Use LinkedIn wiselyLinkedIn can be great for networking, but only if you know how to use it efficiently. Think about this – if you reached out to any one of your contacts today, would he or she be willing to help you achieve your goals? If you’re not sure, you may want to consider strengthening your relationship. If you already have strong relationships with your contacts and can rely on them, then you want to keep it that way. Here are some tips for staying connected with current and future contacts.

1. Set Goals. Go beyond collecting contacts. Before you accept a LinkedIn invitation or invite someone to join your network, identify a specific reason for connecting. Do you simply want to get back in touch? Are you looking to hire? Or, are you searching for career opportunities? Be sure to think about how you might be able to help a potential contact and not just what that individual may be able to do for you. You can set the tone for your future relationships by making your goals as clear as possible during your initial interaction. Share your goals in person, in a personalized LinkedIn invitation, or by using the “Advice for Contacting” section.

2.  Promote. Consider writing a captivating, detailed, and genuine recommendation for one of your contacts. In addition to writing recommendations, there are other ways to promote someone’s work. Not too long ago, LinkedIn added a feature that allows you to endorse your contacts for certain skills. Consider your level of expertise and your relationship to the person you want to endorse or recommend. In some situations, recommending or endorsing a contact for skills you are not familiar with or have yet to develop may have an effect that is the opposite of what you intended.

3. Share. Become familiar with what interests your contacts by paying attention to their posts, comments, and group activity. If you are connected to a contact through other networking sites, use those platforms as additional opportunities to enhance your relationship. Also, comment on posts. When contacts post something, it can usually be taken as a sign that they are inviting you to interact with them. You don’t have to agree with everything your contacts post, but remember to be tactful. Consider sending your contacts articles or information about events that might be of interest to them. Think quality over quantity and don’t clog their inbox, though. If your contacts don’t thank you or follow up, it could be a sign that they prefer not to receive such content.

4.  Monitor. When contacts post about their promotion, a new job, an award, or a publication, congratulate them. You can also just ask your contacts how things are going and then update them on your professional endeavors. People get busy sometimes, but make a mental note of how long it takes your contacts to get back to you. If they never respond, or don’t return your message after a substantial amount of time, you may want to reconsider keeping that individual in your network. The same applies if you never or begrudgingly reply to a message a contact has sent you.

5.  Engage Offline. Arrange to meet up at professional events. If you unexpectedly run into a contact, spend some time catching up. If there’s no time, schedule a more convenient time to talk. Additionally, if you and a contact are having an interesting exchange online, you could suggest meeting in person to continue the conversation.

Being a LION (ESS) does not make you king or queen of the networking jungle. To make the most of LinkedIn, your relationships with individuals in your network must have meaning. So before you head to your next networking event, accept or send a LinkedIn invitation, make sure you take the time to start your relationship off on the right track.

The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only.