LinkedIn has come a long way.
From its early days as little more than a glorified online résumé platform for professionals seeking employment to a "one stop shop" for industry news, training and networking worldwide, LinkedIn continues to try and adjust to the changing professional workplace.
The latest example is with its internal messaging system, which recently added a "smart" new feature that helps make conversing with prospective clients or employers on the platform even easier.
"Smart Replies" Come to LinkedIn
"Ever need a little inspiration and help to respond to incoming messages in a timely manner?" LinkedIn's Julie Inouye asked in a recent blog post. "LinkedIn smart replies will suggest personalized, relevant responses to make it easier for you to keep the conversation going, no matter how busy you are. The next time your teammate asks if you'd like to attend an event next week you may see smart reply suggestions, such as "Yes!," "What time?" or (emojis)."
Yes, emojis have made their way into your LinkedIn inbox.
"Ultimately, real-time communication is where we're headed online," LinkedIn Sales Solutions Executive Doug Camplejohn told me in a recent podcast interview. "Rather than sending something and then waiting for hours or even days to get a response."
Real Time Conversations = Engagement on LinkedIn
Here's why this approach makes sense: When you meet someone for the first time in real life, you have a casual, back-and-forth conversation.
You build some rapport, asking your prospect questions about his or her work (and non-work) life. You break the ice, building up a comfort level as the prospect gets to know, like and trust you.
In that vein, LinkedIn's messaging experience now feels more like texting with a friend instead of exchanging formal-sounding emails.
Back and forth you go, even having the ability to see the other person tying and replying in real-time.
LinkedIn's built-in "smart replies" feature (as this video demonstrates) comes up with words, phrases or even emojis you can click on and insert into your messages based on the other person's replies.
It's a slick, easy and intuitive feature, and I've noticed it becoming "smarter" over time as I use it more often in LinkedIn messages.
Conversation + Engagement = Sales
As nice as added features like this one are when it comes to messaging your ideal connections or potential clients online, it's still about the substance and camaraderie of your communication style more than anything else.
As one example, here are some best practices for messaging what I define as your "warmest" sales leads on LinkedIn.
Just like in real life, you still need to provide value, build up rapport and earn the right to ask a new connection for his or her time, interest and attention.
No amount of messaging features will replace these timeless truths of communication and conversation best practices, so make sure you follow those online with LinkedIn just like you do in real life!