After the two years we’ve just had, you’d be forgiven for hoping that 2022 be in-person only. But whether or not you’ve embraced the smart top-jogging bottoms combination, there’s no getting away from online networking. If you want to extend your sphere of influence, generate leads, and access opportunities, you simply can’t go afford to be offline. And if lead generation is what you’re after, it should be on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn has been growing steadily since its founding in 2002, reaching 33 million UK members in 2022. It is also the most trusted social media platform. Among the main social media platforms, it is unique in being expressly professional. This is a great opportunity; but it is also a trap for aspiring influencers. No one is on LinkedIn for the sheer pleasure of it. We all want something out of it.

94% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn as a content distribution channel, more than any other platform.

LinkedIn

People are still people, and we don’t want to feel like we are being sold to. If you get your messaging wrong, you are sure to get ignored. So, how do you get the most out of LinkedIn without looking shamelessly self-serving?

The Secret to Selling Without Selling: Other Peoples’ Posts

55 million companies are on LinkedIn.

33% of B2B decisionmakers use LinkedIn to research purchases.

Hootsuite

So what’s the key to building your network on LinkedIn without looking like a tosser? It’s actually very simple. Engage with other people’s post. No, I don’t mean hijacking the conversation. I mean contributing.

Think about it. What gives you the warmest, fuzziest feeling when you’re posting on social media? Of course – it’s receiving recognition from others. When someone likes, shares, or comments on your post, you feel seen. It’s even better when they share something insightful, or relate to a problem you’re having, recommend you to someone you don’t know, or give you praise for something you hadn’t even considered. It doesn’t just make you appreciate that other person – it makes you feel better about yourself, too.

Active listening may just be the secret to getting seen on LinkedIn. It takes away some of the burden of coming up with fresh content ideas. Instead, you can be reactive and tap into what is happening in your industry. The algorithm will reward you for engaging with other people’s posts, you will get better visibility, and the people in your network will appreciate your input. When opportunities come up, you will be front of mind. It means giving up on static templates, cold calling, and generic messages. But you’ll see that investing in relationships will pay off.

But What About My Own Content?

Absolutely – if you want to build your brand and win leads, it’s not just about other people’s ideas. You want to be seen as an expert in your own right. So how can you share your professional perspective while avoiding the humblebrag?

55% of decisionmakers use thought leadership to vet the organisations they work with.

LinkedIn

One of the worst things about LinkedIn is the constant stream of self-congratulatory posts. It ranges from businessowners talking about their own leadership in the third person, to managers describing the shocked gratitude they received from their team for upholding basic standards of human decency. Even the reaction buttons are unrelentingly positive, or, at most, passive-aggressively “curious”.

In short, you can’t rely on other people to tell you when you are being insufferable. So if you want to look like a decent human being, try using my little list.

Not Looking Like a Tosser on LinkedIn: 12 Easy Steps

DO DON’T
✓ Engage with others’ posts. ✕ Talk only about yourself.
✓ Run your idea by someone before posting. ✕ Write about yourself in the third person.
✓ Share problems and ask for input. ✕ Spam strangers.
✓ Share meaningful milestones. ✕ Act like you’re on a dating app.
✓ Tap into debates in your industry. ✕ Send generic connection requests.
✓ Use varied media, like video and images. ✕ Start a podcast (no, really, I mean it).

My personal rule of thumb is to share the things that actually occupy my thoughts. That might seem blindingly obvious, but it actually works as a litmus test. When I’m worried about something, or enthusiastic, or puzzled, it sticks in my mind. That can be a training session that I’ve worked hard on and am both apprehensive and excited about delivering, or a stalemate on a project that I don’t know how to resolve. Those ‘problems’ make the best LinkedIn posts – because they are unresolved, there is space for other people to weigh in and contribute. And after all, that is what LinkedIn is for: a space for professionals to share their experiences, meet like-minded people, and discover new work.