Written By: 

This year I learned a simple truth – LinkedIn can change your professional life. It did change mine. Its little miracles created unbelievable opportunities beyond my immediate online universe in 2014: from working through with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh to meeting influential social entrepreneurs and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for worthy non-profit causes – LinkedIn did it all. In my last article for this year, I selected some of the most powerful stories that happened to me because of LinkedIn. With tips on how you can replicate them, I hope that these stories will inspire you to use this platform more broadly in 2015.

1. Keys to LinkedIn Publishing Platform Success: Short Interviews, Useful Content and Regular Writing Makes a Difference

I started publishing on LinkedIn on May 28 with an article on connecting my passion for cooking with the creative process. Surprise, surprise, my article did not receive much traction (after all, who’d want to learn how to cook fish soup?!)

This experience taught me that I need to focus on my audience’s interests more directly. I interviewed prominent bloggers and experts on how to create great blogs, and in about a month I came up with the article: Writing the Blog Article of Your Life. It was published in June and it got over 9,000 hits. The secret of its success was simple – people were interested in learning how to write a great blog post, and it also had a personal focus on Max Skibinsky, a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

Another article, which went above and beyond was related to a bright and talented startuper and entrepreneur, Igor Shoifot. His enthusiastic advice to startupers in my Ignore Skeptics: 4 Tips on How to Make Your First Startup a Million Dollar Success went even higher than Skibinsky’s interview to over 10,000 views! I loved Igor’s line – “ignore skeptics but listen to experts.”

Why did these articles work so well?

These were short interviews, perfect for busy LinkedIn people, had catchy headlines, and useful content. What if you don’t interview someone famous? It doesn’t have to be Oprah or Alex Ovechkin. A local or regional celebrity would be perfect, as long as you have enough connections to spread it around.

If it’s not an interview, a personal touchpoint in the introduction is powerful. For example, my most viewed article The Power of Asking (12,000+ views) started with a homeless man whom I saw standing on the road intersection in Richmond. The article connected my passion for learning with passion for fundraising. I completed it just in a few hours. (And yes, you can call this being in “the Flow.”)

2. LinkedIn Status Updates: Share, Share, and Share – You Can’t Overshare Helpful Content

For my LinkedIn status updates, this year wasn’t any different. In terms of the number of views and comments, quotes beat anything. Even your best content. Why? Because people want to be cheered up – there is so much chaos in the world, there is so much pain in everyday life, that people want to feel encouraged. Help them by sharing some great quotes. You can even come up with your own!

When I do my LinkedIn status updates, I always start and end my day with a good motivational quote. The next comes some relevant article links. Again, my favorites remain Inc., Forbes, Fast Company and HBR.

Advice: Share, share, and share – you can’t overshare helpful content. People will appreciate it. Be a good curator.

3. LinkedIn InMail Key to Success: Write Short Targeted Messages to Decision Makers

I can’t emphasize it enough – to get your project supported, raise funds for your non-profit, sell your product or service, or find a reliable business partner, you must reach out to decision makers. Shoot for the top, even if you need to write a letter to the Dalai Lama, President Obama or Bill Gates.

I’ve always admired Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, and the author of Delivering Happiness, a bestselling book. He is a visionary, creative leader and plain down-to-earth man.

So what do you do when you want to meet this kind of person who might have no time for someone outside of his business circle? Of course, unless you know someone who works for Zappos, you hit LinkedIn.

In my case, it was helpful that I worked at a great non-profit with a similar mission, and that we also were considering a project in Las Vegas.

I sat down at my computer, and got to InMail and penned a short message to Tony, just three short paragraphs (intro, why we need to meet and how this will help both sides).

Tony connected me with his Las Vegas staff and arranged for a tour of Zappos, and a meeting with his team, which resulted in a joint community engagement project.

Apart from that, Tony also helped with my article on connecting the dots. It’s amazing what InMail and your attitude can do. You should have that can-do attitude!

Again, Tony is just one example. I was able to meet so many remarkable people through LinkedIn this year – from CEOs of large corporations to famous speakers, philanthropists and visionaries.

Advice: To maximize your InMail outreach capacity, make sure that you aim for the top.

4. Meet Your Peers As Much As You Can – Even If They Live in Tasmania!

You say you don’t have time to meet up with your friends in your own city. Well, my story is slightly different – wherever I travel, I try to connect with people from my LinkedIn network. People do the same when they’re in my town too.

