How to Grow Your LinkedIn Network in Your Target MarketBy Elisa Silverman on November 10, 2014
Reading Time: 12 minutes
Your LinkedIn experience improves the more LinkedIn connections you have. You’ll show up more and rank higher in LinkedIn people search results. You’ll also be more likely to show up as a suggested connection on other members’ LinkedIn home pages. And of course, you’ll also enjoy the benefit of the actual connections.
However, there’s no reason to sacrifice quality for the sake of quantity. According to one survey, 54% of LinkedIn users have fewer than 500 connections. The goal should be to grow your LinkedIn network with people in your “target market.” Why I am putting “target market” in quotes? (I’ll stop that now.) Because it can mean different things in this context. It can mean prospects, colleagues in your profession or those who serve that same clientele you do, but in a different capacity; it can mean potential employers, mentors, or partners. (I mean “partner” professionally. All of you who’ve started to use LinkedIn as a dating site – stop it.)
Actually, having more than one target market makes sense. You want to connect with people from a variety of different roles to have a genuinely effective professional LinkedIn network.
In order to fill your LinkedIn network with people in your target market, you need to tackle two critical steps. First, finding people who fit your target market profile. Then, reaching out to them in an appropriate way and at the appropriate time. I’ll address how to reach out to someone in LinkedIn who fits your target market profile in the next post. Here, I’m focusing on what you need to do to create your list of potential connections.
Since the vast majority of LinkedIn users aren’t premium (paid) members, everything I’m sharing here can be done in the free version.
The Prerequisites Before You Get Started Growing Your LinkedIn Network
There are two prerequisites you need to get in order before you start growing your LinkedIn network:
Your Profile. You should have a full profile, with a headshot photo, that’s an accurate presentation of your best professional self. I’m not going into how to build a quality profile or how to optimize it for LinkedIn, but your profile must communicate why you’d be a valuable connection. It won’t matter that you can find the right people for your LinkedIn network when your requests don’t get accepted.
Your Target Market Profile. You should also have a clear description of your ideal person in your target market. You can’t set out to find them if you don’t know who you’re looking for already.
Identify at least 5-6 actual people you already know (or know of) that you can model your target market persona on. These are people who are exactly the sort you’re looking for. Review their LinkedIn pages for the keywords they use in their titles and profiles, list what groups they belong to that are related to what you find interesting about them. You’ll want this information later on.
Actually, here’s your first tip. It’s not the most efficient way to find people in your target market, but it still has value. While you’re reviewing the profile of someone meeting your target criteria, take a look at the “People Also Viewed” selections along the right sidebar. Here are the options I got when viewing Joe Pulizzi’s profile, founder of the Content Marketing Institute.
You see the list is full of other heavy hitters in content marketing. LinkedIn uses this area to show you other profiles similar to the one you’re already viewing, which is helpful to build your list of people with whom you want to connect.
Finding People in Your Target Market
Use Saved Searches: You only get three of these on LinkedIn’s free version, and you can only run the search based on title. Even so, it’s an easy, automated way of getting LinkedIn to do some of the heavy lifting.
At the top of the search page, you’ll see “Save Search” in the upper righthand corner.
Click on it and you’ll see:
Using the title keywords you identified during the prerequisite stage, create your saved search and select how often you want LinkedIn to email you the list. You’ll then get an email titled “People Search Alert” on that schedule with a list of people who meet your search criteria.
Use Advanced Searches: When you want to create a working list of people who fit your profile, then use advanced search. Run a search based on as many of the characteristics from your target market profile that you can add.
To make your results list manageable, you can also limit it to 2nd degree connections and/or whether you share a group, both of which can be helpful when it comes time to make contact. You can also limit by zip code if you want to be hyper-local.
Any search option with the by it is only available on a paid plan EXCEPT for selecting specific groups to search in. Which leads me to my next tip…
Join 49 Groups: I say 49 because LinkedIn will only let you join 50 and you want to keep at least one spot open for a floater. Join the groups your target market people are in for multiple reasons:
- They’re a good source for finding other target market people.
