LinkedIn is a professional networking platform. Like most social media websites, LinkedIn gives users the ability to create a profile and connect with other users. If you haven’t set up a profile of your own yet, you should do so immediately. In order to use LinkedIn efficiently and successfully, you need to expand your circle of influence and create connections. This is how to get started.
First, make sure that your profile is 100% complete. This will help people who know you to recognize you, and people who don’t know you well will find out more about you. You can use our Ultimate Guide to the Perfect LinkedIn Profile to get you started.
Next, you’ll want to let LinkedIn look through your current email contacts for people that you know who are already on LinkedIn. Go to Contacts and choose Add Connections. LinkedIn can scan a variety of email accounts including Yahoo, GMail, AOL, MSN and Hotmail. Simply enter your email address and click Continue. A pop up window will connect with your account and ask for verification that you wish to authorize access. LinkedIn will display any contacts that have LinkedIn accounts already and allow you to pick and choose which ones you would like to invite to connect (they will have to approve the connection). Then, LinkedIn will also display all the remaining email addresses in your address book that are not yet registered with LinkedIn and prompt you to invite some or all to create LinkedIn accounts and get connected. I generally skip this step since many contacts may already be on LinkedIn using a different email address, but feel free to issue invitations anyways if you wish.
You can repeat this process for other email accounts. You can also manually enter email accounts for individuals that you want to invite and connect to.
While on the Add Connections page, you will note additional tabs above the import fields for Colleagues, Classmates and People You May Know. Clicking on these tabs will give you lists of current LinkedIn members that LinkedIn thinks you may know based on a shared employer, school, or other shared connections. If you find someone that you worked with or went to school together, you can send them an invitation.
When using the People You May Know utility, LinkedIn will display many possible connections. However, unlike Facebook, you can’t simply start to issue connection invitations. LinkedIn wants you to know these individuals before you connect, and will ask for some verification. You may be asked to choose a business where you worked together, or a school you attended. If neither of those are applicable, you will be asked to enter their email address. If you attempt to connect to too many people who don’t know you or recognize you, LinkedIn may temporarily suspend your connection ability.
TIP: If you download the free LinkedIn app for the iPhone and connect your account, you will be able to use the People You May Know feature within the app without having to verify how you know someone or enter their email address. This is extremely useful for individuals active on sites like Empire Avenue where you are constantly making new connections, but may not yet have any real working experience.
When connecting with people, consider drafting a custom note reminding them how they know you. The longer it’s been since you talked to someone, the more necessary this step becomes! If someone doesn’t recognize you, they can indicate to LinkedIn that they don’t know you. The more often that happens to you, the more likely LinkedIn will be to suspend your ability to connect.
Improving your LinkedIn connections is something that every business owner should work at on a regular basis. When you connect with someone on LinkedIn, you effectively remind them of who you are and what you do. You never know when they may need to hire someone like you or your business in the future. You can also take advantage of LinkedIn’s other features, like Groups, to further expand your influence and social marketing capability.
And don’t forget to maintain a constant level of activity on the network. Routinely sharing your articles and related content from your industry to LinkedIn will prove helpful to your followers, while at the same time, remind your contacts who you are. Tools like AgoraPulse can help you schedule and space out that activity.