Yes, You Should Use LinkedIn: 4 Ways to Engage Better
Published 2 May, 2019
The foundation of my work at GXG has been how we find business people with relevant experience to have productive conversations with our clients. Whenever asked about our primary source for people, questioners are always surprised when I say “LinkedIn”. I think there are a couple of reasons for this:
- There are many other, more familiar businesses based on large, self-selected databases of experts which compete based on scale, industry, or specialty
- LinkedIn makes people feel icky
I know there are a number of good reasons people have a bad feeling about LinkedIn. Most LinkedIn messages are spam, scams, or poorly targeted sales notes. Many connection requests are unsolicited, from random people with no context on what they hope to get out of connecting with you. And the newsfeed is about 50% ads masquerading as content.
I still think you should be using it.
Hear me out. I think LinkedIn is broken to the extent that networking as a concept is broken. It supports a lot of activity from people looking to get value from others while offering little more than their educational and business credentials. However, it is still the most broadly accessible place for people to showcase their professional persona.
Specialized professions like the law, medicine, scientific research, the arts, music offer well defined and accepted categories which allow lawyers, doctors, PhDs, and artists to associate with each other, solicit business, and demonstrate achievements. They found ways to present this on the web before LinkedIn. For the wider world of business people, it’s harder to get representation of our 9 to 5 pursuits online, especially at earlier stages in our careers. I think it is here that better usage of LinkedIn offers the opportunity to create richer business communities. Below are my 4 recommendations on how to use LinkedIn to create an opening for more meaningful connections, like the ones we try to build at GXG!
- Tell a story in your summary. If you’re not likely to have professional bio anywhere else on the web, this is a great opportunity. Or maybe the bio on your company’s site was really restricted; here you can expand. The summary is a great place (in short or long form) to tell people what a resume would not and offer a sense of your personality.
- Describe your experience. Job titles just aren’t very informative, and neither are bulleted lists of duties. Qualify the length of time you spent in a particular position by describing your goals, successes, and key learnings. At GXG we jump for joy if a potential connection describes projects they’ve led – this is the level people want to connect on but only the senior-most people are ever mentioned in articles or press releases about corporate initiatives. Take ownership!
- Share something. Not everyone can or wants to be a content generator, and that’s fine. But if you attend an event or lead a meeting or read an article share the link, a photo, or a thought. If you’re already an active social media user in your personal life, I encourage you to aim for a similar level of curation of your professional image and interests. I’ve been frequently surprised by the business-related connections I’ve been able to make with people I only know in a personal context thanks to what they share on LinkedIn. It can be hard to boil down your professional life to answer “What do you do?”. On LinkedIn, you can show people.
- Engage. The most useful change I have made on LinkedIn in the last month is beginning to follow people in an industry I want to read more about. My newsfeed is transformed! By following a few authors of articles I liked and a few other people they in turn recommended (by liking or commenting), I’m now getting a peek at high level conversations on hot topics. My vocabulary about my own work and how it fits in has expanded and I feel better prepared to start making connections with others in the space if I need to. You can also follow topical hashtags and, of course, strengthen the connections you already have by engaging with what they share.
None of these activities are about connecting more. I think everyone has a personal threshold for who and how many they are willing to connect with, and that’s fine. But I have also learned that we underestimate the power of our professional networks because we really don’t know that much about them. Once you have crafted your professional profile, wouldn’t you be more open to a connection from a stranger who referenced a similar challenge or shared current project? It would certainly be easier to filter interesting proposals from spam, potential partnerships from sales tactics.
Selfishly, I hope I’ve convinced you to use LinkedIn a little differently so I can continue to find interesting, excellent people to introduce to clients (I know you’re out there!) But the intangible result of doing business the way we do is to create a richer exchange of ideas outside of traditional silos and hierarchies. We want to broaden the access to help when people get stuck, and that starts with getting to know you better on LinkedIn.
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