How to Build Your LinkedIn Network

John Tabita

For the past six weeks, I’ve been writing about how to land bigger clients. One essential ingredient to doing so is having a well-established professional network, then getting recognized and becoming influential within that network. While face-to-face networking is a must, don’t neglect the king of online networks, LinkedIn.

A 2012 study showed LinkedIn to be the best social network for generating B2B leads. Its visitor-to-lead conversion is four times higher than Twitter, and seven times higher than Facebook. Yet most of the advice on “How to Find Clients Using LinkedIn” goes something like this:

  1. Join LinkedIn
  2. Fill out your profile
  3. Join some groups
  4. Offer helpful advice
  5. Watch the clients roll in

Those are all fine steps to take, but it’s not a given that 1 through 4 automatically results in 5. What’s more, LinkedIn tends to be a magnet for web design and SEO types. You’ll find that offering “helpful” SEO advice on LinkedIn is the surest route to being perceived as a commodity.

So what’s a poor web guy or gal to do? Fear not. I’m going to share everything you need to take advantage of all LinkedIn has to offer, while avoiding the commoditization trap.

Get Started

If you’re not on LinkedIn (or decided to join on a whim one day, but haven’t logged in since), here are a few prerequisites. First, complete your profile. Just be sure to avoid these overused buzzwords.

Next, spend some time building your network. LinkedIn recommends you be connected with at least 50 people. Clients, colleagues, vendors, current and former co-workers are a good place to start. But don’t overlook the less obvious. I’m connected to business owners and professionals I’ve met through my son’s involvement in Boy Scouts and sports.

It’s easy to connect with people you already know. LinkedIn will search your email, Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, AOL, or Hotmail contacts. Those who aren’t on LinkedIn can be sent an invitation to join and connect with you. You’ll find yourself connected to your first 50 people before you know it.

Endorse and Recommend

Now it’s time to endorse people. Scroll down to where their skills are listed, then click on the + sign next to the skill you want to endorse. Your endorsement is now added to their profile.

It’s not necessary to have worked with a person to endorse him or her. For example, if I were connected to Danny Sullivan, I could endorse him for SEO simply because I’ve read enough of his articles to consider him an expert.

Recommendations, on the other hand, are more personal and should be reserved for those with whom you’ve worked closely. I’ve written recommendations for my former business partners and vendors who’ve gone above and beyond.

Not only are endorsements and recommendations a great way to get on someone’s radar, but you can also use them to be a super-advocate. Just be sure to do so with people you’ve actually worked with; otherwise you risk coming across as insincere.

Next week: Using your LinkedIn network to prospect for larger clients.

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