We’ve all heard of the “Three R’s,” the phrase that refers to the three pillars of education, reading, writing, and arithmetic. The fact that only one of these words begins with an R should perhaps give us pause, but the term has nevertheless has been embraced since being coined nearly 200 years ago.
That’s why I have hope for a concept I’ve coined called the “3 R’s of LinkedIn.” Not only does it define a way to use the social media platform with intent, but all three terms actually begin with the letter you’d expect.
Here’s a look at those three R’s, what percentage of your attention they should command on LinkedIn, and how this formula can help you make the most of your time.
1) Relationships – 40%
LinkedIn is, of course, all about relationships, and it’s especially effective in helping you enhance the quality of your existing relationships. To that end, you should spend no less than 40% of your time connecting with those in your network. Some specific tactics include:
- “Listening” to your network. This starts with reading your connections’ personal and company page status updates, but extends to reading into what they’re saying. Is there a way you can help them? Do you have a skill, asset, or relationship that would be of value based on what they’ve said? The appropriate follow-up could be as simple as a comment added to their status update, but the question you should ask should always be the same: how can you be a resource to your connections?
- Being a resource even when there’s no immediate benefit. Don’t think of the listening effort referenced above as a hunting expedition. If all you’re looking for are opportunities to sell your product or service, then you won’t get very far. Instead, seek to put something in the credit column with your connections even when there’s no immediate, conspicuous, direct benefit in doing so. Your efforts on LinkedIn should be about long-term results, and a little goodwill can go a long way, even if the payoff comes years down the line.
- Using the new “LinkedIn Contacts” feature as a CRM. LinkedIn Contacts allows you to keep a variety of notes about your connections visible only to yourself. It’s a great way to capture information for future use. (Read more about using LinkedIn Contacts as a CRM.)
- Reviewing your connections to get back in touch. One of the most useful aspects of LinkedIn is that it serves as an inventory of your professional connections. As such, it can be very beneficial to audit this list every few months to see if there’s anyone with whom you’ve lost touch and then make an effort to reconnect. You never know what might have changed since the last time you talked.
- Participating in relevant groups and providing real value. Being an active participant in groups can help build relationships in a way that complements your other LinkedIn activity. Most of the actions described above, you see, are directed at your first degree connections—those you already know. You can supplement this via Groups, which reach beyond your immediate network into looser connections that gather around a specific area of interest. If you focus on being a resource to them, you may just make a few new first degree connections along the way.
- Being generous—while also being genuine—with recommendations and endorsements. Giving someone a well-deserved recommendation or endorsement can go a long way toward building the relationship. Just make sure you do so genuinely and judiciously so that your praise doesn’t appear to be given too liberally or for self-serving reasons.
2) Research – 30%
LinkedIn is an incredibly powerful business database, with data on more than 200 million professionals worldwide. This presents some tremendous research opportunities, even with a basic account (although it’s probably not surprising to learn you can do even better with a premium membership). The key is to think of LinkedIn as a means of answering two key questions:
- Who does what? Jib Jab CEO Gregg Spiridellis has called LinkedIn “the über database of people and the work that they do.” That’s an accurate description, and it demonstrates LinkedIn’s power. When you’re trying to find a decision maker at a given company, for example, LinkedIn is a great place to start.
- Who knows whom? In addition to revealing who holds a given role at a company, LinkedIn also lets you see how you’re connected to others. Drawing from the “six degrees of separation” theory, LinkedIn reveals the interconnections in your network in a way that allows you to leverage existing relationships to start new ones.
Reserve 30% of your LinkedIn time for exploring the answers to these questions, and you’ll generate some great, actionable information as you work behind the scenes.
3) Reputation – 30%
LinkedIn is a great vehicle for telling your story. It’s critical to focus your efforts, however, on demonstrating how you can be a resource to your connections. Spend about 30% of your time building your reputation, using the following tactics:
- Refine your profile to ensure it reflects what you want to be known for and known as
- Share content you’ve created—blog posts, presentations on SlideShare, white papers, etc.—via status updates and in your groups
- Share content from others that’s aligned with your area of expertise and that will be beneficial to your connections (this will also help with another “R”—relationships)
- Share content about your business via personal and company pages status updates, including news, achievements, and stories that reflect your culture
These are just a few examples, but they demonstrate the value of doing more than relying on your profile alone. Remember, every time you update your status, you have an opportunity to make an impression on your connections in a place where they’re likely to see it: right on the homepage in the news feed after they log in to LinkedIn.
In putting this formula into practice, it’s important to think of the percentages above as representing your collective efforts on LinkedIn. One day, you may do nothing but research; on another, you may focus solely on relationship building. By striving to give the “R’s” its due, however, you’ll make the most of the diverse opportunities available on LinkedIn and enjoy three other R’s: relevance, results, and ROI.