The global coronavirus pandemic is transforming business and how it’s done. Your response to these changes is a critical factor in how you and your business will be impacted.
With the disruption of in-person activities, many foundational business practices have had to adapt. Our places of work are now home offices. Our meetings are convened via video conferencing, as are our conferences, networking meetings, and happy hours. Virtually all of our professional relationships are now conducted, well, virtually.
And this is a challenge because, despite the fact that we’re not travelling or commuting to work, there are a lot of people to talk to and coordinate with just to get our work done on any given day. Having one-on-one video conferences with key contacts makes sense. But how do we stay in touch with the hundreds of clients, customers, prospects, influencers, industry colleagues and all those people with whom we have loose or weak connections that we’d like to strengthen or may need to call on one day?
That’s where social networks come in. If used properly, social networks are powerful tools for connecting with and activating your business network efficiently.
With skillful and strategic use of a social network platform, like LinkedIn, you can nurture and grow your network and build the social capital that drives business success.
The following diagram illustrates the central role social capital plays in your business. Financial capital drives every business, as do the human skills, knowledge, and underlying culture that represents the human capital of the business. Equally, no business can thrive without social capital – in other words, the long-term relationships, goodwill, and reciprocity that you have built up over the years between your business and the marketplace. No matter how you measure success in business, social capital contributes to maximizing your return on investment.
The rest of this article will outline a methodology and the actions you need to take to grow your social capital and nurture a vital online business network that will serve you well in this moment and long after this pandemic is rendered harmless.
For more insights see: 13 tips for Mastering the LinkedIn Algorithm
Methodology: Planning for online engagement
There are three things that are not negotiable if you want to build your online network and generate real, positive results:
- You need to put your best foot forward with your online presence;
- You need to be strategic and focus on high-value individuals; and
- You need to consistently make social networking a priority.
Let’s break each of these down.
1. Optimize your LinkedIn profile
I print my business cards on 32pt extra thick card stock because I like them to have a substantial feel. And whenever I hand a card to someone, I also explain that when folded in half, the thick card works really well for balancing that slightly shorter leg on the wobbly table at the restaurant.
It’s time to throw your business cards in the trash. (Better yet, recycle them.)
Your LinkedIn profile is your new business card and it’s way more powerful than a small piece of card stock (except when it comes to balancing tables).
If it’s not already in top shape, let’s start by tuning up your LinkedIn profile. Here’s a simple checklist to follow:
- Good headshot: Pick a tight, close-up shot – and make sure you’re smiling. People want to do business with people they know, like and trust.
- Professional headline: Describe your value proposition succinctly (up to 120 characters), not merely your title or role. Your headline accompanies your name all over LinkedIn and should tell people in a few words what you can do for them.
- About page: Expand on your value proposition, describing yourself, your interests and skills. Be specific about your skills if you want to optimize your appearance in LinkedIn search results.
- Featured content: Include articles or reports you’ve written, and videos or podcasts you’ve recorded. If you don’t have anything, then start writing and publish some digital content!
- Contact information: Make sure you give people a variety of ways to reach you. Include relevant social media profiles, like Twitter – but make sure it’s not dormant because that just looks bad. And don’t exclude your email address. (If you’re trying to hide from people, then maybe you’re reading the wrong article.)
None of this is rocket science, yet it’s remarkable how many profiles don’t do it. If you’re going to succeed in attracting attention on LinkedIn, you must put your best foot forward.
2. Make a list of priority contacts
Next, make a list of people who are important to you and whose attention you want. Some people are more relevant to you than others and you probably know who they are.
Here are the kinds of people whose attention you probably want:
- Fellow professionals, colleagues, and team members
- Industry commentators, influencers, and journalists
- Clients, prospects, and partners of your business
Many on your priority contacts list will consist of people you already know well. Others may know of you, but not well. And a few will be people you want to get to know, but they don’t know of you at all.
