As published on forbes.com:
This week I re-connected with Nancy Friedman, the St. Louis-based customer service expert who’s enjoyed some extreme PR hits and has maintained her sense of humor in the face of her misses. In this visit, we took a fresh look at LinkedIn. I’ve covered the biggest LinkedIn mistakes in the past and have offered my favorite off-brand fixes. But with thanks to Friedman, here are some easy and proactive things you can do to increase your PR and customer service success in 2017.
- Never (as in ever) use the default invitation. Remember the saying, “If you always do what you’ve always done; you’ll get what you always got?” Why be bland? The default invitation to connect that comes with LinkedIn is at best just “okay.” Instead, use a short but customized note of your own. Address the individual by name and give the reason you’re sending the invite such as a referral, the same college, fraternity or sorority or group. Or note something you found interesting on their profile. But always personalize. It will help you stand out, and the chances of acceptance will increase substantially as well.
- Use endorsements liberally. An endorsement is a compliment. When you endorse someone with good reason (although you don’t need a reason), you’re acknowledging them in a favorable way. Most everyone likes to be acknowledged and may also return the favor in some way, now or in the future. What about endorsing with no good reason? In Friedman’s opinion, that’s okay. “You don’t need to be in love or buddy-buddy with a person to provide an endorsement. It’s simply a check mark that makes somebody feel good.” Remember that you can only endorse someone you are connected with already. So you’ll need to decide how valuable that compliment may be to you and to the person you’re endorsing. The old saying, “the more you give, the more you get” stands true here. Also bear in mind that your picture will be on the endorsement, and sometimes others will click through to see who endorsed Bob Smith or Judy Jones. It’s another way to gain exposure.
- Update your picture 2 –3 times a year. In Friedman’s theater past an actor wisely advised, “Nancy, grow old with your audience.” What he meant was that she needed to update her head shot photo at least every two or so years. We should avoid the mistake of actors who’ve been off the screen for awhile who then re-appear on awards shows or late night TV looking comparatively like “The Night of the Living Dead.” Take a clue from public figures like Helen Mirren and others who not only do what they can to age with grace, but keep their audience in synch with their advancing stages by keeping their photos updated.The same advice goes for posting a photo that is authentic. Flattering angles and clothing are helpful, but do not make the mistake of putting up a glamour shot that will cause your audience to not recognize you or to be startled when they see you on screen or in person. Periodic updates allow people to see you accurately and will help to increase their familiarity with you as well.
- Be liberal with your “likes.” You can give a “like” to anyone. You do not need to be connected or even know the person to genuinely compliment them on something they’ve posted. But be sincere. The benefit here is that the person will become familiar enough with you to accept an invitation to connect, or they may even reach out for a connection to you. Remember that giving “likes” is not an endorsement. It simply expresses, “Hey, this is good.” A comment says a little more: “This is good and I agree” (or respectfully disagree). You create the start of a relationship when you leave a remark. Also remember that as with Facebook, LinkedIn allows you to remove a “like” if you later realize you’ve made a mistake (such as “liking” a piece you later realize was ultimately in conflict with your personal values or tastes.)
- Yes, you can do a cold invite, but only if you have a reason. While it’s allowable to connect without a reason (simply because you see interests or connections in common), having a reason helps and expressing the reason to the person you’re approaching will help even more. Keep the invitation short and sweet. If the invitation is an important one, Friedman suggests writing it elsewhere to be sure it’s fully ready and that you’ve proofread thoroughly to prevent the risk of a premature “send”. Giving your reason also eases the concern of people who are afraid you are connecting in order to “spam” them with sales requests.
- Common connections do not necessarily mean common ground.Don’t make the mistake of assuming that people who have connections in common are similarly aligned or that they even necessarily know the person within their connections. Some (even many) people make it a practice to accept every invitation that comes their way as a courtesy, or invite others to connect as a way to increase their “numbers.” While having a high connection base may be of value to a columnist or author in increasing their regular readers or subscribers, Friedman advises that having 7000-plus connections as a “vanity metric” is not really helpful, as LinkedIn will only designate that you are connected to 500 or more. But she advises that when you see a person with fewer than 20 connections, you should be aware that they are not engaged enough on the platform for their contact on LinkedIn to be of high value to you.
- Be careful about asking for recommendations. Recommendations are reviews of you or on you. They are very important. Friedman advises applying her customer service tips to this category of making a call or sending an email before asking for recommendation. In the email, she suggests letting the person know you would value and appreciate a recommendation, and why, and to give them a heads up that you’ll be sending the invitation. Most people will give a recommendation freely if you’ve done a good job or if they know you are in the process of seeking a new position, etc. You should always thank the individual afterwards, and be sure to reciprocate where appropriate.
- Acknowledge new connections with a note. It is a great step to acknowledge every new connection as quickly as possible with a short thank you message, and if appropriate an invitation to action (such as an invitation to subscribe to your blog or columns) or to ask a question or to make an offer of help. If you are the person accepting the invitation, a short thank you note is a great step as well, along with an offer of help when you see an opportunity for them.
- Acknowledge birthdays and job anniversaries. We get notices about our connections for these that make it easy to acknowledge a job anniversary or a new position, especially, with at least a “like” or a “thumbs up.” For those who work with the press, these notices are also a great way to stay on top of moves and changes to a new publication that you may not have otherwise known. Friedman advises acknowledging birthdays as well and notes that close to 100% of recipients will send back a “thank you.” She notes that it’s yet another way of staying visible to these connections as well.
- Don’t ignore any like or comment you get. It takes only 3-5 seconds to type “thank you, Bob” after someone makes a comment on one of your posts. The effort is worth it, Friedman maintains. It’s a way to start or increase engagement as well. Your response of, “Bob, thanks for the like. Made my day” will help to make his day as well and will strengthen the relationship and the regard that you share.
Do you agree? Disagree? We look forward to hearing your favorite ideas as well.