LinkedIn is a powerful tool for business owners and professionals alike. It can be used to build relationships with other professionals, promote your brand, and grow your influence. If you aren’t using LinkedIn to its full potential, you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities. LinkedIn is a key part of my strategy to grow my podcast audience and my own influence. I’ve learned a huge amount about leveraging the power of the network. Inside GrowCFO’s FutureCFO programme I teach students how to use LinkedIn to develop their network as part of the strategy to get the top job. In this blog post, I’m sharing things I do myself and that I teach in GrowCFO. 7 simple steps to creating a LinkedIn strategy that will help you grow your influence too!

Step One: Create a Compelling LinkedIn Profile

Your LinkedIn profile is your opportunity to make a great first impression. Make sure to include a professional headshot, an overview of your experience and skills, and links to your website and social media profiles. Be sure to also complete the rest of your profile, including your education and work history.

But, your LinkedIn profile isn’t your resume or cv. Think of your LinkedIn profile as your sales page. Talk about the problems you solve. Showcase your knowledge of the pains these problems create and talk about the solution you can offer. This applies whether you are an employee of a big business or an entrepreneur looking for leads.

People will find your profile in two ways. First, it might be a headhunter. Second, it might be somebody who has read a post you have made or a comment you have made on a post and is curious to know more about you.

If you are looking to extend your network, give the person who clicks through from a post to your profile reason to take the next step and either contact or connect with you.

Step Two: Connect with Other Professionals

One of the best things about LinkedIn is that it provides an easy way to connect with other professionals. Take advantage of this by connecting with people you know, as well as people you would like to know. You can search for people by name, company, or keyword.

Who do you want to connect with? The influencers in your space? Your ideal customer or client? Who might open doors to your dream job?

The answers to these questions quickly identify who you will want to connect with. Don’t just send connection requests out at random. Don’t simply connect or follow the people LinkedIn recommends to you. Give the process some thought.

Connecting with the right people is really important. But don’t think of this as simply increasing the size of your network. Think about it as an opportunity to start a conversation. Everything you do on LinkedIn should be geared towards having a conversation, not a sales pitch. People love to chat, they hate being sold to.

I use Meet Alfred to automate the process. Meet Alfred finds people that fit the right profile and will send out connection requests along with an initial message. Meet Alfred also sends out a second message once someone connects.

The more people you have in your LinkedIn network, the more opportunities you will have to connect with potential clients and partners.

Step Three: Build Your Network

When you add someone to your network, be sure to send them a personalized message letting them know why you want to connect with them. The message should be warm, personable and not sales. It should be written in a way that warrants a reply, a conversation starter.

If you are running a business, particularly a B2B business, your LinkedIn network should be one of your big sources of leads. You need to find people who are a good match to your ideal client profile and draw them into your network. At GrowCFO we use LinkedIn as a major lead generation tool, and I use LinkedIn to promote both my podcasts. The first step is being connected to the right people. You can do this manually but it becomes tedious.

I’ve written the messages that Meet Alfred sends to feel personal to the recipient. They are designed to start a conversation, and if I get a reply, which happens about 50% of the time then I step in and continue the conversation. What I don’t do is get Alfred to bombard the new connection with sales messages.

The first message is simple. “Hello, I’m Kevin Appleby, COO at GrowCFO and host of the GrowCFO Show podcast. Can we connect?”

The second, when someone connects is equally simple. “Great to e-meet you, just wondering have you listened to the GrowCFO Show yet?”.

Each message is asking a question that asks for a response. This starts a conversation. Meet Alfred does the boring heavy lifting, I get to have the interesting engagement.

Step Four: Join LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn groups are a great way to connect with other professionals who share your interests. There are groups for almost every industry and topic imaginable. Joining groups is a great way to build relationships with other professionals, learn new information, and find potential clients and partners.

Groups aren’t as useful as they were a few years ago, quality content in them has been replaced by far too much marketing. Unfortunately, a group where CFOs used to have conversations is now awash with folk wanting to market their wares to those CFOs. None the less, it’s still worth being there as it will make it easier to connect with and talk to those folk who are in your target audience.

Step Five: Interact with other people’s content

It’s likely that the influencers that you want to contact are already active on LinkedIn. You can quickly find their posts and the posts they have interacted with. This information is on their LinkedIn Profile. You can easily interact with the same posts. Don’t simply add a “like”, you should go a step further and add a comment. You should use this as an opportunity to add your own insight or ask a question. LinkedIn should be a conversation. Your comment should keep the conversation moving.

Interaction with content is important. For one thing, the more activity there is around a post the more LinkedIn shares it with other people. When you comment on a post then it helps the LinkedIn algorithm identify the posts that are of most value and LinkedIn will show it to more of the originator’s and your own first-degree connections. For another, this means you start to get noticed, and by the right people.

Step Six: Share relevant content

One of the best ways to grow your influence on LinkedIn is by sharing relevant content. This is the most important step in your LinkedIn Strategy. This could be anything from articles you’ve written yourself to infographics, videos, or podcasts. When you share content, be sure to add your own thoughts and insights.

Once again, LinkedIn is about the conversation. When you share something try to do it in a way that will encourage conversation. The easiest way to do this is to ask a question. If you give your opinion or insight into something it’s very easy to close with the question “What do you think?”

Getting the conversation started always a challenge. It helps if you can rely on other people to like and comment on your posts. Where relevant, name individuals with the @ function. They will be alerted through notifications and likely will interact with you. I always name the podcast guest and anyone else who is relevant when I’m posting about a new episode of a show.

Step Seven: Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile for Search

LinkedIn profiles are indexed by Google, which means they can show up in search results. This is a great opportunity to get your name out there and grow your influence. To optimize your profile for SEO, be sure to include keywords in your headline, summary, and experience section. You can also use LinkedIn’s keywords tool to find the right keywords to use in your profile.

Headhunters use search tools when they look for candidates. If you are looking for your next role then make sure your profile contains all the keywords a headhunter might use in a boolean search. I explored this further with Tony Talbot, a veteran of the recruitment business on an episode of the GrowCFO Show. He gave me a great insight into the way the modern recruiter operates and what you need to do to get noticed.

You also want your LinkedIn profile to be top of page 1 in Google if somebody searches on your name. The way to do this is through backlinking. If you write blogs or publish podcasts this is reasonably easy. Just make sure your blogs and your show notes all contain links to your LinkedIn profile. If you guest on a podcast make sure you ask the podcaster to include your LinkedIn profile as a way to contact you.

These are just a few of the ways you can grow your influence on LinkedIn. They form the LinkedIn strategy I’ve used to extend my influence and  grow the audience for both my podcasts. By following these simple steps, you can create a LinkedIn strategy that will help you reach your goals!

Find out more about Kevin