How To Use LinkedIn Effectively for Networking — Online and Off

Meeting someone once at a networking event won’t do much for you if you don’t follow up with them afterwords – yet you’d be surprised how few people actually do make the effort.

These days we have no excuses, with great tools like LinkedIn making it simple to keep track of – and keep in touch with – professional contacts.

“How can I best use LinkedIn to follow up after offline networking?” was one of the questions we didn’t have a chance to get to at last week’s webinar, Become a Networking Ninja: Tips to Better Networking. If you were curious, here’s your answer!

How to follow up on LinkedIn

If you’ve had a great conversation and exchanged business cards, don’t just let that connection fade away! Take time within 24-48 hours to follow up with everyone you’ve met, via email and LinkedIn.

I like to send a short email separately, then also send a LinkedIn connection request that simply says, “Hi NAME, It was great to meet you! I’d love to connect via LinkedIn.” Sending a personalized LinkedIn request doesn’t take much effort, but it makes a much better impression than just using the generic one.

What should your followup email say?

1. Remind them where you met. It may have been only yesterday, but most likely you both talked to tons of people. Reference some part of your conversation to help anchor you in their memory, like, “It was so great to meet you at ABC Event yesterday. It’s always nice to talk with another musical theater fan.” To make this easy, jot down notes on your contact’s business card to remind yourself what you talked about.

2. Add value first. The biggest mistake I see people making in a followup email is to just jump in and ask for something without giving anything in return. This comes across as self-centered, and your new contact won’t be as inclined to help you out. Instead, offer them something – even something as simple as a link to an article germane to the topics you discussed.

3. If help was offered, or action items suggested, remind them politely. Sometimes your new contact did offer you help in the initial conversation. In this case, ask politely. “When we spoke at XYZ Event, you mentioned you could put me in touch with the person in your department who works on process improvement. I’d really appreciate that connection!”

4. Ask a question. One of the best ways to keep the conversation going is to ask a question. Be respectful of your contact’s time, and keep it brief rather that asking a barrage that will take them hours to answer. Ask something that will provide interesting ongoing conversation. Like, “How did you first get interested in your field?” or, “What inspired you to write about X Topic?”

Keep the conversation going

The initial followup is great, but truly valuable connections are developed over time. That’s why it’s so important to keep the conversation going. Once again, LinkedIn makes that super easy.

Once your new contact has accepted your connection request, use the LinkedIn Relationship tab (underneath the photo on his or her profile) to make notes about how and where you met, and conversations you’ve had.

You can also add tags to help you sort your contacts – think industry, skills, company, or maybe even the event where you met them.

In that same tab, you can set reminders to follow up in the future. These future follow ups can be as simple as a Tweet or an emailed link to an interesting article, or as big as a request for a coffee meeting.

LinkedIn makes it easy to keep in contact, by providing reminders about your contacts’ birthdays, new jobs, etc. But instead of just “Liking” new milestones, use these reminders to actually take the time to reach out with a personal note. Send a hand-written note of congratulations, or even just take time to write an email.

Using these techniques, you’ll see your LinkedIn network start to grow with actual, meaningful connections that will help you in the future.

How do you use LinkedIn for networking followup? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments.

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Peggy Pings

I’ve not figured out how to really communicate via Linked-in. You don’t have their email typically, and if they are like me, it is just a place to put your profile but no other content, and I rarely check it. When people message me through linked-in, it doesn’t get replied to for a long time. I prefer email or phone calls for that kind of communications. I never hear of people really using Linked-In for an active & engaging networking and social media tool (like Facebook).

Jessie Kwak

Thanks for your comment, Peggy – I think LinkedIn is a pretty particular networking tool. My husband works in the bike industry, and hardly any of his accounts are on LinkedIn, so it doesn’t make sense for him to try to socialize there.

Being active on LinkedIn works great if you’re trying to get the attention of recruiters, or you’re a service provider (like a freelance writer) who wants to be found by clients. I’ve personally picked up 3 clients in the last year who came across my profile while searching for freelancer writers on LinkedIn.

I think most people tend to use it more passively, as an online Rolodex – and that’s great. You’re right in that if someone doesn’t get their LinkedIn messages forwarded to their email, it’s not a useful way of getting ahold of them. That’s why I’d definitely recommend checking your settings to make sure you get those messages – and keep hold of any business cards you get while networking so you don’t have to just rely on LinkedIn to find your contacts later!

Phill Thompson

Adding to that, make your profile as open and complete as possible. If you add in there how others can reach you, like Jessie, you may get unexpected (but wanted) phone calls or emails.

I use LinkedIn to communicate with friends, clients, and co-workers all over the world. It is a great way to message and keep that separation between work and fun. Facebook is for fun. Twitter is for information. LinkedIn is strictly professional. For many, having that separation is important and keeps the often dizzying online world somewhat organized.

Thanks for the post, Jessie!

David Carr

I try to connect with people that I meet at conferences and seminars. It is good to do it that way because they are in the same field and can be a resource for future projects.