When it comes to getting ahead—that is, landing better and better jobs and/or growing your business—the old cliché is so true: It’s all about who you know.
That is, it’s all about networking.
It used to be that networking took place in meeting rooms at your local Denny’s or some such establishment. The monthly Rotary Club gathering. The internet changed all that. Now people network online.
There are hundreds of places on the internet to network on personal matters. But the premier platform for business networking is LinkedIn. Number two is . . . well, don’t even worry about number two. They’re too insignificant to bother with.
Millions upon millions of businesspeople use LinkedIn every day to form mutually beneficial relationships—or “connections” as they’re known on LinkedIn. The point of LinkedIn is not to have the largest list of connections, the way people amass their list of followers on, say, Facebook. You only want to connect with people on LinkedIn you want to network with—someone you can help or vice versa.
Your connections are the people you’ll be building trust with through your activity on LinkedIn. To whom do you send a connection request? Include these types of people:
- Coworkers and colleagues, past and present
- Members of LinkedIn groups you belong to
- People you met at seminars, workshops, etc.
- Industry leaders you can learn from.
Every time you log on to LinkedIn, the program suggests a host of people you’re probably going to want to connect with, based on their experience and skills.
To make a person a connection on LinkedIn, you have to send them a formal request through the platform. They’ll be more likely to respond favorably to your request if you take a few minutes to write an accompanying note. Doesn’t have to be lengthy. Show you’ve looked over their LinkedIn profile. Maybe mention something you have in common. End by saying, “I’d appreciate the opportunity to connect with you on LinkedIn.”
Do not make a sales pitch of any kind in this message. That’s a great way to get your request discarded. There will be time to do that as your online relationship progresses.
How to get started with LinkedIn
Your “home page” on LinkedIn is your profile. “Joining” LinkedIn means creating a profile on LinkedIn. It’s easy—but take it seriously. A good profile—or an “All-Star Profile” as LinkedIn calls them—will make you findable on Linkedin.
There are several parts to a LinkedIn profile:
The most important part of your profile is what’s “above the fold,” to use the newspaper term—that is, the stuff at the top of your profile, specifically, your personal photo, your banner photo, and your headline/tagline.
Experts say you only have about three seconds to impress someone on LinkedIn. They glance at the items above the fold on your profile and they ask themselves these questions:
- Is this person “for real?”
- Do they “know their stuff?”
- Can they help me?
- Can I help them?
All within three seconds.
So it behooves you to get this “above the fold” stuff right.
Banner photo The banner photo is a rectangular photo that covers much of the top of the screen of your profile page. It’s also known as your cover photo. Often, people will use a photo of the geographical market they serve, a downtown skyline perhaps—or maybe a visual representation of their market. For example, a person who sells into the printing market could have a close-up of a printing press. Sometimes, people will have gone onto a service such as Canva and created a cover photo that is a graphic with some verbiage on it—perhaps their personal motto or their competitive difference, something to catch the eye in those crucial first three seconds. It’s pretty painless. You can be done in 10 minutes.
Sadly, you see too many profiles that use visually appealing yet irrelevant photos. Sometimes the graphics they create are fuzzy or otherwise illegible. If your “art” doesn’t immediately explain itself, then you’ve probably lost that person. They’ll look at the profile of the next person in their LinkedIn search results. Some people don’t put anything in the banner photo space—so it defaults to LinkedIn’s grey placeholder graphic, which screams, “I don’t pay attention to details!” How’s that for a first impression?
Personal photo This is a professional-style photo. That’s not to say you have to hire a professional photographer. The cameras on our phones are capable of taking amazing portraits that require no more than your ability to aim and click. Have a friend in the office do it for you. And be shown in business attire, not your AC/DC T-shirt. Smile broadly and look straight into the camera.
Headline/tagline This is where you say who you are and what you do, not necessarily your job title. The point is to get people’s attention and make them want to learn more about you. Grab their interest during those three seconds.
A great approach is to state what value you bring to your ideal client. Something like, “I build families’ dream homes.”
After/beneath that you can list complementary verbiage—maybe services you provide or words that highlight your competitive difference.
The headline/tagline is a great spot for keywords. Keywords are phrases related to your job and industry and experience. Also, keywords are the phrases someone would type into LinkedIn’s search field if they were looking for you—finish carpenter, for example.
You have 200 characters total for the headline/tagline so don’t be shy about using every single last character. It will help you get found.
About section This is the second-most important part of your profile after the stuff above the fold. It’s where you talk about your solutions to your ideal client’s problems.
Your About section should be centered on your ideal client, showing that you understand their problems and you have a history of solving those problems.
Also, this is where you should put the keywords that people are using to search on LinkedIn.
At the end of the About section, there should be a call to action. It should be concise, straightforward, and clear about what you want your readers to do after reading your summary. Do you want them to send you a LinkedIn message or check out your website?
Your About section can be up to 2,000 characters.
