How to build relationships on LinkedIn

When it comes to getting the most out of LinkedIn, much of the conventional wisdom focuses on profile optimization. And while that’s certainly part of the equation, there’s an even better opportunity to get results: actively looking for ways to provide value to your connections.

Relationships are the lifeblood of LinkedIn — and, it’s often acknowledged, perhaps the most critical asset we have in our careers at large. The main benefit of LinkedIn is that it allows us to not only understand the makeup of our network but also how we can be a resource to others — which, of course, makes it much more likely that they’ll help us, too. Here’s how you put this into action:

  • Interact with/share others’ content. One of the best ways to help your LinkedIn connections is also one of the easiest: simply liking, commenting, or sharing their posts or articles. This shows you value what they have to say and provides a nice little positive bump to the relationship. You want to do this authentically, but there’s little downside to being generous. When you like someone’s content (or otherwise join the conversation), they’re more likely to think well of you.
  • Share good stuff. When it comes to your content, there should be one guiding principle: what can you share that will help your connections or provide value? People have enough to read today. Make sure your content is worth their time.
  • Actively look for opportunities to help. People share status updates for a number of reasons, including reaching out to their network to solve a problem. Keep this in mind as you scroll through your news feed and look for opportunities to be of service. It could be as simple as sharing a job opportunity with your connections — thereby helping an employer find talent and helping someone find a job — or answering a question. The more you position yourself as a problem solver, the more likely it is that your connections will think of you as a resource when they have a need aligned with your area of expertise.
  • Give others recommendations and endorsements. It’s important to only give them when they’re deserved, but by all means, give them. Be as willing to give endorsements and recommendations as you’re eager to get them, and you’ll help good people get recognized and tell their story (while also making it more likely they’ll return the favor).
  • Serve as an intermediary and make introductions. One of the great things about LinkedIn is that it gives us the chance to leverage the intersections in our network. Play offense with this by connecting people who may benefit from getting to know one another and inviting your connections to let you know when you can introduce them to someone you know. This is another case where you can help (at least) two connections with one action.
  • Participate in relevant groups and provide value. Overall, groups have negligible value on LinkedIn because many are dormant. When you find one that’s active, however, it can help you enhance existing relationships and even start new ones. The key is providing real value by sharing content that’s relevant and helpful to the group and interacting with content that’s valuable to you.
  • Check in with those with whom you’ve lost touch. Think of LinkedIn as a CRM — a place you can go to understand who you’re connected to and what the state of that relationship is. Like any good CRM, however, it only works if you use it not just to collect people, but to connect with them.

Take the time, then, to audit your LinkedIn connections a couple times a year and follow up with those you haven’t spoken to recently. If the relationship was relevant in the past, it’s likely it will be in the future, too.

The bottom line is this: if you log on to LinkedIn with only a self interest, you won’t get nearly as far as you will if you’re generous with your time, knowledge, and connections. Use LinkedIn to help others reach their goals, and you’ll be much more likely to reach yours.

Want to learn more about how to get the most out of LinkedIn? Join me for a comprehensive LinkedIn class at Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne on Oct. 21. Click here to learn more.

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