Don't send a mass or generic e-mail to clients or colleagues asking if they can endorse your skills or write a recommendation. First, identify people who have a great story to share about you and your skills. Contact those people directly, via phone or e-mail, and let them know you're personally reaching out to them because of (insert how you've helped them here) and would appreciate it if they'd be willing to write a quick recommendation for you, based on that story.
The same goes for endorsements, which are much easier to give since it's just a click of a button. It also helps if you mention you'll be endorsing their strongest skills as well.
In what ways do you grow your network on LinkedIn? Let us know in the comments below.