You probably want to put these names in the first column of a spreadsheet. In the next column, paste the URL to their LinkedIn profile (eg., https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaypalter/) so you have quick, one-click access in the future. In the next column, you might want to paste the link to that person’s LinkedIn shares (eg., https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaypalter/detail/recent-activity/shares/) so that with a single click you can see what they’ve shared recently. If you want to use this priority contacts sheet to keep track of when you reached out, you can. But that’s up to you.
3. Make time in your day
To state the obvious, building and maintaining relationships is not effortless and it takes time. So don’t think you’re going to do this for a week and be done. If you have any aptitude and/or experience in building relationships and business networks in traditional in-person ways, you know the basic rule…
…you get value from relationships in proportion to what you invest in them.
Let’s start with time. You have to invest time to get to know people and give them value, whether you’re offline or online. So, make the time. Schedule the time. Consider social networking time to be part of your core activities – not something that’s nice to do if you happen to have time and energy at the end of the day. I can promise you – you won’t have either.
Schedule a block of time each day or several times per week (and don’t forget the weekends, when many people get caught up on social networking). Use that scheduled time as efficiently and effectively as possible to engage the priority people in your network. This is the best practice of business leaders in the digital age.
How to best invest 30 minutes each day into social networking
Now that your profile is mission-ready, your priority high-value contacts are identified and your social networking time is blocked, here’s what I recommend you do with your scheduled time.
- Scan your feed quickly – Scroll through your feed (https://www.linkedin.com/feed/) and quickly review what people are sharing. Click LIKE on as many posts as you feel are relevant or interesting to you and your audience, keeping in mind your priority contacts. (Jay’s Rule: You have to pay attention to earn attention.)
- Add meaningful comments – While scrolling through your feed, click on selected posts that capture your attention and scan/read them. Add a quick comment to a few stories. Add a more substantive comment to a story that you think is really insightful. (Jay’s Rule: Give engagement to get engagement.)
- Pay attention to priority contacts – Review your priority contacts sheet and specifically look at the content shared by some of them. Repeat steps 1 and 2 above to the posts of your priority contacts. (Jay’s Rule: If you want specific people to notice you, then share their content and give them engagement.)
- Compose a post – Share some insight, perhaps from a great article you’ve read. Follow these tips: Draft a compelling share text; add the link to the article in the first comment, not in the body of the share; tag people for whom the share is relevant; employ up to three hashtags. Do this at least once a week, but no more than 20 times per month. See this article for more tips and tricks. (Jay’s Rule: Thought leadership can be conveyed in what you curate and how you share it.)
- Write an article of your own – This may be something for which you need to block additional time. Or perhaps you can repurpose something you’ve already written. Either way, LinkedIn article publishing offers some basic layout tools that can be used to optimize your article. Go find some compelling free images at unsplash.com or pexels.com and use them to enhance the layout. (Jay’s Rule: Establishing thought leadership requires that you periodically take time to articulate your insight and vision.)
That’s it. Quite simple, really. And very effective if you stick with it.
The trick is to give all the things you want: give attention, promote others, offer engagement, share insights and add value. And you will get other people’s attention, they will promote you, share your content and engage online which will attract a greater audience.
And here’s the big secret: if you give a lot, you’ll get more back than you give.
That’s because you’ll make new connections, learn things you didn’t know, and discover new opportunities – all things that will benefit your business and your career.
So, get out there and give it!
For more LinkedIn insights, check out these articles:
- 13 tips for Mastering the LinkedIn Algorithm
- Add Punch to Your LinkedIn Profile Using These Examples as Inspiration, by Kylee Lessard
- LinkedIn New Features & Changes 2019, by Andy Foote
- What’s in your LinkedIn feed: People You Know, Talking About Things You Care About by Pete Davies
- Why LinkedIn Thinks Your Posts are “Low Quality”, by Adrian Dayton
- How to Optimize your LinkedIn Profile for Sales, by Jon James
- Planning an in Person Professional Gathering Just Got Easier With LinkedIn Events, by Ajay Datta
- 58 Eye-Opening LinkedIn Statistics For 2020, by Josh Gallant
- Strong Suggestion with Regard to LinkedIn and Facebook Tagging, by Ted Rubin