It’s the social platform everybody loves to hate.
It’s not quite like Facebook, but kind of. It’s more business than casual… more networking than friending. You have to be somewhat transparent… and social…?
There is a real struggle to understand LinkedIn—how to connect, how to network, how to share content and ideas.
People aren’t always certain about how they can make the most of the platform.
Most other social networking platforms lend themselves to the casualness of socialization, so it’s easy to jump in and share relevant content that seems to fit right within the platform.
On LinkedIn, there’s a need to be more professional and businesslike so people often feel like they have to put on a show or create a character.
The LinkedIn Characters In Us All
If you’re on LinkedIn, you have a LinkedIn character.
It’s that peaked you, the “on” you. The you that wants to be perceived as friendly, intelligent, authoritative—most importantly, authoritative—and in many cases, available; for work, for hiring, for speaking, anything that involves business matters.
The ‘you’ on Facebook is mostly you, obviously, angles are fixed (displaying happiness, enjoyment, overall contentment), but the concept is genuine—even if you’re fake-posing in front of an apple tree in the New England fall, you did go to the orchard—that part is true.
So in a sense, you’re displaying real-life facts about yourself. Everyone essentially does this in the same way. If you look through the Facebook profiles of one hundred random people, you’ll find that they all very likely post similar content—family pictures, inspiration quotes, funny videos, memes, etc.
On LinkedIn, you have to show your services, products, or businesses. But, that’s selling. And people don’t sell when they’re being social… right?
If you were to look through one hundred random LinkedIn profiles, you’d probably find many different approaches.
The problem is: people are trying to be social and sell at the same time.
A big part of selling is connecting with people. Salespeople are trained to focus on relationship building. Sell them on you before you sell them on it.
There is really no standard for participation on LinkedIn. Everyone does it differently.
Some people write their entire life story in their ‘about’ section. Some write their work history. Some, like me, speak to their ideal client because I know the only reason someone is searching my profile is to see if I can help them in some way or another.
The Super Simple Secret
So what is the secret to LinkedIn? How can you get lots of connections, grow your network quickly, create a consistent flow of work and referrals?
It’s so simple you’re probably not even going to believe me.
So let me tell you about my own results on LinkedIn: I have 7,833 connections. I receive messages from people at least once a week who are looking for writers. I get at least one new client—not always with steady work, but a client nonetheless—every month. And I really don’t put in any effort.
I no longer cold pitch or search for work through job boards or Facebook groups because I consistently get messages through LinkedIn.
And sometimes I send them.
One of the really great features of LinkedIn, which other platforms (thankfully—let’s be honest) don’t offer, is notifying you of who’s looked at your profile.
I love this feature because as soon as I see that someone has looked at my profile, I will send them a message.
Quick and simple: “Hey, are you looking for a writer? I’d love to help you with some projects, let me know if you’d like to see samples.” Nothing fancy, just a quick message and an invite for further communication.
This works like 95 percent of the time for me. I want to say 100, but let’s leave room for error.
Ok, so, what’s the secret then?
You really don’t have to do anything on LinkedIn.
That’s the big secret! You don’t have to post. You don’t have to network or engage. You just need a great profile and a daily habit of checking your notifications.
Crazy, I know. People are going to have a visceral reaction to this statement.
But I know, from experience, you don’t have to write a personalized message for every connection request you send. You don’t need to have a reason to send a connect request.
You don’t have to feel pressure to create a posting strategy and post consistently or engage in other people’s posts or find clever things to say or use hashtags.
LinkedIn is basically digital classified ads. It’s like an index of employees and employers who can speak directly to each other.
It’s similar to job boards like ZipRecruiter or Indeed, it’s just that people can remain on these boards and chat. There’s no glass wall, no red tape.
LinkedIn is like a search engine and you’ll get more out of it if you treat it as such.
Classified ads in the old-time newspaper would include people looking for jobs or looking for roommates, companies with job openings, people selling furniture or pets. You could search the columns and find what you needed, with information to make contact.
As digital classified ads, LinkedIn profiles are about facilitating business transactions—hiring, partnerships, collaborations, etc. You don’t need to feel pressure to be social. If you have something to share in a business setting that is natural and useful, share it.
If you don’t have anything to share for the next month and a half, don’t soapbox. Don’t look for things to talk about just to be present on the platform.
Simply having a profile is presence enough.
The thing about LinkedIn is that sharing content isn’t the best way to gain new business. There’s good reason Facebook is not the business networking platform of choice.
Soapboxing is not the same as sharing, connecting, relationship building, or starting conversations.
There’s really no two ways about it, most of the posts that exist on LinkedIn are some form of soapboxing, which isn’t a natural way of interacting with people.
This leads to the LinkedIn Character—the soapboxy you.
Sending Connect Requests
So, now you know, there’s no real strategy necessary to post on LinkedIn. And there’s also no strategy necessary to connect and grow your network.
In building my network, I would find the companies I imagined working with and send connect requests to people in relevant fields at those companies—marketing directors, CEOs, recruiters.
Building your network this way helps LinkedIn recommend similar people for you to connect with. Once you’ve sent a few connection requests to marketing directors or CEOs/Founders, LinkedIn will continue recommending people with those job titles.
I just hit connect. Over and over and over.
Unless I feel compelled to say something or am specifically looking to work with them, I just hit ‘connect’. My profile clearly states what I do and who I help, so I don’t personalize messages.
Optimize your profile and your headline or title. People don’t want to waste time trying to figure out what you do or how connecting with you will be helpful for them or relevant to what they do.
Make it easy, state exactly what you do in layman's terms—avoid ambiguous words like ‘Growth Hacker’ and non-specific titles like ‘Helping SaaS Companies Get More Qualified Leads’—that stuff sounds sketchy.
And let me tell you why it doesn’t work: LinkedIn is a search engine.
Most prospects aren’t going to the LinkedIn search bar and looking up “growth hacker” or “helping saas companies...”
They’re looking up “marketing agencies” or “social media specialist” or “business coach”.
And when businesses need to hire, they’re searching terms like “expert copywriter” or “photographer in the Boston area.” So when you’re writing your LinkedIn title, keep this in mind.
Use terms people will type in the search bar.
The second thing you need to optimize is your ‘about’ section. Make this about the reader.
Everyone is telling a story, whether they mean to or not.
If you list all of your accomplishments, awards, and committee titles in your about section, you’re telling a story about yourself.
If you talk about your company, process or framework, you’re telling a story about your business.
If you talk about how you can help people, what pain points you recognize, and who you work with, you’re telling a story about your ideal client.
Make sure you’re telling the story you want people to hear.
Fill out work history, but don’t go crazy here. List employers, dates, pertinent duties/tasks/skills.
Most people will skim through your profile rather quickly so make it user-friendly and help the good information stand out.
Your profile should be skimmable and easily digestible.
There’s No Magic Formula
There are hundreds—if not thousands—of posts, courses, and articles on finding clients on LinkedIn and really the steps are this simple:
- Create a user-friendly, optimized, searchable, skimmable profile.
- Grow your network to as many relevant connections as possible by searching out relevant connections and then connecting with suggested profiles.
- Check-in frequently to see who’s viewed your profile, then send them a message.
Digital Classifieds. That’s all it is. Don’t stress over creating a strategy or writing viral posts. Create your ad and check-in on it every once in a while to see if anyone has taken a peek. Then try connecting. You’ll create a steady flow of clients with very little effort.
What’s your LinkedIn strategy and how’s it working for you?