How to Build and Nurture a LinkedIn Profile Network

This professional social-networking tool can be a powerful aid to career management — if you treat your fellow users with respect and keep an eye on your objectives.

You set up your profile on LinkedIn. Now what?

Increase your CQ (Connectability Quotient) with LinkedIn’s features and applications. After all, they’re designed to help you connect with others. So start connecting. Here’s how:

People you know

If you see that someone you’d like to connect with was a former colleague or belongs to an organization to which you belong, you can send an “Add to network” request. Make sure there is genuinely a real connection between you and the other person, or you run the risk of being reported for “spamming” (sending unwanted messages).

Friends of people you know

Reach out to the people your current connections know. Develop a list of people who you’d like to meet. As in the real world, the best way to get the attention of a busy person is to be introduced by someone they already know and trust. LinkedIn facilitates this via its Introductions tool. When you have found someone whom one of your existing connections knows, go to the new person’s profile and click “Get Introduced.”

LinkedIn will then present you with a form to complete that provides a space for you to write a note to the person to whom you want to be introduced and the person from whom you are requesting the introduction. Be sure to give the person from whom you are requesting the introduction a compelling reason to forward the request to his connection on your behalf – it will help him write a cover note that explains why the person should want to connect with you.

People you don’t knowyet

You can also reach out to people you’d like to connect with directly by using InMails. These notes allow you to contact people without an introduction. Be sure to check the types of connections that each person indicates an interest in on their profile (such as “Getting Back in Touch,” “Job Inquiries” and “Expertise Requests”). Unlike “Add to Network” requests, InMail is not free. You can sign up to use InMail by upgrading to a paid account. (Currently, pricing starts at $24.95 per month.)

Just having a strong network isn’t the end game – it’s just the beginning. Now you have a community to interact with. Make it easy for your connections to keep you top-of-mind as they come across opportunities that are right for you.

Start by taking these steps:

1. Join groups

You can also increase your CQ by joining LinkedIn Groups. Groups can be virtual extensions of associations to which you belong outside LinkedIn or groups that were created and exist solely on LinkedIn. Once in a group, you should not begin posting messages right away; instead, look at the conversations that are ongoing or were recently closed to get a sense of how the members communicate. As with all social media, overt self-promotion is bad form. Instead, think of what you can bring to others by sharing your expertise with the group. By establishing yourself as a knowledgeable resource, people will be more inclined to connect with you and recommend your expertise to others.

2. Post updates on your profile

To stay visible to your connections, post regular updates on your profile. If you have a Twitter account, you can set LinkedIn to import your tweets to your profile. The same can be done with your blog using the Blog Link or WordPress applications. Again, avoid blatant self-promotion, and instead share info about yourself that provides a benefit to others. Posting a link to an article you found interesting shows that you’re staying abreast of industry events and sharing the news with others who may find value in the news too.

3. Answer questions

Another way to raise your visibility on LinkedIn is to answer questions posted in the Answers section. Find topics of interest on which you can share your expertise and post responses to recent questions. The fact that you answered the question will be shared with your network as “news” about you.

4. Share your work

And don’t forget to check out applications that round out the information presented in your profile. SlideShare and Google Presentation enable you to upload presentations for easy sharing of your expertise and POV with others. Box.Net allows you to upload files and collaborate on them with your connections.

5. Attend events

The Events application lets you find events of interest and, when you sign up as a speaker or event attendee, the application tells your network about this activity. Each of these and other applications on LinkedIn increases your visibility and helps to position you as an expert based on what you choose to share.

As a means for connecting you to people who can help you and the job of your dreams, it’s hard to find a better platform for increasing your CQ than LinkedIn.