5 Step Checklist: Engage on LinkedIn

Though LinkedIn is a social digital platform, I like to suggest thinking and acting in terms of treating your conversations as if it was an IN REAL LIFE (IRL) networking experience. Power users function differently than casual users on LinkedIn. Power users on the platform realize that the opportunity on LinkedIn is simply the beginning of creating a connection and grow their influence by being generous, engaging and providing value to others. That is how power users interact on the platform. Think about how you interact during an IRL networking event, such as a chamber of commerce event or golf networking event.

Once you have that frame of mind, a lot of questions will vanish!

Think about how people like to be treated when you engage with them in everyday life, and you will create a real business that takes maximum advantage of the power platform that LinkedIn is today.

In the real world of business, when you take time to let people know that their efforts are appreciated, comment on the work of theirs that you see, and keep in touch with them, a natural reciprocity occurs. One of my favorite books that dives into this topic is “The Go Giver.” This creates strong and lasting relationships. The same thing happens on LinkedIn.

Here is a quick checklist to confirm that you are building a healthy engagement strategy with your connections on LinkedIn.

1. Conversational Tone

As the number of your LinkedIn connections grows it can become increasingly difficult to keep track of all the ongoing interactions you may be having on the platform. You may wish to integrate a specific LinkedIn CRM (customer resource management) that will sort messages in a streamlined format, or even an Excel spreadsheet. To build strong relationships that create real-life client connections or referral partnerships, it is vital to keep up with any important conversations from the site. Nothing spoils a promising professional relationship like being ignored. It’s a lot like “real life” in the sense that if you have a discussion with a connection, make sure to stay in touch periodically. If their reply lingers for longer than 48 hours, it is starting to get stale.

This doesn’t stop at just responding in good time to new comments or messages. Make sure that you engage actively with conversations instead of simply lurking. Reply to comments made by your connected colleagues with thoughtful, genuine comments of your own. This will certainly be noticed and will help to motivate them to continue their engagement with you, building up a strong professional relationship over time. As you have several conversations over time, you will also typically get more deeply acquainted (again, think of sitting at a chamber in-person networking meeting where you’ve been seated at the same table a few times) and it will expand your personal connection to those relationships and people.

2. Nurture Relationships

As I begin to connect, I often peruse that connection’s profile for two to three minutes, perhaps looking at volunteer or other interests and follow up accordingly. In doing this, you can further gain a meaningful understanding of that individual’s persona and style. If you are someone who has familiarity with Everything DiSC (TM) or other behavioral assessments, you can engage the use of a tool such as Crystal (provides personality & behavioral insights) and build the conversation in a style that fits their communication preference pattern.

Also, with an accurate understanding of your connections, you can help to keep the conversation moving forward and gain other insights into common business interests and set the stage for an offline conversation when it seems right for both, always keeping that new acquaintance feeling “safe.”

Beyond this, you should be thinking of all your conversations with your key contacts as an ongoing learning process, where you are both getting to know each other as unique business professionals. On LinkedIn, it is important to communicate in the same ways you would when developing a professional relationship in a real-life business networking scenario.

3. Be Generous

When someone has taken the time to painstakingly craft and post their own content, or especially if a colleague publishes an article, the worst possible thing for that person is to see no response or underappreciation by their wider network. When a professional colleague puts themselves into the universe in that way, that person is communicating their desire for further engagement, AND that person is creating a fantastic opportunity for you to build upon your existing relationship. It would be sad to let this beautiful opportunity slip through your hands.

Consider having a LinkedIn Schedule and devote 5 minutes a day or so, finding someone in your network to express appreciation to. At a minimum, this would mean writing at least ten words, and preferably your individual thoughts instead of using LinkedIn’s prewritten suggested comments (although this is still better than not responding at all!). Again, this doesn’t require hours of time, it simply requires short sections of scheduled intentional time and you will find a great rhythm to genuinely engage with the content a professional colleague has posted.

Do your level best to model individualized thought and attention when interacting with your key connections on LinkedIn. It is an important element of Your Personal Brand. Similar to in-person networking, it is important to simply “show up” consistently. As you build engagement, which is one of the four pillars of success on LinkedIn (according to the SSI score), you will grow more comfortable doing so, while likely experiencing positive responses. In doing so, you are on the way to creating the foundation for a fruitful professional relationship into the future.

4. Contribute Consistently

Alongside nurturing your ongoing discussions and showing your appreciation for your network’s content, you should try to contribute value to your network in your own right.

There are a variety of ways you can do this. A great way to do this is post original, thought-provoking content of your own. However, don’t put pressure on yourself to do this every day or even every week. I would suggest setting a target of once or twice per month. That is plenty and over a few short months, you will have “critical mass” with credibility for your personal brand and knowledge within your professional arena.

By sharing relevant professional content, mixed in with your unique voice, thought and perspective, and peppered with your distinct professional opinion, you are demonstrating your value as a subject-matter expert. This approach over time creates a foundation of professional expertise and trust with readers across the site. Showing up consistently in the “news feed” as a contributor with quality, meaningful content that is generous and leads to easy engagements helps solidify your personal brand as a trusted colleague.

5. Celebrate Together

On LinkedIn as in everyday life, people like to be congratulated for professional and personal milestones. If someone does not wish to have those events recognized, they can (and should) turn those notices off in their privacy settings. Because it’s built as a professional social platform, LinkedIn makes it a super-easy task, specifically for common milestones such as birthdays, new jobs and such – by creating a reminder via notifications. I generally suggest taking a few extra minutes to create your own note. This will further cement a relationship with your professional colleagues, somewhat similar to a card showing up in their mailbox. It can often distinguish your voice from others in their network who leave only the prewritten comments.

This also works the other way around as well! People will feel more connected with you if you let them in on the important developments in your professional and personal life. Make sure to let your network know of any key milestones that you think are worth sharing or commenting on. Though LinkedIn is not at all like Instagram, it has become less stuffy in the most recent year or so.

Go Do This Stuff!

These five tips can form the overall basis of building an engaged LinkedIn presence. I encourage you to go a bit further into this and tailor your interactions in an authentic manner that fits your persona. The best way to make this work is simply to imagine that you are networking IRL (In Real Life), and it will take the guesswork out of what to do, say and act. Being authentic while remaining professional and appropriate is the secret sauce for LinkedIn engagement strategy