- Having a group in common allows you to make contact through LinkedIn even if you’re not connected. Look for the “Reply privately” option under their comment in a discussion. It opens up a LinkedIn message box to that person. If you look them up from the group’s membership page, you’ll see a “Send message” option that opens the same message box.
- Having a group in common also gives you a hook to send an invitation to connect through LinkedIn when the time is right (more on that in the next post).
- When you’re active in a group with your target market, they may just reach out and contact you. You can’t be active in 49 groups. Instead, select 2-3 of the most valuable groups, based on membership total, profile and activity, and be active in those. Just click on the “i ” on the group tab and then on “Group statistics.”
This will open a tab displaying a wealth of information that can help you decide whether to be active in this group. Do a monthly assessment on these 2-3 groups to determine if they should remain one your high activity groups.
Follow people on your target list: Following someone on LinkedIn is different from making a direct connection with them and less creepy than it sounds. Think Twitter-type following. When you follow someone on LinkedIn, their LinkedIn activity will show up in your home feed. Reading what they post is critical to helping you find the right time to actually reach out to them. (You’re not going to start just sending people messages willy-nilly. There’s a method to it, but again, more on that in the next post.)
Click on the dropdown arrow to the right of the “Send so&so InMail” and you’ll see this menu. Click on “View recent activity.”
From there, you’ll be taken to a page that shows that person’s recent activity on LinkedIn. You’ll also see a “Follow” button to the far right on the top bar:
Click on it to start following someone. If you decide you want to unfollow someone, just come back to the same place; the button will say “Unfollow.”
If you don’t want to start following a lot of people, you can always just click “View recent activity” on their profile whenever you do want to see what they’re posting.
Add people as a contact: LinkedIn provides another option, in addition to following, to bring a LinkedIn member into your orbit before reaching out to make a direct connection. Go to the profile page of someone on your target list, you’ll see a little star in the bottom left-hand corner below their image.
Click the star to add them as a contact in LinkedIn. This isn’t a request sent to that person. He or she won’t know you’ve added them as a contact, but doing so opens up a new sets of tools for you to use. Once you click the star, you’ll see this window:
You can see there’s a lot you can do here:
- You can add a note, any information you want to remember about this person and keep readily available.
- In my screenshot, I’m adding a reminder. I’m setting a recurring weekly reminder to check this person’s recent activity on LinkedIn to see what she’s talking about and learn what’s currently important to her.
- You can also create a list of custom tags and add the ones you want to a profile. Anyone you make a contact will now show up on your Connections page, which you can filter by tag.
You’ll see how valuable these tools are in the next installment about how and when to reach out in LinkedIn.
In case you haven’t noticed it yet, these same tools are available on the profile pages for all your LinkedIn connections as well. Just click the same star, located in the same place under their image.
Before moving on to the next step…
There’s a lot going on here, so here’s a little cheat sheet on steps you want to take before you’re ready to start contacting people in LinkedIn and making connection requests:
- Have an accurate and impressive, professional profile with a headshot photo
- Create a clear, detailed picture of what someone in your target market looks like
- Grow your list of people who meet your target market criteria by:
◦ identifying 5-6 people who already meet the criteria and review their profile for the keywords they use and the groups they’re in; also look at LinkedIn’s “People Also Viewed” suggestions
◦ create saved searches using the title keywords you identified as popular with your target market
◦ use the advanced search tab, using as many of your criteria you can, to create a narrow working list of potential contacts
- Join 49 groups, the groups you’ve seen where your target market people are; be active in the 2-3 of them you’ve identified as having the most potential
- Follow priority people with whom you’d like to connect so you can see their LinkedIn activity
- Save as a contact, including anyone you’re following, a slightly broader group of priority people; tag and set reminders about when you want take another look at them
In the next installment, I’ll go into detail about how to find the right time to make direct contact with someone in your target market and how to do it in a way that inspires a positive response.
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