Endorsements and recommendations This is where you put what’s known as “social proof”—that is, where other people affirm how great you are.
In the endorsements section, you list your most important skills (in the client’s eyes) and then have clients and others endorse you for that skill. It’s a great idea to place your keywords in your skills/endorsements section.
In the recommendations section, well-wishers (typically clients and people you’ve worked with) write brief testimonials to your virtues.
Obviously, the more endorsements and recommendations you have, the more impressive it is.
After you set up your LinkedIn profile, you’re going to want to join a number of groups related to your industry. LinkedIn groups provide a place for professionals in the same industry or with similar interests to share their insights and experiences, ask for guidance, and build valuable connections. You can find groups to join by searching at the top of your homepage or viewing the groups you’ve already joined.
Here are some really good construction LinkedIn groups you’re probably going to want to join:
- Linking Construction This popular group is a global forum with more than 159,000 construction professionals.
- Construction Project Manager This is a forum where professionals in civil engineering and construction project management share their views and experiences.
- Construction Who’s Who This page touts itself as the world’s largest social media network for the construction industry.
- Your chapter of the Associated General Contractors of American and Associated Builders and Contractors.
Building your personal brand on LinkedIn by posting content
You’re building a personal brand on LinkedIn. That is, you become known for certain achievements, skills, and areas of expertise. You become known as the “go-to person” in some field.
The phrase is Thought Leader.
How is this done?
You don’t become a Thought Leader by just interacting with individuals on LinkedIn. You become a Thought Leader on LinkedIn by regularly posting content.
What is content? Information. Expertise. Insights. This can take the form of the following:
- posting a link to a thought-provoking magazine article, blog post, or video. You’re trying to show people that you’re “in the know” and “up to speed” on the latest in the industry—someone worthy of connecting with. It’s simple to find articles and videos to post on LinkedIn. One thing you can do is create a set of Google Alerts. That is, you tell Google to grab any articles/video it finds related to certain topics or keywords you’ve selected. Then every time Google finds one, it sends it to your email inbox. Also, LinkedIn has a Content Suggestion Tool. Either way, make sure to include a comment on your reaction to the article/video. Too many people on LinkedIn forward articles and videos without a comment. If you’re not impressed enough with the article/video to say a few words about how it affected you, no one else is going to waste their time reading/viewing it.
- posting about your company’s history. Tell stories about challenges you’ve faced and how you’ve overcome them. People love stories.
- posting “status reports.” Busy with demolition? Working on drywall? Just starting a framing job? Let your connections know about it—with images.
- posting when you complete a new project you’re particularly proud of, making a point to note those “extra” touches you and your team added that sent the client over the moon. Make sure to add plenty of photos of the project or maybe even a smartphone video—a guided tour of the project, perhaps?
- reposting a post from one of your connections, making sure to add a few introductory thoughts from yourself.
- posting a “long-form” blog post you wrote on a hot industry topic that will resonate with people in your industry—perhaps your hard-won insights of a common pain point your ideal clients face. This looks interesting! Who is this person? Long-form can mean anywhere from 1,000 words to 5,000 words. Don’t have time to write a long-form post yourself? Hire a ghostwriter on LinkedIn. Search for LinkedIn ghostwriter and find one with construction industry experience. Easy peasy. Here’s a good example of a long-form post: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/changing-face-skilled-trades-kevin-desmond/
- Adding insightful comments to content posted by your connections, the type of comments a Thought Leader would make—the type of comments that other people post comments about.
Some added points about adding any kind of content:
- Whenever you post content on LinkedIn, try to have a piece of “art” to go with it—a photo or an illustration. There are a number of places on the internet you can download free photos and illustrations without violating anyone’s copyright—unsplash.com for example. (
- Whenever someone comments on your content or “likes” your comment, it represents an opportunity for you to form or nurture a relationship with them. First off, always thank them for the comment. Then add a few insightful words about their comment, maybe closing with a question to extend the conversation. (After a while, an adept Social Seller, you’ll say, “Why don’t we set up a time to meet in person and discuss this?”)
- Always include hashtags with your content. What are hashtags? A word or phrase preceded by a hash sign (#), used on social media websites and applications to earmark digital content on a specific topic. Many people search on LinkedIn using hashtags.
- LinkedIn advocates the 4-1-1 Rule when comes to the breakdown of your content: For every one original piece of content you share about your brand, share one update from another source, and four reposted pieces of content published by others. This way, you stay “top of mind” for your connections on LinkedIn but you don’t burn yourself out by trying to produce original content from scratch every day.
Construction industry professionals are relatively new to LinkedIn. Some are still reluctant to join a social media channel they think is built exclusively for marketers and tech specialists. Networking on LinkedIn is important to meet construction professionals who share the same goals and interests as you. When you connect with them, you’re not only adding a new friend to your list but a possible business partner or client.
If you’re in the industry and you’d like to boost your online presence, this is the right time to do it. Create a LinkedIn profile, share content, and network with other pros to expand your connections.
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