By Bruce K. Segall
Most people know by now that LinkedIn has changed its User Interface. But how does this new UI impact LinkedIn’s effectiveness for networking? People’s reactions undoubtedly vary: Some are actively disenchanted and thus doing less of their networking on LinkedIn. Others don’t particularly care because they never really engaged in LinkedIn as a networking tool in the first place. Still others actually find the new UI easier to use. Now that the UI has been in place for some time, all of us should take stock and see how LinkedIn fits into your networking plan for the remainder of 2017.
Moving on from Old Expectations
Many of us have had networking success on LinkedIn. A few years ago, new referral partners and valued networking contacts came easily to active LinkedIn users. But LinkedIn is more crowded now. Plus, LinkedIn has taken away some tools – zip code search and searching within a connection’s connections, to name just two.
I advise LinkedIn networkers to stop complaining (if you are) and leverage the features that remain. Change is the only constant in today’s social media. We need to adapt and move on.
Back to Basics Principles
Networkers at all levels of LinkedIn expertise should (re)dedicate themselves to some basic principles of LinkedIn networking:
- Personalize wherever possible. Under the new UI, LinkedIn has actually made it easier and more effective to personalize your invitations to Connect. Besides this simple but important gesture, you have many other chances to personalize. From messages to shares, put your own distinctive voice on your LinkedIn communications. I don’t recommend hiring someone to do LinkedIn posting for you.
- Start relationships on LinkedIn that can ultimately continue offline. Relationships on LinkedIn can begin through a Group Discussion or commenting on someone’s article. Creating meaningful real world relationships is a multi-step process. One tip is to focus on people in your geographic area so that you can ultimately meet in person.
- Focus on relationship depth. Use the wealth of information from your contact’s Profile, including recent activity and Shared Connections, to make your face-to-face meetings more effective. If you first meet someone through a personal connection, look up the Profile to find professional commonalities.
Putting the Principles into Action
Here are five ways to implement these principles:
- Learn the new Search Filters. While the “Advanced Search” button has disappeared, many previously available search features remain. Type any search term on your LinkedIn Home Page and – voila! - a screen with search filters appears. Using these filters properly makes you a more effective networker. You can start by locating a Profile for someone with a common name, then move on to research contacts at a company and to identify first and second Connections in a specialty area like biofeedback.
- Reconnect. LinkedIn is still a great way to identify people with whom you should reconnect based on a strong prior relationship. The “Old” LinkedIn had a great feature called Find Alumni. Under the new UI, the equivalent feature is there, just hidden a bit. I used it the other day to locate a classmate. Finding people who were satisfied clients of yours can be a “gold mine” for your business and is still easy to do.
- Use the Messaging feature. Most people underutilize LinkedIn Messaging. Use Messaging, for example, to spread the word to 100 people about an upcoming speaking engagement. Messaging is more personal than a “blast,” but quicker than 100 email messages. You can craft a standard message, tweak it for each contact, and send 50-100 messages in under an hour. Many people are more responsive to LinkedIn messages than standard email.
- Get visual. Most people are overwhelmed with the amount of reading to do. Increasingly, visual content is doing better online than text. So have a colleague snap a picture at your next speaking engagement and then post it. You don’t need a professional photographer each time to get noticed.
- Suggest some phone or face time with your LinkedIn contacts. If you’ve nurtured a new or existing contact through LinkedIn, suggest that you have a phone call to get to know each other. Better yet, meet for coffee if you live in the same city. Believe it or not, you can create a meaningful relationship by suggesting a phone call to someone who sends you an unsolicited LinkedIn invitation.
If you follow these steps, I believe that you will find some rewards. Just in the last couple of months, I have successfully engaged a new virtual assistant and spoke to my very first boss from 35 years ago, both through LinkedIn networking activity. But, as I tell my clients, the LinkedIn world is crowded these days, so don’t forget to be patient.
Bruce K. Segall founded Marketing Sense for Business, LLC in 2010. Bruce works with small to mid-size firms and companies to build visibility and deepen relationships. He has written LinkedIn Profiles and provided training for a wide range of attorneys, other professionals and firms.