In less than 20 years, LinkedIn has become the go-to site for professional networking. 

But it's also become far more than that. Nowadays LinkedIn is also a:

  • Sales platform
  • Recruiting platform
  • News platform
  • Blogging platform
  • Video platform

I can vouch personally for the platform. When I first ventured out on my own many years ago, I leveraged LinkedIn to help build my network, hone my writing chops, and establish relationships. In fact, this column is a result of a relationship I initially began on LinkedIn.

Nowadays, readers reach out to me all the time, asking the same question:

How can I use LinkedIn to help grow my business?

Since the platform has changed so much over the years, I wanted to speak with an expert. So I reached out to Kristin Sherry, founder of Virtus Career Consulting and author of YouMap: Find Yourself. Blaze Your Path. Show the World!

I met Kristin over LinkedIn, and I've seen personally how she's leveraged the platform to build her network and explode her business--one quality relationship at a time.

Here are Kristin's top tips on how you can start using LinkedIn effectively:

Engage with commenters

When Kristin shares a post or video, it tends to have one of the highest engagement rates of anyone I've seen on the platform. 

But that type of engagement doesn't come about by chance. It's hard work--but work that pays off in the currency of increased visibility and opportunity.

"People are generous with their time to comment on my posts because I spend time commenting on other posts," says Sherry. "I don't use LinkedIn to simply broadcast to my connections and followers--LinkedIn is a two way street."

"I always acknowledge people who take time to comment. Sometimes it's a 'like' or a thank you. Other times I ask questions about what they've shared or offer affirmation or support."

Give, give, give

"When I write a post, I'm not focused on me or what I can get," Sherry explains.

"Keep your focus on your reader or viewer. Before posting, ask yourself: 'What can I share that will be relevant, interesting, and useful to others?' People prefer content they can use, or act on. One of the most common comments I receive from people is, 'I appreciate that you always have actionable advice.'"

"And people can always tell the difference between a giver and a taker."

Ask for engagement

Instead of only posting her own experiences or insights, Sherry asks people to share their experience and opinion. 

"Because I've also shared my experience," she says, "it makes it easier for them to share theirs."

By directly asking for this type of engagement, Sherry encourages more comments and shares--often from those who may not have taken the time to do so otherwise. That increased interaction helps multiply the reach of her posts and videos.

Don't be a slave to numbers

"Getting caught up in 'likes' creates the wrong focus," says Sherry.

"I may have fewer followers than official LinkedIn Influencers, but I often have more robust engagement on my posts. That's because people know I'll be down there with them in the comments section, so it's worth their time to share."

"As far as viral posts go," she continues, "in my experience, they produce lower quality engagement. First, you're spread too thin to meaningfully engage. Second, the post doesn't scale well, making it difficult to find and respond to new comments. Third, viral posts attract spam comments and negative comments from people who don't have a relationship with, or care about, you."

This is a major takeaway for those who are just starting out with LinkedIn. Remember that it's not the one viral hit that's going to do wonders for your business. It's not even about getting the most views on your content.

Rather, it's all about getting the right views. Because if the right person finds your content useful, they could become a lifelong customer.

Experiment with LinkedIn video

Live and recorded video is the newest addition to the LinkedIn platform, and it's proven to have a huge impact so far.

For example, Sherry says that while her videos typically garner fewer views than her text posts, they generate more connection requests, followers, and profile views. One recent video had just under 10,000 views (a modest number compared to many of Sherry's written posts), but that video led to a 999% increase in profile views over the previous week.

So what advice does Sherry have for those experimenting with video?

"Work on videos for topics that won't fit neatly in the 1,300 post character limit," she says. 

"Video better supports storytelling. I always ask myself what topic will add value to people I want to reach."

Sherry also advises repurposing content from written posts. "You don't need to create new content every day. Your brand is built through repeat, consistent messaging. Same message, different stories."

Sherry also doesn't recommend scripting a video out word-for-word. 

"Scripting can lead you to come across wooden, or create more takes because you're trying to stick to exact words," she says. "Discuss topics with which you're very familiar so scripting is unnecessary."

As for technical points, Sherry advises filming in a quiet place with good lighting. No expensive equipment necessary, though. A standard smartphone will do. 

"My goal is to connect with viewers so I'm not extremely formal with video. So far, so good."