Making genuine connections will always be an important success factor in the business world. Whether with clients, business partners or colleagues, our ability to authentically connect defines us.

LinkedIn makes building these bridges simpler than ever – but it should not come at the expense of real human interactions and the exchange of ideas. The networking platform should be an imprint of your work values, not a strategy to bombard connections with meaningless content or to shamelessly ‘sell’ your organisation. This change of mindset when online makes all the difference.

Benefiting from digital networking and idea sharing

There are obvious benefits to using LinkedIn. Its inclusion within your marketing mix can help you achieve your communications objectives.

The online platform can allow you to increase your reach, enabling you to cast your net out further to raise awareness of your products and services, to make new connections and to associate with and learn from other experts in your industry.

Your networking efforts can be enhanced. Following events or conferences, you can connect with people you meet to continue your conversations digitally, providing the potential to further expand your network. Building a portfolio of relevant contacts is useful as long as you are focused on quality rather than quantity.

LinkedIn also makes maintaining connections easier. Keeping in touch with regular messages across state lines or overseas can be instant and spontaneous – factors central to genuine communication.

Connecting with specialists in your sector also has a ripple effect of putting you in contact with information shared by yet more people of interest to you, with this connectivity expanding endlessly. A broader swath of content may take longer to filter through, and may connect you to those who misuse their LinkedIn presence with irrelevant messaging. However, it also gives you more raw knowledge to learn from – how you manage this learning is then down to you.

Avoiding the common pitfalls of the platform

  • Inauthentic ‘branding’. It’s important to represent your true self. Using LinkedIn as a billboard to market a version of yourself you think your network wants to see is a surefire recipe for disaster. People can see through an inauthentic profile from a mile away.
  • Content overload. A few high-quality and simple messages or insights shared with your network means more than a wave of article links and inspirational quotes that you can quickly glaze over. However, if content is your professional focus, this point may not be as applicable. Just keep in mind that people want to feel inspired by their feed, not overwhelmed.
  • The ghost connector. A handful of engaged and relevant contacts is worth far more than hundreds of connections with irrelevant individuals. Don’t think by adding everyone in your industry that may be relevant and then sitting idle they will appreciate you making up numbers in your network. Connect with people, and have something real to say.

Being cyber savvy

To build a resilient business, we always need to remain informed and take measures to help safe-guard our businesses from cyber attack. We can do this on LinkedIn by:

  • Logging in with a personal email address, rather than using a business email address
  • Setting up a phone number as a backup, in case you forget your password or get locked out
  • Using two factor authentication on LinkedIn to keep your account more secure
  • Hiding your LinkedIn contacts from being viewed or accessed
  • Not using your mobile number as a contact number
  • Not sharing personal information with unknown contacts in the LinkedIn messaging app
  • Never clicking on documents or files shared
  • Never downloading anything that comes from LinkedIn
  • Never clicking on web addresses shared or provided
  • If in doubt about an individual or company, Googling them first before accepting the connect request.

Using LinkedIn on your own terms

I think LinkedIn represents an excellent opportunity for individuals and organisations to connect with the right people to build their digital profiles. From making new industry contacts to increasing visibility to the right job candidates, the platform is a chance to let the world see what the person and the organisation stands for.

For me, seeing how other individuals and businesses have used LinkedIn has helped me determine the best path forward for my own engagement. I don’t understand the ‘content for the sake of content’ approach to using the platform, and I’m not a spiel person by nature, so over selling myself professionally online seems inauthentic too. What I’ve come to learn, however, is that my LinkedIn persona is within my control. Whatever my clients and colleagues see in person, that’s what I want them to see online. It’s an extension of my professional life, so I’m endeavouring to make my profile real, so that genuine connections follow.

Using LinkedIn is important – no modern business person can get by without it. But defining how you use LinkedIn to reflect who you are, and how that fits into your organisation’s values, is even more vital. The message is inseparable from how it’s delivered, so use the platform wisely!