It’s not as trendy as Instagram, as intergenerational as Facebook, or as snappy as Snapchat. But LinkedIn has carved out an impressive niche in the professional networking sphere. 

As the Market Manager for Allianz Trade in South Africa, I spend a lot of time reaching out to brokers and other industry partners, and nurturing customer relationships . And increasingly, I see the importance of having a solid LinkedIn presence. I’d go so far as to say that LinkedIn is the new business card: it gives a snapshot of your expertise and some contact details, and should have something extra to stand out in a sea of profiles and make people want to contact you. 

LinkedIn is a powerful tool to forge professional relationships, whether you’re looking to find a mentor, a business partner or the next step in your career. I successfully applied for my last few jobs via LinkedIn, and advertise our company vacancies on the platform. It really has taken over the traditional recruitment portal! However, most people don’t come close to leveraging its full potential. Most often, the missing link is establishing deep connections that go far beyond “I’d like to add you to my professional network.”

Here are my tried-and-tested tips to making the most of your LinkedIn presence and getting through to the people that can help you grow professionally. 

The best place to start is with the basics. When crafting or updating your LinkedIn profile, keep in mind that you’re building a personal brand. Take some time to update your profile: include an accurate job history, a recent (preferably smiling!) photo, and a background image that sets you apart and is relevant to your profession. Don’t forget to use a photo that looks professional. This doesn’t mean that it has to be taken by professional photographer, but it should have good lighting and a professional setting, and definitely not be a selfie. In your profile summary, explain how your skills make a difference in the world – and remember, it’s okay to be proud of your achievements!
Your headline gives others a feel for what you do and why you do it. I recommend going beyond simply pasting your job title here. Stack this space with keywords that you know people in your current or target industry are searching for. For example, if you’re looking for new career opportunities, use common words you see in job advertisements that you’re interested in. 
The most successful people on LinkedIn are the ones who dare to post regularly. If you don’t have your own original writing or visuals to post, share content that you find interesting, and comment on it to offer your viewpoint. Commenting positions you as a thought leader and invites others to contribute, which broadens your reach. Boost your profile by joining and engaging in relevant industry groups as well. 
Increase your reach even further by tagging people in your existing network in posts and comments. This helps people outside of your own network see your activity, and the more people see and engage with your content, the more LinkedIn will put you forward as a thought leader. Just make sure your tags are always relevant and helpful to the people mentioned. 
Even if LinkedIn is about business, it’s important to keep in mind the human behind the job title. It’s okay to be a bit personal, because you’re ultimately forging relationships with other humans. Reach out to people directly and engage them in meaningful conversations. For example, if LinkedIn alerts you that it’s a contact’s birthday or that they’ve started a new job, take the opportunity to connect by writing them a personalised message. 
LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool, but you get out of it exactly what you put in. Make your profile stand out, find the right people, and connect with them on a human-to-human level, and your efforts will pay dividends. It certainly has for me!  
Natasha Ferreira
Account and Market Manager