It comes as no surprise to me that most people feel engagement is the most important component of a LinkedIn campaign. A poll conducted on LinkedIn clearly showed that almost half the voters (47%) agree.
The other two components are a branding/optimized profile, which garnered 29% of the votes and a focused network, which was narrowly beat out with 24% of the votes.
As a job seeker you might feel that having a branding profile is most important; and that makes good sense, especially if you’re trying to draw hiring authorities to it. Create it and they will come.
But how will you draw hiring authorities (recruiters, HR, and hiring managers) to your profile if you have an abysmal network? Someone with 87 connections will not create as many opportunities as someone with 500+ will.
Further, how will you show your expertise or thought leadership if you don’t engage with your connections. LinkedIn has stated that engaging with your network will increase your chances of appeasing the algorithm. In other words, a great profile and strong network still aren’t enough says LinkedIn.
So here’s the fact: they’re all important. And as one respondent to the poll surmised that choosing among the three “is like asking which of my children is my favorite.”
For me, the choice between the three is not that difficult. Engagement is what drives your LinkedIn campaign. But I also realize it’s tough for job seekers to put themselves out there; many have told me as much and it’s illustrated by their lack of engagement.
3rd place: focused, like-minded network
LinkedIn gives us mixed messages. On one hand it tells us to invite people we know and trust to our network. On the other hand, how do we create opportunities with a small network?
Job seekers need to look at building a network as a way to build relationships with people they DON’T know. Therein lie the opportunities. Only building a network with those you know and trust limits your ability to create these opportunities.
I see Introductions to potential connections as the ultimate gateway to possibilities. This requires strategy, though. As many LinkedIn pundits say, “You can’t just spray and pray.” You have to know who you want to connect with, who will help you in your job search.
One person called me on my definition of a quality network, which I call like-minded, where the people in your network have a lot in common. Said person claimed that my definition of a strong network is limited. They said like-minded would disqualified people from whom I could learn.
In my defense, I’m not suggesting that you only connect with people in your immediate family or friends. Those would be the people with 87 connections. When you’re in the job hunt you want to reach out to your former colleagues, people who work at your desired companies, recruiters in your industry, and the like.
I try to mix my network up with people in other industries like marketing, blogging, and academia. It wouldn’t make sense for the majority of my network to consist of engineers, lawyers, salespeople, accountants, etc. I wouldn’t be interested in their content, nor would they be interested in mine.
For people who make their living on the people in their network (I’m talking about career coaches, specifically), it makes great sense for them to branch out. Many career coaches I know have a diverse network of people who need their services. The occupations they don’t specialize in are referred to other career coaches.
2nd place: Your LinkedIn profile
Go figure, the profile isn’t as sexy as engagement. But I suppose this matters who you ask. Many of the people who chose engagement are those who are gainfully employed. The poll question begins with, “During the job search….” I guess this bit of clarification was overlooked.
Nonetheless, a profile that is optimized and brands you is important no matter your situation. Someone who’s in marketing or sales needs to be able to demonstrate their marketing or sales prowess to convince visitors of their credibility, correct?
A job seeker definitely has to have a profile that contains the proper keywords and delivers a value proposition. Branding is essential in the job search and this is where it starts. But branding also comes through thoughtful and consistent engagement. In fact, LinkedIn says your profile needs more than keywords:
More keywords aren’t always better – Our advice would be to avoid overfilling your profile with keywords and only include the keywords that best reflect your expertise and experience. If you integrate an extended list of keywords into your profile, it’s likely that your profile will be filtered out by our spam detection algorithms, which will negatively impact your appearance in search results.
I chose engagement as the most important component of the three. This leads me back to my statement above about thinking when you build it, they will come. Too many job seekers think this way. It’s like storing their resume on job boards like Indeed.com, Monster.com, and the others.
The winner: Engagement
I tell my clients that their profile is important, but it’s also important to engage with their network. Yet many of them don’t get it. I don’t think the “build it and they will come” attitude prevents them from engaging; I think they lack the confidence or don’t feel they have the right to express their expertise.
First of all, you have expertise in your field and, therefore, shouldn’t question your right to engage with your connections. One memorable client once told me this. He was the former director of communications for one of the largest school districts on the east coast. He was obviously a strong writer who had a lot to share.
