5 steps to jump start LinkedIn

Sure it is easy to gets lots of connections on LinkeIn, but are you getting any value? Here's a 5-step guide to making the most of you LinkedIn network.

The cover story in the current Fortune magazine (July 1, 2013, issue) by Jessi Hempel is “Everything you need to know about LinkedIn”. The article points out the growing need for all businesses to participate on LinkedIn. The six-page commentary brings up a number of great points and some excellent background, but six pages is not going to cover “everything you need to know.”

It is what Hempel wraps up with that is most telling. She refers to the “confusion” about how to leverage the network more fully, which has spawned an industry of those who teach others how to use LinkedIn, myself included.

While many feel that once they reach that magic 500+ connections, they have reached a major milestone, it simply is not so. It is actually pretty easy to reach 500+, but this has no value unless you have a strategy.

So here is your jumpstart program for LinkedIn, whether you are a novice or have some experience on LinkedIn.

Step One: Develop a strategy, as an individual and as an employee. If your company has a rules of engagement policy, make certain you know what it is and operate accordingly.

But your strategy is how you plan on leveraging this tool. To start developing your strategy, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are there companies or agencies you need to develop deeper relationships with?
  • Are there key influencers in your niche you should connect to?
  • Do I have a set of skills I need to display to various communities on LinkedIn?
  • Do I want to be recognized as a subject matter expert, sales guru, BD professional?
  • Fill in your burning question here.

Decide what you want to do first, then build your profile accordingly and determine what actions you need to take. Write your strategy down so you have no doubts about it.

Step Two: Your profile. Regardless of how many connections you have, a profile without details might as well be a tombstone: you have a start date and a finish date. A LinkedIn profile is not the same as a presence on LinkedIn.

Your profile should define and communicate your market position, the role you play in the government contracting community. There are many elements to a successful profile but it centers on accurate details. Write your profile to be read, make it interesting and keep it real.

Step Three: Find the right communities. As of 1:28 PM (EDT), June 30, there are 1,738,348 groups on LinkedIn. By the time this is published on July 1 there will be at least 1,000 more.

There are groups for every imaginable business function and niche, so there will be many that should be a very good fit for whatever you do. Think of groups as communities of people with a shared interest. This interest can be a technology, a market niche, a job-level group (CXO groups are popular), groups focused on a skill, groups focused on a type of contract (like GSA Schedules),  groups with a geographic focus, association groups, alumni groups and much more.

My favorite way of finding good groups is looking at the groups of various thought leaders, but there are other methods. The goal is to find the right groups for your strategy.

Step Four: Engage. Engagement of LinkedIn takes many forms, and if you wish to stand out, you must engage frequently and in multiple ways. Engagement can occur by:

  • Posting discussions and comments in groups
  • Posting links to articles, blog posts, videos and more in groups
  • Writing recommendations for people
  • Giving endorsements to people (preferably those you know and who deserve the endorsement
  • Passing along requests to be connected, again, preferably when you know someone well enough to feel comfortable
  • Using the “update” section on your profile to let people know what you are doing or reading.
  • And there are more.

Step Five: Review and adjust. Your strategy will evolve, which will led to changes in your profiles, groups and activities. Review your strategy at least 3 times each year, or when circumstances dictate (job change, etc).

LinkedIn is a great marketing and positioning tool, if you know how to use it.

This article is adapted from Amtower’s soon to be released ebook on LinkedIn. Look for Amtower and info on the book on LinkedIn.