The value of a connected network of people you like and trust is one that is hard to measure.  We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”  Before social media and the Internet, businessmen and women had a Rolodex full of business cards for people they wanted to keep close and maintain contact with.  Fast forward to the present and LinkedIn is the new “Rolodex.”  However, the value of LinkedIn extends far beyond serving as a catalog for friends, colleagues and people with whom you’ve done business.  Those who have embraced the social engagement tool are finding creative ways to stay in contact with key people and leveraging LinkedIn as a branding tool, a communication engine for their network, and even a lead generation tool that has the potential to introduce them to referrals from their trusted network. 

Here are some simple steps to help you leverage LinkedIn and begin unlocking the potential that awaits you. 

1. Optimize your profile.

First and foremost, complete every section of your profile.  As you build out your profile, keep in mind what you are trying to accomplish.  For most, the goal is to provide an additional source of information about yourself and enable people to find and connect with you as easily as possible.  Make sure you optimize your profile using key words that describe you and your industry to maximize SEO rankings and searchability — but don’t overdo it! 

2. Begin connecting with people you like and trust.

Begin connecting with people you like and trust (i.e. friends, colleagues, and people with whom you’ve done business).  LinkedIn allows you to import your e-mail contacts and shows which of them already have a LinkedIn account. It also allows you to send invites for people to join LinkedIn.  To do this, select “Add Connections” from the Contacts dropdown menu.

3. Make it easy for people to connect with you.

Increasing your opportunities to connect can be easy.  Use the tools within LinkedIn to add a shortcut to your e-mail signature, so that every time you send someone an e-mail, it is a potential opportunity to connect (as well as to share what you have to offer.)  You can also add a shortcut link on your company website or blog bio connecting to your LinkedIn profile.  Some advisors are in the habit of collecting business cards, then searching for each contact’s profile on LinkedIn, which sets up the relationship for easier and more consistent communication going forward.  Recently, LinkedIn announced the release of the iPhone app called Card Munch, which captures the image of a business card, recognizes it, and then sends  an instant connection invitation on LinkedIn. 

4. Maintain consistent communication.

As you connect with more people on LinkedIn, it is important to continue to nurture those relationships.  Make a habit of reaching out to your connections.  Via your status feed, you can see what others are posting as status updates, changes to their profiles, comments they’ve made in groups or questions they have asked.  Find time to interact regularly and you will keep your network engaged.  Another resource that may prove to be helpful is “Job Change Notifier” which is an app that sends you an e-mail whenever one of your LinkedIn connections changes jobs.  This simple yet effective tool provides you with the opportunity to congratulate your connections and offer support. At the very least, it serves as a reminder of changes going on within your network.  For advisors working in the 401(k) market, this kind of information could provide a valuable opportunity to better serve your clients.

5. Offer support to your network.

Offering support is a great way to build relationships. If you are always pushing your services, your network will begin to tune you out.  People don’t want to be sold; they want to choose whom they do business with.  If you are continuously reaching out to help your network, they will remember you for it and you’ll find your name will come up in conversations as a potential referral.

Applying these ideas will help you build a motivated, engaged network that will bring value to you and your organization.  Your level of interaction will ultimately determine how much value you bring to your network, as well as how much you will receive from it.

I hope these ideas help in your journey to build your online reputation and network.  Connect with me on LinkedIn and let’s continue the conversation, share ideas, and build our networks together!  Please share any best practices or apps you use to enhance your LinkedIn experience in the comments section!

See also:

The (Regulatory) Rules of Social Media

How to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile

Online Lead Generation: Insurance Sales Go Cyber

5 Social Media New Year’s Resolutions