My clients often ask me how they can engage with their connections. The first and most obvious way to engage is through personal messaging. You won’t reach as many people this way, but you can develop and nurture relationships.
Other ways to engage with your connections include:
1. Sharing and commenting on articles that will add value to them (just be sure to tag the writer of said article.
2. Writing long posts in which you express your thoughts and expertise.
3. Contribute to other’s long posts.
4. share photos and thoughtful captions.
5. and ask questions. These are a few ways to engage with your connections.
Easy peasy. Yet, it’s people like me and some of the others who voted for this component who are comfortable expressing their views. To call us exhibitionist would be crude, but maybe there’s a little bit of that going around.
In all fairness, I think the poll should have more clearly stated that those who voted must have thought about the LinkedIn campaign in terms of job seekers. Or at least more job seekers should have voted.
What some of the voters said
Virginia Franco: This is like asking which of my children is my favorite!!! No fair Bob McIntosh, CPRW! OK – if I have to pick I’d say the focused network – given that so many roles are filled through referral.
Hannah Morgan: Virginia Franco and Bob McIntosh, CPRW having a “meaningful” network is important. I don’t think that it necessarily needs to be consistent or Like-minded. Don’t we learn from those with diverse or different backgrounds? And how will we ever grow if we only “hang” with people who think like us? More importantly, growing our network with people who are in new industries or areas helps with survival (and career change).
Jennifer Bangoura: Wow! I am consistently surprised by these LinkedIn poll results – to me a focused network was the obvious choice, but I see I’m in the minority with that opinion 🙂 It seems like the other two options are of course important, but they ring a bit hollow if you’re not branding/engaging with the network you want to move into or galvanize. Interesting!
Jeff Young: 1st degree connection: Bob McIntosh, CPRW like many others, I think any ONE or TWO of these things is not going to make you successful. Therefore, I wish to cast my vote for all three. Since you forced me to vote for one above, I voted for Profile, because IMHO you have to start with that BEFORE you can work on the other two.
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Maureen McCann: They’re interconnected.
1. You could have the best profile, but if you don’t engage with your network, then all you have is some window dressing.
2. You could have a focused-network, but if your profile is weak, you’re making a not-so-stellar impression on each person in that network
3. You could engage with people consistently, but if you are engaging with people outside your target, are you spinning your wheels and wasting a lot of time?
This is a tough choice, Bob. I want to pick all three!
If I had to pick, I’d say Branding/Optimized profile, with the hope you’d use it to network with your target audience and engage them consistently.
Ana Lokotkova: I’d love to choose all three, because all of these are important parts of a well-crafted LinkedIn strategy. I’m leaning a bit more towards consistent engagement for 2 reasons:
1 – It amplifies the results the other two can get you,
2 – It’s the one thing so many people overlook while focusing on the other two points. Consistent engagement is that one secret sauce that separates people who get great results out of LinkedIn from the ones who don’t see any results and wonder what they’ve been doing wrong.
Jessica Hernandez: That’s a tough one because as you said, they’re all important. However, if you’re engaging on LinkedIn and building your network but your profile is empty or weak you’re only holding yourself back. I think having a branded profile is the most important so that you have a strong presence to point your network to when you’re job searching.
Austin Belcak: Consistent engagement for me Bob McIntosh, CPRW! I know people who have professional headshots, custom cover photos, amazing About sections and…nobody finds them because they don’t put themselves out there.
I also know people with bare bones profiles who are consistently showing up and engaging with others. They’re getting tons of opportunities.
The most powerful way to leverage this platform is by showing up for others. That’s how you build the focused/like-minded network.
Jim Peacock: I think your branding needs to be the 1st step, so that when you go to network, you look your best. And when you do your “consistent engagement” your brand is still representing you. If you don’t get the branding right, then your networking and engagement is compromised.
Heather Spiegel: I echo what Maureen said! It’s hard to really choose one. However, to flip things, I think people spend the least amount of time on consistent engagement. Because it’s hard and sometimes it’s uncomfortable. However, building your network and consistently learning from the feedback and insights of your connections (and continually gaining comfort with sharing your unique value proposition) is invaluable in advancing your job search.
Sarah Elkins (she, her): Consistent engagement demonstrates your values and skills if you do it well. That means explaining why you’re sharing content, posting original content, and adding value in your comments.
This is far more effective than telling people what you do!
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