Becoming a LinkedIn Black Belt – Part 3 (Engaging With Your Network)

Now that you’ve got a full LinkedIn presence – which not only means that you have a basic profile, but also that you’re employing advanced strategies to make it easy for others to find you by growing your network and enhancing your profile content – you’re in a great position to engage with others and take full advantage of the platform.

We’ll conclude this blog series with tips on using LinkedIn to actively engage with your network.

Embrace the Spirit of Giving

Of course you can always broadcast what’s happening with you. You can point your network to the article you authored that was just published or the one in which you were quoted, or initial work announcements like a website launch or first issue of a newsletter or blog.

You can also broadcast other content (blogs or news items) that you like, but, unless you’ve amassed a serious following (or your network consists of just your immediate family!), it’s probably best to use this method sparingly. You don’t want to alienate or annoy your contacts by spamming them. Keep in mind that LinkedIn isn’t quite the same as Facebook.

Instead, as is the case with “real world” networking, generosity goes a long way in building good will and fostering real relationships – which is ultimately what you’re trying to do.

Share Opportunities

Generally, most people appreciate hearing about job openings, speaking opportunities, programs that give continuing education credits, board openings and other things related to their professional development.

Rather than doing a general blast, however, it’s better to let people know individually. Take the time to articulate why you think that particular person would be good and/or interested. This approach takes longer and requires more thought and energy, but actually furthers the goal of connecting with specific people more so than a general post that most people won’t even notice.

Even if it’s not an opportunity they want to pursue, they will appreciate the effort (as long as you are thoughtful about why you reached out) and it’s a great excuse to keep in touch with someone – especially those in your network who are more senior than you.

Another way to share is to help others expand their network. If you know someone who is going through or wants to make a transition, offer to introduce them to those in your network who might be able to help them. Good karma goes a long way.

Give Recommendations and Endorsements

Another opportunity to build good karma is to provide unprompted recommendations and endorsements for those in your network. Recommendations should be specific, genuine and substantial. Consider writing them for current and past colleagues, as well as for peers, people you reported to and those who reported to you.

Technical Tip: To give recommendations, type “recommendations” into the LinkedIn search bar. Scroll to the bottom until you see the “Features” section and select “Manage recommendations.”  This page will enable you to both ask for and give recommendations.

Endorsements are also a way to give credibility to others in your network by validating their skills. These can require less thought because they are either already identified by the person as one of their skills or are pre-populated suggestions made by LinkedIn.

But be careful not to endorse just any skill. Some are too general, inaccurate or irrelevant. For example, LinkedIn may identify “document review” as a skill that a lawyer has. Unless that person specializes in document review or is very junior, this is probably not a skill that they want identified as an expertise.

Despite this caveat, endorsements are still an easy way to keep in touch because your contact will get an email notice that they’ve been endorsed by you.

Send Congratulatory Messages

Another easy way to keep in touch is to take every opportunity to congratulate your contacts on new jobs, work anniversaries and promotions. However, it’s still important to use these opportunities to keep in touch as excuses to set up in-person meetings to reconnect. Again, the whole point of LinkedIn is to use it as a tool to develop more meaningful relationships with your network.

Translating LinkedIn Engagement to the Real World

At the end of the day, social networks are just a tool to facilitate keeping in touch. Real networking magic only happens in the real world, which means engaging on LinkedIn should only be a starting point.

Use this online medium to set up calls, as well as in-person coffees and lunches with your contacts. Make the effort to attend reunions, gatherings and other real world networking events. If you’re using LinkedIn well, you’ll have lots of people you’ll want to see at these events. Basically, online engagement only supplements, and isn’t a substitute for, in-person contact.

Next Up

While most of our blog posts have been about advancing your legal career, we’ll conclude 2014 with a post with tips on how to transition out of being a lawyer.