I am grateful to LinkedIn for giving me the opportunity to gain influence in its biggest professional and business network in the world. After LinkedIn invited me somewhere on the third week of July 2014 to be among the first 25,000 early birds to write long posts, I have so far generated more than 10,500+ connections and followers using the free account without advertising my email next to my name nor writing LION (LinkedIn Open Networker) in my profile, or joining or subscribing to any LION open networking sites and groups. This happened despite the fact that I live in a developing country of the Global South which has one of the slowest Internet speeds and most expensive Internet rates in the world! In expanding my reach on LinkedIn, I usually choose who to invite and not who to accept in my network. I use invites to build my network. My acceptance rate in my modest estimation is probably more than 96%. The other day, I was able to connect around 400 powerful connections in one day all over the globe. Thus one wonders: How did this happen? Are there powerful ways to achieve more connections and followers on LinkedIn in a shorter period of time especially for people who wish to grow their network and enhance their personal brand?
4 Powerful Ways to Grow One’s Network on LinkedIn
Based on my experience, I consider the following 4 ways as powerful in expanding network on LinkedIn:
1. Learn the Basic Techniques and Discover New Ones.
To gain control and connections on LinkedIn, one must know the basic techniques and discover new ones.. In my case, I study the basic techniques of LinkedIn and discover a few innovations to achieve my goals. I spent nights reading posts and articles on how to use, increase and engage with followers and connections on LinkedIn. I applied and experimented what I learned from these posts to expand my network. In this sense, I have done a kind of participant observation research in the social media: I’m observing a phenomenon that I am participating. Moreover, I also discovered new techniques which are not often mentioned in LinkedIn posts Although I opened my LinkedIn a few years ago, it is only this year and only after I applied some innovative techniques that I gained a fast-growing number of followers.
2. Be committed and Love What You Do.
As mentioned above, my intense use of LinkedIn only started on the last week of July 2014. Since then, I have been an active and consistent user of this professional site, spending a considerable time of free time every day to grow my network and engaging with my followers and connections. So far I have seen fruits of my initial labor and ready to the next phase of my social media campaign. Steve Jobs is right! In order to excel, we must love what we do. To excel in the social media such as LinkedIn, we must embrace and love it like our own child. We cannot fully reap the benefits of the social media if we lack commitment and inconsistency!
3. Innovate and Strategise to Gain more Connections and Followers.
To innovate is not to change the system or break existing rules but to create something new or find new ways within existing rules.LinkedIn has rules and everyone must follow them to stay in the professional network. But rules are not gapless. They have loopholes. This is where the user must begin his/her innovation and strategy.. For instance, a LinkedIn rule prohibits a user to send an invite to any one without prior acquaintance. But we can still abide by this rule by sending invite a LION or open networker who would not click “I Don’t Know” (IDK) or spam (assuming s/he is a true LION) button or create an attractive and personalized invite to somebody who is somehow connected to us (e.g. co-alumnus, school mate, etc.). A free account has limitations set by the LinkedIn rules, but we are not prohibited to creatively use the search tools to find ways to increase connections and expand the search results.
4. Create a Unique Profile
Creating a unique profile is one of the most important ways to gain one’s network on LinkedIn. Thus, the length and content of the profile are crucial in gaining the attention of other users to connect or follow. It seems that completeness and length of achievements are not the only criteria in determining a good profile. The uniqueness and the level of prestige that is written in the profile are also important to grab people’s attention. My profile is incomplete. I have not included, for instance, my publications. And yet I often received a feedback from my connections that my profile is different and colorful, that’s why they agree to connect. The profile is a potent tool to gain more connections and followers.Please allow me then to suggest the following tips on how to structure and write a powerful profile:
1.) Choose an Overall Image. Decide what overall image based on your experience you want to project in your profile. This will be your personal brand. You have maybe wearing different hats at the same time—consultant, entrepreneur, board member, author, etc.– but there must be an overarching image and purpose that defines your entire profile. Thus, it is important to choose one image which primarily defines your field of expertise and professional engagement. Then structure your profile accordingly to highlight this image. In today’s age of specialization, the specialist is often more attractive than a generalist.
2.) Represent the Overall Image with an Appropriate Picture. Since a picture says a thousand words, it is important that the profile picture or avatar must capture the overall image one wants to project in your LinkedIn profile. The attire in the picture is important. It is not always necessary to wear a business attire. If one wants to project one’s profile as a capable athlete, for instance, it is important that s/he wears an athletic attire in his/her best pose.
3). Make you Profile Brief and Attractive. Sometimes a long and more complete profile has drawbacks. Unless you are aiming for a technical job or aiming to connect with specialists, a long profile can sometimes distract people from reading and focusing on some unique or more powerful entries of your profile. Thus, limit the length of your profile. Make it easy for readers to identify your main strengths. Write only the most important experience, training and achievement which correspond to your primary image and goal you want to project your personal brand in the social media. Although the length of one’s profile can indicate the level of achievement and stature, a lengthy description and long list of positions and other matters which is not focused and directly related to the overall image can sometimes bore people. Remember, LinkedIn users are busy professionals and business people. Crisp, brief but interesting description of profile entries can be effective as it can grab people’s attention and provide an easy recall the uniqueness of your profile.
4.) Highlight a Unique Expertise or Experience. Finally, highlight in your profile something that is unique in you. For instance, you state that you are a recruiter and HR professional. Ask yourself: what makes me different from other recruiters and HR practitioners? Or if you state that you are an entrepreneur. Ask yourself: what’s makes me different from others in terms of product, location, strategy, innovation, business plan, etc. Inserting a special trait or experience in your profile can separate you from others and makes you special and very attractive for others to follow or connect. There is a correlation between having a very attractive profile and the power of invites to increase one’s network. Thus, the more attractive is the profile, the higher is the level or number of invites one can give to increase direct connections.
Innovation is not only essential in today’s business but also in social media. The use of the social media involves creativity. And finding creative ways and means within a given system is power. And power for the great French philosopher, Michel Foucault, who revolutionized the concept of power is not something possessed but exercised through creative strategies, tactics or other forms of creative actions. Having great wealth and a long list of achievements in one’s LinkedIn profile does not immediately translate into power and influence. Power manifests itself in the actual, creative and strategic use of resources available at hand, no matter how little they are, to influence the other and achieve personal goals. Thus, power on LinkedIn lies in innovation and use of effective strategies to achieve one’s goals.The Good News with today’s social media and ICT technology such as the Internet is that they are social equalizers and boundary breakers in society (Green). They can empower the rich and powerful as well as the weak and the poor to reach their goals if people know how to use creativity and power within the bounds of the system.
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Dr. Vivencio “Ven” Ballano is a sociologist-professor, religious educator, research consultant and media piracy specialist at St. Paul University, Quezon City, Philippines.