For many years I've been telling job seekers that engaging with their LinkedIn network is one of the three important pieces required to be successful using this professional online networking platform. I explain that simply being active is not as effective as engaging; there are differences.
An analogy comes to mind: you're being active if you're simply showing up for a party you were encouraged to attend. You nod hello to the people there and have superficial conversations. You know the feeling; you don't really want to be there.
Carrying the analogy further; you arrive at a party, immediately greet everyone with enthusiasm, make some small talk with five or six people, then join a group of people who are deep into conversation about a current event. You add your input when appropriate. The conversation stirs some emotion in you. You are engaged.
Being active vs. being engaged
It's possible to be active on LinkedIn, while not being engaged. We'll look at certain activities that illustrate this. The first two examples are reacting to what others post.
1. Liking what others write
Active —Many have complained that just Liking an update and not commenting on it is not enough. I'm guilty of doing this on occasion, leaving me with a feeling of being lazy. It's so easy to press that Like icon and not giving the post another thought. This is the ultimate example of simply being active, not engaged.
Engaged —To be engaged, you must read the post, interpret it's message, and then Comment on said post. Do this first and then Like it. The poster will appreciate that you took the time to read their post. This can lead to further communications between you and the poster.
2. Writing comments
Active —You Liked an update and wrote a comment, but your comment just didn't have the oomph the "author" deserved. Here's an example: "Great post, Susan. Thanks." This shows very little engagement and makes the poster wonder what you really thought about the post.
Engaged —When you're engaged, you elaborate further and demonstrate that you read the post, processed it, and respond to it in detail. For example:
"Great post, Susan. Your statement about a company lacking a social media campaign being akin to living in the dark ages really resonated with me. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other platforms can create that 'like, know, and trust' relationship between the company and its' customers. You're also correct in stating that all platforms should be connected, as well as linked to and from the company's website."
Note : always remember to tag a person with @name so they will be notified in LinkedIn's Notifications . I was scolded once for not doing this.
The next examples of engagement are being proactive, rather than reacting to what others share.
3. Sharing posts
Active —Sharing posts for the sake of sharing posts is being active. Your connections will see what you've shared, but if the content is shallow and provides no value, your posts will not leave an impression on your connections. You won't get the Likes you so desire.
Engaged —To stay top of mind, your shared posts must show engagement. LinkedIn encourages you to share an article, video, photo, or idea. Take the opportunity to engage with your network by providing valuable content to them; content that elicits responses. A sign that you've succeeded would be the number of Likes and, more importantly, Comments you receive.
One type of update I find successful is asking an illuminating question. If you're going to do this, be diligent in replying to your connections' and followers' responses. Failing to reply to your connections who answer your question does not demonstrate engagement. I am impressed with people who take the time to answer every reply they receive. I try to reply to all the feedback but, alas, I am only human.
4. Sharing articles
Active —Sharing articles without explaining why you're sharing it is an example of being active on LinkedIn. Some people will share an article and leave it at that. I've been guilty of doing this and feel lazy when I do it. For the most part, I go a step further.
Engaged —Going a step further means you share others' articles with a short synopsis on the message it delivers, showing engagement. This says, "I've taken the time to read the article, understand its meaning, and will elaborate on it for the benefit of the readers."
5. Writing and sharing your articles
Active —Using LinkedIn's Write an article , feature is a great way to demonstrate your expertise. However, using this feature to advertise an event or for promotional purposes is being active. You're not thinking about the value, or lack thereof, your article holds.
Engaged —Writing an article with unique and fresh content takes engagement; it shows you've considered what your audience would benefit from. My primary audience is job seekers and career coaches, so I write articles focusing on the job search and using LinkedIn in the job search. I know I've been successful when people react to what I've written.
Note : refrain from only sharing your own articles. This gives off the sense of superiority.
I include creating and sharing videos under being engage. This is a fairly new concept—probably a year old by now—but it's catching hold among LinkedIn members. If you are going to share videos, make sure you're consistent and produce videos your network will appreciate.
6. Sending direct messages
Active —The "One and done" message is the ultimate example of being active. Sure, you're going through the process of writing to your new connection, but there's no intent to develop the relationship. An example is, "Hi Claudia. It's great being connected. Perhaps we can be of mutual assistance." That's it; there's no interaction beyond this. Sound familiar?
Engaged —On the other hand, if you send the initial message and reply back to the recipient. Or if you continue to send messages but the other person doesn't respond, there are two thoughts. First, you are trying to engage with your connection. Second, take the hint and stop sending messages.
Engaged —I'm brought back to the party analogy, where the person simply shows up and makes no effort to engage. I'm talking about going beyond the conversations you have with your LinkedIn connections. Yes, they constitute engagement; but there's no effort to solidify the relationship.
Truly engaged —To truly show engagement, you must follow up with your connections. I have developed many relationships by reaching out to them via telephone, if they live a distance away, or meeting them, if they don't live that far away. One of my connections and I had been exchanging discussions via LinkedIn. Yesterday we had our first phone conversation. Although we will not do business together, it was great finally "meeting" her on the phone.