Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Whether you are looking for opportunities or just keeping tabs on the industry, LinkedIn is abuzz with professional networking activity. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, as globally, there are over 740 million LinkedIn users. To stand out, you must shake things up, and this requires more than just dropping a like or comment here and there.
There’s plenty up for grabs for those willing to take the reins, as LinkedIn generates 46% of social traffic to B2B sites. This translates to untold billions in potential business, and the effects of successful networking transcend even raw numbers.
All it takes to become a thought leader is knowing how to use the tools at your disposal. Once you understand a few tips on maximizing the effects of the network, you’ll be well on your way to achieving expert status in your field.
1. Make full use of your photos
Images are a powerful tool on any social media platform, and on LinkedIn, it’s a matter of making both your profile and banner image pop in the right way. LinkedIn members with photos receive 21 times more profile views and nine times more connection requests. Having a brand logo just won’t cut it. You need a clean and professional image that projects competence.
There’s no need to overthink style with the profile picture. Going with a solid neutral background and professional dress is best. With the banner photo, think of it as a personal billboard. Use the free real estate to your advantage with taglines to reinforce your brand’s overall message.
2. Add honors, awards and accolades (in the right way)
Your profile should reflect all your relevant accomplishments, but there’s a delicate balance between being confident and boastful. List your credentials, such as college degree, number of years in your industry, and any awards and accolades you have gathered along the way.
Resist the urge to color these with too much commentary. Instead, simply state the title and year in which each was awarded, as the hardware alone will do the talking for you.
Avoid adding anything outdated or irrelevant, as these can seem needy and self-aggrandizing. This isn’t the image a thought leader projects, so be sure to stay relevant with your listing.
3. Say something new; show off your unique style
When choosing what to share, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel in terms of topics or needlessly stir the pot, as these have a high risk of backfiring eventually.
Make your voice unique when you decide to say something on the platform. Let others know how you feel about new developments in your industry. Posting regularly — about 20 posts per month — can help you reach 60% of your unique audience.
What you share instantly lets others know more about what areas are of interest to you and your personality and communication style. This matters immensely to those who are considering working with you. In addition, these talking points increase the reach of your network, which in time create conversations with others in your industry.
4. Create conversations with your audience
Putting forth quality content is one thing, but keeping the conversation going is how you solidify your network and, eventually your status as a leader.
Ask questions others will legitimately be interested in answering and do prior research to show you aren’t just blindly reaching out to every connection. These are far more likely to garner a response, and these kinds of back and forth draws positive attention to your profile.
The inverse is true as well. You should actively comment on your connection’s posts as well. Whether public or private, creating conversations with your audience is necessary for those looking to attain expert status on LinkedIn.
5. Share news relevant to your industry
When big stories break that directly impact your industry, sharing them on your platform helps your account’s visibility. New updates on LinkedIn have made doing so easier than ever, and these types of posts have the potential to go even further than personal stories.
Not only can you comment on what it might mean for your sector, but it is also an easy opportunity for others to chime in. Furthermore, being a hub of industry news means that in time others will look to you for advice, which cements your status as an expert.
If possible, use video formats with these posts, as these tend to be shared about 20 times more than any other post. This kind of exposure for your profile functions as free marketing and again reinforces your name to newcomers as someone not just familiar but active in their industry. Positive attention like this opens all kinds of doors, as you never know who might be interested in your take on things.
The path to becoming a trusted thought leader isn’t a mystery but a science. It simply requires time, research and capitalizing on the moment, but these are all well within reach for those willing to put forth the effort.