How to master the social network for your professional life
A couple weeks ago, I asked my 2,500-plus LinkedIn connections for do’s, don’ts and other tips about successfully using that social networking platform, which has achieved an impressive return to prominence in recent months. Dozens of suggestions flew in as comments on my call-for-submissions posts, via direct messages on the site or into my Adweek inbox.
From that flurry of ideas, here are 20 pieces of advice from 20 LinkedIn marketing pros.
1. Don’t be a stalker
Get the hint and move on, said Rick Smith, chief financial officer at Exos. “Don’t try to link with me more than once,” he said. “If I didn’t accept your invite the first time, I’m not going to accept it the second time. Plus … it’s kinda creepy.”
2. Do state your intentions
“It surprises me that people still send out blind invite requests,” said Raoul Didisheim, principal consultant at Marianna Media.
3. And validate your ‘asks’
When asking to connect with an individual via another person, investigate a little bit to see if there’s a real relationship going on. “Make sure they actually know the person and then validate your ask with the introducer to make sure it’s relevant,” said Ryan Valley, director at Smith Labs. “LinkedIn can be like a personal Yelp.”
4. Cool your jets if you do connect with ’em
Nick Malaperiman, head of marketing and mobile business at Capcom, recommended showing a healthy sense of patience after connecting with someone. “Don’t bug your new contacts within 10 minutes of linking with them with a tedious sales pitch,” he explained.
5. But ghosting invitation replies is lame
“Don’t reach out to connect and then ignore the acceptor’s request to chat or connect further,” remarked Tom Morrissy, president and founder of Morrissy and Vine Advisory. “[That’s] a real douchebag move, which is why I don’t accept blind invitations anymore unless there is a specific business purpose.”
6. Think one-to-one
“Utilize personalized, authentic messaging,” advised Brittany Simpson, digital marketing strategist at Site Strategics. “Don’t immediately approach with an ‘ask,’ but approach with a ‘give’ of some sort. Avoid preaching and aim to offer unique perspective on universal topics or issues.”
7. Pros don’t play out of context
Abstain from including “a selfie in a post where it is no way relevant to the post in question,” said William McCormick, PR and marketing manager at uSens. “This is a professional network and not a dating site or Instagram. It looks cheap.”
8. Hey B-to-B brands, do mix paid with organic
You should “test, rinse and repeat LinkedIn ads if you’re hoping to making money or generate customers off LinkedIn,” said Rich Young, director of marketing at Student Transportation. “Campaigning works, done right.”
9. Get granular with your settings
“I recommend taking the time to fully understand LinkedIn’s features, especially those related to privacy,” said Anna Julow Roolf, director of strategic initiatives at Blastmedia.
Roolf continued with this helpful detail: “LinkedIn has a lot of great features that can put you on the radar of the right people. However, some features that automatically opt you in—like LinkedIn’s ‘Mentioned in the News,’ which notifies people in your network when you’ve been mentioned in an article or blog post—don’t allow for customization. In fact, I’ve heard this specific feature referred to as ‘privacy nuking’ because it may broadcast information you don’t necessarily want to be spread or associated with your account, like a negative article mentioning your company or an article about someone else with your same name.”
10. Don’t be a lurker
“Engage with your connections—read, like, comment and share their posts,” said Christina Milanowski, social media director at Maccabee Public Relations. “Also, don’t blindly accept LinkedIn invites. It puts your professional reputation on the line. My rule of thumb is that I’ve met them in person and will remember them.”
11. Press the flesh
“Work to meet in person with LinkedIn connections you’ve never met—coffee, lunch, trade show meet-ups, whatever,” wrote Glenn Hansen, chief storyteller at HansenHouse Communication. “Put some actual ‘social’ into this professional social media.”
12. Do check your police badge at the door
“You know who they are,” said Maree Jones, communications specialist at Luckie & Company. “Those people who have taken it upon themselves to determine whether or not your post belongs on this platform. The idea that you have to be a different person on this channel is a bit old-fashioned. It’s 2017, and the lines are so blurred between who we are and what we do for a living. The ironic thing is (and one of the reasons I love LinkedIn) that by commenting that a post isn’t appropriate, it actually extends the reach of said post. LOL. Classic.”
13. Don’t view it as just another Monster.com
“I’m more active on it now than ever and not because I’m job-seeking,” commented Carly Walsh, senior manager, communications and PR at Vox Media. “I find it useful for inspiration, connecting with fascinating people and staying current on industry trends. … Finally it’s content worth liking/sharing and not because it’s a puppy or baby post.”
14. Audience analysis can drive your sophisticated strategies
“From that research, take it a step further and develop personas so you can customize your content to that target audience,” advised Kirsten Chiala, digital content lead/social media communications at Cisco. “Even though we sit in corporate communications, we have found it’s also best to have a diverse mix of stories on LinkedIn that includes thought leadership along with content that drills deeper into our solutions, products and services. Our team has also benefited from … content calendars with vertical and regional teams.”
15. And power marketing for the small fry
“Use the free analytics to see who your audience is hitting so you can make more appropriate content,” recommended Maja Stevanovich, group evp of Mungo Creative Group.
16. Consider lighter stuff for personal engagement
“My LinkedIn success story is related to the [New York] Yankees,” said Bill McCue, vp at Indicate Media Digital Public Relations. “I’ve been posting links to my company’s blog, and the traffic it’s generated has been OK. But when I posted a note about the Yankees wearing non-traditional uniforms last weekend, my feed blew up—nearly 2,000 views. So I guess the lesson learned here is mix up the ‘self promotional’ posts with things that are of general interest to your connections and their connections. Most of those views came from my secondary connections—not my immediate network.”
17. But remember who’s the boss
“It’s important to consider that once you’ve identified yourself as an employee of a company, you become a brand ambassador,” said Robyn Hannah, senior director, global communication at Dynamic Signal. “To your network, you are the brand, personified. As such, you want to add as much value to your network as your brand does to your customers or clients.”
18. Get the whole office involved
“The company page on LinkedIn should serve as a hub for content for the sales and recruiting teams,” said Elliot Schimel, CEO at Mission Control Marketing. “You only win if employees at your company leverage it to their network.”
19. Don’t compare it to Facebook
Marc Goldberg, CEO at Trust Metrics, said that while the Facebook news feed can become annoying when you accept too many “friends” on the platform, LinkedIn becomes an increasingly beneficial network as your audience grows. “Junior people eventually become senior people,” he explained.
20. Especially when it comes to ads
“Don’t use in-message-stream ads to [bolster] content-driven account-based marketing,” said David Dague, evp, marketing at Infutor Data Solutions. “Unlike Facebook where readers are more in leisure mode and likely to linger on content based ads and download content, LinkedIn readers are much more ‘quick scan and out.’”