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One of the best ways to grow your professional network (especially while in-person socializing is still off the table for so many of us) is by building out your LinkedIn presence. But it can be intimidating: Who do you connect with, what do you share, and how often should you post?
People tend to go astray when they focus on the technology. Remember there’s a reason for including the word “social” in social media. LinkedIn especially is a platform that’s all about helping you connect with other people.
Here are three simple ways to be social (without being sleazy) on LinkedIn.
1. Build (authentic) connections
Don’t be shy about connecting with people, as long as you have some sort of actual connection.
For example, if you’ve met someone at a conference or event (even a virtual one), you work at the same company (or have in the past), or you’ve collaborated on a project via email, these are all perfectly valid reasons to send an invitation to connect. Many presenters on webinars and online workshops will explicitly invite attendees to connect with them on LinkedIn. And nowadays it’s pretty common for people to include a link to their LinkedIn profile right in their email signature. Just be sure you always add a personalized note to refresh their memory and provide a little context.
If you’ve never interacted with a person at all but you want to connect with them, this can still work — with one big caveat. You have to explain who you are and why you want to connect. Sending a standard LinkedIn request with no personalization to a stranger is an invitation to be ignored. Be sure to spend some time crafting your introductory message. Think about it from the other person’s point of view — why should they accept this connection from you? Instead of focusing on how it will help you, try to phrase it in terms of how it will benefit them. Just remember to keep it concise: You only get 300 characters.
Related: The 7 Deadly LinkedIn Sins
2. Remember that communication is a two-way street
Here’s a classic rookie mistake on LinkedIn (and pretty much any social media platform, for that matter): Using it solely as a way to blast out your content. Take a quick peek at your recent activity. Is it a long list of your posts and not much more?
One easy change is to mix up the type of post you do. There’s nothing wrong with sharing your latest project or insight, but try to share interesting content from other sources, too. If you come across a piece of news or thought leadership that’s relevant to your role or industry, share it! Articles about general business topics like focus or productivity hacks can also be great for generating discussions.
To kick it up a notch, there are several ways to engage with others on LinkedIn. If you enjoy scrolling through your feed, take a few extra seconds to react to and comment on others’ posts. You can also share others’ posts with your network — this is especially helpful when people are hiring, looking for work, or trying to connect with others outside their immediate network.
The power of weak ties really comes into play here. Case in point: We ended up hiring an intern at one of my previous companies because I shared the job post with my network, my friend shared it with her network, and her brother-in-law ended up seeing the post and applying. Chances are he never would have seen the post if my friend hadn’t shared it.
You can also help the people in your network by endorsing their skills or writing a recommendation for them. This is particularly beneficial for those who are actively looking for work.
Like any community, it’s not just about taking — it’s about giving and taking. Try to adopt the mindset of how you can be helpful and promote conversations rather than simply broadcasting your own agenda.
3. Commit to a regular cadence of activity
If you only ever go on LinkedIn when you’re looking for a job, you won’t get the full benefit of the platform. When you think of it more like a water cooler where you can have brief, professional interactions on a frequent basis, you’ll get more out of it.
This small behavior change can quickly increase your visibility and influence. A very small percentage of people on LinkedIn — only about one percent of LinkedIn’s 260 million users — share content on a weekly basis.
It can be helpful to make LinkedIn part of your regular work routine. You might spend 10 minutes each day scrolling through your platform and liking and commenting on others’ posts. Or perhaps you spend 30 minutes every Thursday looking for ways to help people in your network by sharing their job openings or other requests.
To boost the chances of your posts being seen, you might want to try to fit your activity into the times when people in your network are most likely to also be active on LinkedIn. HubSpot’s research suggests that the best times to post on LinkedIn are between 8am–2pm on Tuesday to Thursday.
There’s no single “right” way to go about this, though. It’s about finding a cadence that works for you and doesn’t feel overwhelming. Try out a few different approaches until you find one that feels comfortable and manageable.
If you ever get stuck, remember to go back to the idea of being social. Think of LinkedIn like a low-key professional party (but not the year-end bash where people tend to overdo it). Look for ways to build connections. Engage in conversations. Help others whenever you can. If you keep these concepts in mind, you’ll be making great strides toward making the most of LinkedIn.