In a previous article we discussed the benefits of having a LinkedIn account, whether to set up a personal profile and/or a company page, the difference between a basic account and paid options, and finally how to understand and satisfy the algorithm.

Now we are going to turn our attention towards making the most out of your account in order to build a powerful professional network. This article will look at who you should be connecting with, which companies you should be following, how to market with your Company Page and how to best engage with your audience.

Before the How, is the Why

Strategy should always come first. Why are we reaching out? What are the goals or objectives on this specific platform? Do we want to build a database? Do we want a platform to discuss our agenda or message? Do we want to recruit? What do we want and why? Knowing this defines our approach of who to connect with, who to follow, how to engage and what to say.

First, Add Value

Before you can connect and network with people, it is crucial that you begin to develop meaningful content. Your content should be informative, define who you are, highlight the opportunities that your business brings to the marketplace, and add value for your audience. (Read our previous article for insights on facilitating content creation.) If done authentically and with an intent to add to the exchange of ideas, commenting on other people’s posts or engaging with their articles can be valuable content (more on engaging below).

On Who to Connect With

Start with the people you know. Connect with professionals from your workplace, from your industry, and your business network (i.e., people you’ve met through networking online or in person). It is most likely that this group will connect and engage with you immediately as they are aware of your experience and understand your credentials. From this group, requestendorsements from the relevant skills categories you’ve pre-defined, in order to build your reputation on the platform.

Next, connect with professionals that you do not know personally however, would be a beneficial part of your community. This may include people working in your industry, people working in the same role, people you have learned from or who are curators of relevant and interesting content (this may includeyour competition). LinkedIn Groups is a good option to finding likeminded individuals, or target prospects.

Once you have built your network of professionals in and around your industry and type of work, look for people who will be able to assist you in the future. If you are looking to build a website, connect with web developers. If you are looking to partner with a different industry in the future, connect with leaders in the industry located near your workplace. At this point you can also begin to connect with prospective clients or customers.

Finally, if you are planning to grow your internal team, recruiting with LinkedIn (e.g., posting job openings, connecting with university and college students or young professionals in your industry) can be a helpful resource.

On Who to Follow

Rather than connecting with people you do not know or have not yet had a conversation with, you may choose instead to follow their company page.

A key group of professionals you should follow are thought leaders in your industry. Whether you have heard them speak, listen to their podcast inspire you with their success, often these influencers provide insights into the marketplace and keep their audience up to date on market trends and forecasts. Their content often provides fodder for discussion with your community, ideas for you to present and thoughts with which you can lead.

It is important to note however, that you cannot endorse or recommend (or vice versa) pages that you follow.

Marketing With Your Company Page

As a business owner, it is very important to have a Company Page along with your Personal Account. Through this page you should be posting frequently and consistently. Start by posting news and important information about your company. This can mean upcoming events, promotions, or changes, etc.

Along with industry news and events, write articles that will interest and educate your audience. If your business already has a blog, repost the articles to your page.

“Newsjack” to share a current event shaped for your message and narrative while expanding your exposure. (Hubspot has an article on Newsjacking examples. We’re particularly fond of Aviation Gin’s mastery of the technique:

Share relevant articles, images or videos that have been posted within your industry. Add an introductory comment or pose a subject-matter question to add relevance to and show your audience that you are informed and knowledgeable about the industry as a whole. This is also an efficient way to maintain relevancy without spending hours on unique content creation.

Finally, images and videos help attract your audience to your content and prolong their visit to your page. Make sure that your graphics are relevant and tie into your articles, announcements and updates.

When relevant and warranted, remember to include a “call to action” at the end of your posts and include a link. Though keep in mind most people have a strong aversion to constantly being “pitched” or being sold to too early in the relationship.

Engaging With Your Audience

Again, for your audience to engage with your content, you must engage with theirs. Comment and like your connections’ posts, share their articles if they are relevant and useful for your audience, and tagdifferent professionals in comments on posts that you think they will find interesting . When people comment on your posts, keep the conversation going by adding informative replies.

Write recommendations or endorsements for connections that have made an impact on you. If someone has helped your business, share their value with others. In its truest, authentic form, this is the best support and social proof you can offer.

Most importantly, message and reply to messages from people in your network in a genuine and meaningful manner. Take the time to cultivate strong relationships with your community and you will reap the rewards.