“LinkedIn allows us to utilize and leverage a platform on a global scale, which is actually phenomenal,” said Chaunté Hall, an Air Force veteran, government contractor, entrepreneur and nonprofit executive who has built a large network of nearly 26,000 followers on the social media site.
Unlike Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, “the individuals who are on LinkedIn are there for business purposes for the most part,” she said.
Plus, it’s free, adds Rey Domingo, a retired airman-turned-Lockheed Martin recruiter, who uses LinkedIn to communicate with potential job candidates and train other veterans and military spouses.
So, how do you get started? And how can you build a network?
Step one: Get a good profile picture. It doesn’t haven’t to be a professional headshot; any old iPhone camera and a nice background will do, said Domingo, co-founder of LinkedIn MilCity, who has more than 32,000 LinkedIn followers.
Remember, too, that LinkedIn is different from other social media sites. Think fewer family vacation photos and more article-type posts that have something to do with your brand or mission. It’s not a place to air grievances — or ask someone out on a date.
“Be cautious about what you post,” said Domingo. As a recruiter, he knows people who have lost out on job opportunities for things they’ve posted — even complaints about previous companies.
“The key is definitely just stay positive and any negativity that folks do have just don’t put it on LinkedIn,” he said.
LinkedIn is all about building your network, so now’s your chance to connect with people you may never have the chance to meet in person.
Domingo said if you’re interested in working at a particular company, click on their profile and see if you’re already connected with any employees. If not, you may have second or third-degree connections, meaning you might know some of the same people.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to them with a tailored message, establishing good rapport and then asking them if they would be open to passing along your resume.
For business owners, maybe hold off on your sales pitch the first time you reach out to someone, but instead take the time to build a relationship.
“I think that’s definitely a key, is gaining people’s trust, and LinkedIn is an amazing tool to be able to do that,” Domingo said.
Hall, CEO of Centurion Military Alliance, said she was able to grow the nonprofit largely because of LinkedIn. After every speaking engagement, attendees would connect with her on the site. Then, every time she was scheduled to travel, she would search LinkedIn for contacts in that area and let them know she was returning.
She also consistently uses LinkedIn to thank people after events, tagging them so they and everybody in their network will be able to see it.
Domingo also highlighted the importance of tagging others in posts: “It’s like a tap on somebody’s shoulder, like, ‘Hey, check out this post.’”
Some users are really passionate about what they do and others are just trying to promote themselves, and it’s really easy to tell which category you fall into, Domingo said.
It’s OK to post about your business, but do it in a way that lets people know why they would value doing business with you rather than making the focus all about you personally, Hall said.
“I would say that to truly build relationships, to be authentic and real,” she said. “People know that and understand that we are walking billboards of our brand.”