24 Mar 2021

Linking in with the right connections, whether you are virtual or not

LinkedIn is the social media platform of choice for professionals, but not everyone knows how to make the most of it. Social media expert and Digital Growth Programme consultant Paul Ince gives his advice for how to make connections online.


Paul Ince

There's a glimmer of hope on the horizon that business relationships may return to a more face-to-face presence in the coming months. But with in-person meetings practically ruled out for the best part of a year, and ongoing restrictions for a while yet, many of us have turned to more digital means to continue to network. Most network groups have turned to the likes of Zoom and Microsoft Teams to host virtual conversations. Where this is organised and hosted properly, many of the same outcomes are achieved (well, without the stale coffee and Danish pastry).

Even if you don't attend a formal networking session, LinkedIn offers a great opportunity to expand your network of connections and generate leads for your business.

Unsurprisingly, user growth on LinkedIn has grown during 2020 with over 772 million monthly active users on the platform. Over 28 million of those are UK users, showing how much of an opportunity it is. Now is the time to scrub up the profile, get searching and connecting.

Many companies ask me about LinkedIn company pages, and whether they are worth it. They potentially are, but the real power of LinkedIn is the personal profile that you, as an individual, build. Consider it a virtual representation of you when networking: what are they seeing when they first meet you? How do we give a potential connection the best version of ourself?

LinkedIn basics to consider

Profile picture - Does it look like you in 2021? We've all aged in the last twelve months so upload a more recent photo that represents what you look like today. It should also represent how you wish to be seen. If that's in your holiday swimwear then that's no problem, otherwise perhaps keep it professional or neutral.

Your cover photo - There's nothing that says you're not very active on LinkedIn than the default cover photo, grey and dull. This is a prime piece of real estate on your profile and should contain something that reflects you, your business or your personality. There are lots of options here, so don't waste the space.

Headline - Arguably one of the key parts of a profile. Searchable and displayed in results, so one of the first pieces of information anyone will see about you. How can you demonstrate the value you'll bring to the relationship in a couple of sentences?

Drawing people on to your LinkedIn page

Just like managing your website for search engines, your LinkedIn profile needs to convince someone to click the link in the search results. What's compelling about you when you come up? The first call to action you need someone to take is to click your name to look at you. Only then will you have the chance to impress someone with the rest of your profile.

Today, there are multiple areas in which you can demonstrate that are a perfect fit for a relationship with your potential new connection. Your experience will show your credibility. Your skills and recommendations will prove you're worth it. Also consider adding any publications you've featured in, volunteering roles and certifications (if it's important to add your Blue Peter badge you received, go ahead).

Be active, yet thoughtful 

To show that you're not just a pretty face, but have some clout in your sector, your activity within the platform indicates to others that you have the knowledge and to comment on your industry and that you can bring expertise to your relationship. The most successful users take time to put their thoughts into a post or direct connections to a useful article, while adding their own commentary - this is also a good way to share posts from a company page too. Telling people why the news is relevant to the audience shows you understand them.

Finally, it's worth keeping your eye on new features on LinkedIn to see how you can use them. Stories (the format of the moment on all platforms) and LinkedIn Live are two features that still are less heavily used and, therefore, less crowded, helping you be seen. LinkedIn is currently promoting any events created on its platform to users whom it thinks should attend, and they're sending emails to potential attendees, taking some of the leg work out of promoting an event.

Thanks to the investment by owners Microsoft, you can be sure that LinkedIn's development will continue and make it a must-use platform whether business returns to normal or not. Keep up to date on all the changes, and learn some strategies for engaging and connecting with the relevant people at one of our future LinkedIn workshops.

If you want to hear more from Paul, you can join him during our next Social Media Webinars and Workshops. To see a full list of dates and sessions, visit our events page.

 The Digital Growth Programme is managed by East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire). It is a programme part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the Chamber and Leicestershire County Council designed to help SMEs located in Leicester and Leicestershire embrace new digital technology to improve productivity to aid growth.