Do you, like so many still believe that LinkedIn is just a place to post your resume or recruit employees?
Or perhaps just to connect with old colleagues, classmates, or friends?
While you can certainly do those things on LinkedIn, what LinkedIn really is, is a place to start, build and maintain relationships.
The best way build and maintain relationships on LinkedIn is very similar to how you would do this in person. Below I will share with you my top 5 tips to help create and maintain meaningful business relationships on LinkedIn.
1. You Have To Make The Effort To Show Up
Similar to attending a networking event in real life, to start and build relationships you must actually show up and participate in places online that your potential prospects or partners are hanging out.
LinkedIn is such a place. With over 300 million global members and one third of all professionals, including the decision makers of ALL of the largest companies in the world, the chances are very good that you will find the people that you want and need to connect with here.
As well as potential prospects, LinkedIn is a great place to find those you can create partnerships or a strategic alliance with. The benefit of these partnerships are in having someone else refer their client or connection to you, which results in third-party credibility and can dramatically shorten the sales cycle with that prospective client.
2. Finding Meaningful Professional Relationships
Once you are at a networking meeting, you need to actively seek out the people you wish to build relationships with. Just showing up and eating the free food will not help you find and build relationships. While some people may come seeking you out, your best chance for success is when you are actively seeking and engaging with those around you.
It is the same on LinkedIn.
One of the best ways to find groups of people who you might wish to develop relationships with is in LinkedIn Groups. With more than 2.1 million LinkedIn Groups, the chances are good that you will find a group with prospects or partners that you want to connect with.
Groups give you the ability to engage your fellow group members in conversation as well as to connect or send free messages to them (if you do not share a group with someone OR they are not your 1st degree connection, you must use a paid InMail message to send a message to them).
In addition to using groups, you can search for potential prospects or partners to connect with using LinkedIn’s Advanced Search. It is also good to look at the connections of your current connections for anyone that may be an ideal relationship.
But before you can begin connecting with them, you need to ensure that you will give the right impression with your profile. This is no different than ensuring that you appear professional and credible when you attend a networking event. This means you need to have a great LinkedIn Profile.
3. Reach Out And Connect
When reaching out to someone on LinkedIn, always approach it like you’re meeting them in person. When sending a connection request, start by greeting them by name.
The body of the invite is crucial. Remember that you only have 300 characters to convey your message. If you know this person, remind them how. If you have connections, interests or something else in common, you will want to mention that here. Give them a reason to want to click “Accept”.
Before you send the connection request, ask yourself, if I was this person, would I connect with me based on this message?
4. Have A Conversation
Imagine the response you would get after meeting someone in person if you went right to bombarding them with your sales pitch or how they could help you. It would probably go very poorly, the same applies on LinkedIn.
After a person accepts your connection request, you must continue to build the relationship. A great way to do this is by following up with a personalized thank you message offering them something of value.
This may be a helpful article, infographic, checklist, eBook or video that would be highly relevant and educational for them.
Depending on your strategy, you might want to send one or more messages over the next several weeks. The content of these messages will greatly depend on your industry and objectives, but should NOT include anything that could be perceived as sales materials.
The messages should include something that is of clear value to your connection. This could include another free resource, a recent industry article or simply finding out a little more about them. A good rule of thumb, is if what you are not sending does not display clear value to the receiver, it is spam and shouldn’t be sent!
5. Move The Relationship Offline
No relationship should be kept solely on LinkedIn. The real magic happens when you move the relationship offline. This allows you to develop the relationship in a much more personal way.
The best time to ask to move your relationship offline is after a connection has responded to one of your messages.
If you do not hear back after this message, keep this contact in a list. You can then continue to reach out to on occasion and monitor any changes with them. You might also try connecting with them on other social media platforms such as Twitter with a thoughtful reply to one of their tweets.
Moving relationships offline won’t always be possible or even desirable in every situation. You may also want to maintain your offline relationships on LinkedIn (even after having moved it offline). In both of these cases, you should move these contacts into tagged lists on LinkedIn where you make an effort to reach out to them once every few months and include something that will be valuable to them.
You will find your best success starting, building and maintaining relationships on LinkedIn (or anywhere) when you make your primary goal to offer great value. When you do this you will find that many will be interested in learning more about you and what you have to offer.
What is your best relationship-building tip on LinkedIn? Share in the comments below.
About the Author
Melonie Dodaro is the author of the #1 international bestseller The LinkedIn Code. She is also the founder of Top Dog Social Media, an agency that helps businesses, sales teams and professionals use LinkedIn and social selling to boost their visibility, attract new customers and increase their revenue. Dubbed by the media as Canada’s #1 LinkedIn expert she is highly sought after internationally as a LinkedIn and social selling speaker and trainer. To learn more about Melonie visit TopDogSocialMedia.com