As the premier professional social network, LinkedIn is not only a great way to stay on top of what is happening with the people in your own personal network but also a great source of professionals to grow your referral network.
Here’s how to use LinkedIn to build and expand your referral network:
Decide why you are using LinkedIn. Do you just want to connect with people you know? Are you building a referral network? Do you want to drive people to your website or blog?
Build out your profile.Take your purpose and craft your profile to reflect that purpose. The key is to compel the people you know and the people who are looking for someone like you to reach out and connect.
Connect with the people you know.Use LinkedIn’s built-in Add Contacts tool under the “My Network” tab to import your contact lists. Also check out the “People You May Know” section under the same tab to add even more people to your list
Get recommendations.Take advantage of LinkedIn’s built-in Recommendations feature to give and receive testimonials. Third party endorsements carry much more weight than your marketing message alone.
Learn the system inside and out. Pay special attention to the search engine feature, which allows you to search your extended network for all the resources you need to be successful. Also, search the Groups Directory. There are thousands of special interest groups inside LinkedIn where you can connect with thought leaders, experts, prospective clients and prospective referral sources.
Build your network out strategically.Each connection you make with someone you know grows your overall reach exponentially, but only connect with those who will help you further your goals for being on LinkedIn. Collecting contacts is not the name of the game here — connecting with people who can help you grow your business is the prize you need to keep your eyes on.
Leverage your networks.LinkedIn is a social network with a search engine, and those search results are categorized in relationship to you — 1st connections for those you have connected with directly, 2nd connections for those linked to your 1st connections, 2nd connections for those who are two people away from you and group connections. Not only can you search for the people in your network, you can also search your connections’ networks for potential referral sources. You can then request an introduction to connections further away from you from the person you are both connected to on LinkedIn.