Imagine having a conversation with a group at a networking event and someone comes in, stays for a few minutes, hands everyone a business card, and then leaves. Would you want to build a business relationship with that person? Probably not. And rightfully so. Even if the person seems interesting based on what you gathered, clearly you weren’t left with a warm and fuzzy feeling because something was missing: a genuine connection. Now maybe this is an exaggerated example of what not to do in a networking situation. But here’s the point: Some professionals are inadvertently leaving their LinkedIn network out in the cold due to a lack of presence.
With over 200 million users in their network, as LinkedIn reported last year, this is without a doubt a key platform for building your personal brand. But you can’t just create an account and leave it hanging around to hopefully be found. You have to get out there—join the conversation— and put in the work to see the benefits. Now of course this isn’t a mind-blowing thought, especially if you’re already doing it, but even the best of us are guilty of not always connecting with others on LinkedIn as we should. Use these three R’s for building your personal brand on LinkedIn as a reminder to nurture your relationships.
Respond: If you’re on LinkedIn, but are guilty of having an unmentionable number of unopened emails and invitations, this one is especially for you. I get it, we’re all busy and the last thing you may want is yet another email to open. But to build your personal brand, you have to be responsive to the people who reach out to you. It doesn’t mean that you have to spend hours at a time on LinkedIn every day, but don’t neglect your inbox. It’s not spam. In fact, recruiters rely on LinkedIn to find top talent and often reach out via email. If you’re looking for a job, the right opportunity could be in unopened email number fifteen. Set aside time, daily or weekly, to respond to LinkedIn invitation requests and emails from other networkers waiting for your attention.
Relate: These two actions will help build your personal brand on LinkedIn: share and participate. If you do both these things weekly, you will establish a presence within your network. Let’s say you read an interesting article, share it and add an introductory comment asking a question or offering your opinion. If someone in your network responds, your post will show up in the newsfeeds of connections outside your network, which will expand your reach.
Also, actively participate in group discussions. It’s a great way to build your brand by showing your expertise and also exchanging ideas with others in your field. (Hint for Jobseekers: joining professional groups will also expand your brand to recruiters who join to scope out potential job candidates.)
Reciprocate: It’s not enough to just connect with past or current colleagues on LinkedIn and consider it “networking.” We all know there’s more to it than that. You don’t ever want to be “that person” who only reaches out when you want a recommendation or introduction to another connection. And if you do ask to be recommended, be sure to offer to do the same if you can vouch for the person’s character. True networking is about nurturing relationships. Be sure to make an effort to keep in contact with key connections on a regular basis, even if it’s in small ways like commenting on an article or dropping a quick email to say hello.
LinkedIn Updates on your homepage, and email, make it easier to know what’s going on with your connections like work anniversaries, birthdays, and promotions (if their profile is set to broadcast these kinds of activities.) Use these opportunities to congratulate colleagues or establish a rapport with a new connection. Like any other relationship, time will build a lasting connection if you’re genuine. These connections will help you build your personal brand and a positive lasting impression with those who know your name.