I just had a coffee with my LinkedIn contact from Tasmania! Yes, that’s right – that exotic island none of us will probably visit in our lifetime! I met Susanne Schantz a couple of years ago via LinkedIn when I really needed a top animation expert for our U.S.-Japan educational project. Susanne and her business partner lead Small Island Studio, a creative digital marketing agency that uses images and words to bring business stories to life. The agency employs top artists, script writers and software engineers and pulls together some remarkable animations for an ever-growing list of international clients.

Opportunity comes to those who seek: it turns out that Susanne is from the DC area and comes to visit her family once a year. And since I was in the city, I couldn’t miss this chance to meet someone who did such a marvelous job and also comes from such a remote distance!

Advice: Make sure that you meet at least one LinkedIn contact each month offline. It will be magical, I promise. You’ll find so much to talk about, share your perspective and cement your connection.

5. Use Your LinkedIn Presence to Help Someone Special

When I faced an enormous professional challenge to raise a significant amount in a short timeframe in Richmond, a city where I had never been before and had no prior connections except for one LinkedIn contact (!), I knew I needed time to get to know local people, appreciate the city, and volunteer for some good causes.

Well, thanks to my only LinkedIn contact in Richmond, I met with an incredible couple who decided to transform the world one community at a time. Richard Luck and Sarah Mullens created a social venture, UnBoundRVA, a non-profit that helps talented individuals from low-income families in Richmond become entrepreneurs.

When I met the UnBoundRVA group, I immediately wanted to help them because they were so inspirational. I asked Richard and Sarah if I could interview them all and write a LinkedIn article, and if it would help? Indeed it did. The article was widely shared through Facebook and other social media and helped build grassroots awareness for this worthy cause.

During my interaction with John, Carolyn, Miles and other UnBoundRVA entrepreneurs, I was reminded that nothing can beat the power of the human spirit. LinkedIn helped me meet these incredible people, and I am so thankful for that.

Advice: Don’t be selfish, use your LinkedIn network to help someone in need.

6. Groups are Made for Socializing: Actively Help Your Fellow Members Reach Their Goals

The sad reality is that a good percentage of LinkedIn users are passive in whatever groups they choose to join. It really makes me wonder – why would you want to waste your LinkedIn real estate (you are limited to 50 groups) to keep your lonely avatar in those groups?

If you are a group member, take part in discussions at least once a week, actively “like” your peer content, make sure that you share your articles and links to great resources with group members. It does create a compound effect. In just a few months with the right strategy you will be seen as an expert in your field, and also a good connector. And believe me, both skills add to your social capital.

For example, I thoroughly enjoy one of my groups – LinkedIn Publishers and Bloggers. In particular, its founder John White and managers, Elizabeth Jeanne Dehn, and Dr. Alex Iniguez have done a tremendous job in creating a truly engaging group, in which people help each other with writing tips and strategies for using the LinkedIn Publishing Platform. Active bloggers who provide constructive feedback on your articles serve as a great sounding board. Kudos to Arnie McKinnis and Milos Djukic, and many others! The good news – you can benefit from this group as well! Join the group, and you’ll see results very soon.

My latest success story with the group happened through John White, who recently joined CareerToolBox, an online career development portal, and invited me to feature my blog articles as a guest writer. I shared my article on how you can use your visual thinking skills to get a job on the spot, and it was a great hit. Lovely, isn’t it? You can be successful with your group when you truly engage, connect and share. Try it today. It works.

Here is My LinkedIn 2014 Summary for You:

  1. Keys to LinkedIn Publishing Platform Success: Short Interviews, Useful Content and Regular Writing Makes a Difference
  2. LinkedIn Status Updates: Share, Share, and Share – You Can’t Overshare Helpful Content
  3. LinkedIn InMail Key to Success: Write Short Targeted Messages to Decision Makers
  4. Meet Your Peers As Much As You Can – Even If They Live in Tasmania!
  5. Use Your LinkedIn Presence to Help Someone Special
  6. Groups are Made for Socializing: Actively Help Your Fellow Members Reach Their Goals

Like what you’ve been reading? Click here to get more!

Andrey Gidaspov is a published author, fundraiser, and a passionate “dot connector.” He is passionate about connecting people and ideas, creating new social ventures and helping non-profits find new funding streams. 

Follow him on Twitter (@AndreyGidaspov) and check out his blog (www.gidaspov.com) for more useful tips on creativity, innovative marketing and fundraising.

We hope you enjoyed this post! For the latest in personal branding, job and career-related updates, please consider following on Facebook at CareerToolboxUSA or join us on LinkedIn.