With close to 600 million users worldwide, of which half are active monthly, LinkedIn has become the platform of choice to generate business leads.
Chances are you are already using LinkedIn to get in touch with prospective clients, and if you are reading this, potential investors.
The problem is, you’re not the only one.
Those who are on the right side of the checkbook (i.e., holding the pen) are besieged with so many requests, they barely respond to them anymore.
Investors, in particular, are known to dislike LinkedIn messaging. So how are you supposed to get through to them?
> Here are four tested steps to use LinkedIn effectively to get a meeting with investors.
Hint: it takes more effort than you’ve been putting in so far. But the payout will be bigger, too.
1. Don’t Use LinkedIn Messaging
Many angel investors and VCs are quite vocal about the fact they don’t answer to LinkedIn requests.
Early-stage VC firm M8 Ventures even went as far as publishing a Medium post titled “Do VCs Mind You Pitching Them On LinkedIn?“.
The answer: Yes, they do mind — a lot.
Other VCs specifically mention on their LinkedIn profile that they don’t reply to LinkedIn requests.
They usually indicate an email where founders should send their pitch decks.
Why do so? These investors most probably built an efficient funnel to (dis)qualify deal flow opportunities, and want you to enter it through the same end as everyone else.
In the remainder of this post, we assume you know how to target investors likely to show interest in your startup.
If you can’t wait that long and want to learn effective methods to contact investors, you can pre-order our dedicated SMS course here. You get a sweet 50% early-bird discount, too! The course will roll out within a couple of weeks.
> The discount is offered to the first ten buyers only.
You will get one SMS per day for 30 days, one quiz per week, and daily companion material to go further. You can sample the companion material for the lesson titled “Using Linkedin” here. We explain how to use Sales Navigator to build your investors list. (Scroll down the page to the link marked “sample lesson”.)
2. Analyze Your Target VC’s Activity
While most investors have a LinkedIn profile these days, not many of them use it actively.
Foundry Group co-founder and legendary VC Brad Feld is one of them.
At the time of writing, Feld has 324,409 LinkedIn followers, which is a lot. But if you read his activity, you’ll realize he’s almost only “curating”: either sharing posts and articles from others, or about his books, or Techstars news.
It would be useless to contact him on LinkedIn, or even trying to engage him by commenting on his posts. He obviously doesn’t go there often.
Many pieces of software such as Hootsuite, which we use at TytchMe, allow active content-maker to schedule their posts in advance and share them on several social media networks simultaneously.
You don’t even have to open your LinkedIn account to publish a post there. It is probably what Feld is doing.
Where Are VCs Most Active?
Many VCs’ preferred social network is Twitter. You can follow our list of top Silicon Valley VCs here if you want to know what’s happening in VC-World.
Others like to write long-form content better and use Medium as their platform of choice.
Head over to our blog post “What You Should Be Reading If You Want A Job, Or Money, From VCs” to know more about who is where.
> What we are recommending below for LinkedIn remains valid on most social media platforms.
3. Nail Your Profile Headline
The profile headline on LinkedIn is your “title”. It says who you are in 120 characters maximum.
It’s what investors see when you engage them on LinkedIn, for example, when you comment on their posts (more on that later.)
It needs to be catchy yet clear, to stand out yet not freak out. It’s a hard skill to master and will take several tries before you get it right.
Keep It Short
Founders often make two mistakes in their LinkedIn headlines: trying to be all-encompassing, or trying to be very specific.
The problem is that long headlines don’t trigger investors’ interest. They are either too vague, or cut halfway, or both.
As we indicate below, the trick is to engage VCs by replying to their posts. If your headline is too long, VCs won’t remember you.
One strong non-starter for investors is getting the feeling that founders are chasing too many rabbits at the same time.
Multi-tasking is a critical ability for entrepreneurs, but being unfocused almost always leads to failure. It’s why term sheets (and subsequent shareholders’ agreements) generally forbid founders from having side activities.
Just adding your title and the name of your company doesn’t do it, either.
Adding remarks such as “We’re Hiring”, “Forbes 30 Under 30”, or “TEDx Speaker” may rouse some interest on the part of VCs, but it’s generally not enough to push them to act.
A clear and concise headline makes the investor engage with you in one of three ways:
- Click on your name to check your profile, and hopefully send you a message to know more about you. (VCs don’t mind LinkedIn messaging if they are the ones initiating it.);
- Like your post or reply, or answer to it; or
- Remember you.
> The objective of your headline is to raise your target investors’ interest in your profile.
Ask yourself: “If I were that person, would I be curious to know more?”. It will help you polish your headline.
This profile, although missing a picture, is bound to tickle the brain of VCs interested in the student housing space. Maybe only to find out what other solutions are out there. In any case, they are likely to click and find out more.
Last But Not Least
Other best practices, such as having a complete profile (including a picture), naturally apply too. You can see on the first screen capture above that posts without pictures are much less engaging.
You can read this article if you want to know more about Summaries.
4. Bring Meaningful Content To The Table
Now that you have an effective headline, that you know who your target investors are, and whether they are active on LinkedIn, it’s time to engage them on the platform.
> The best way to get noticed is to comment on your target investors’ posts.
Your replies should be:
- Engaging; and
It’s not about saying “Great post.” to every piece of content Investor A will post for one week.
Remember, you need to make VCs want to know more about you. Ask yourself: what are VCs looking for in founders?
As we demonstrate in our online course dedicated to the VC Pitch Deck’s Team Page, Investors are looking for ability first, and industry experience second.
As a founder, your job is to make the VC understand you possess insights on a market that nobody else does. It’s your unfair advantage, in venture capital lingo.
Your LinkedIn interactions need to convince VCs that you developed such insights, indeed.
Adding something to the table means that you share relevant knowledge to the point the VC is making.
It could take the form of an anecdote from your professional life, a quote from a piece of research your firm published, a conference you attended, a YouTube video that illustrates the point, a case study you analyzed in business school, and more.
> Your comment needs to be relenvant and authentic. Avoid not-so-subtle sales pitch.
Only liking the post, or commenting with low-context words such as “Congrats!”, “Excellent.”, “Thanks.”, or “I’ve learned something.” will not get you anywhere.
Consistently sharing a point of view that makes the author think, on the other hand, will get you noticed. The acknowledgment could take the form of a Like, at first, then gradually become a dialogue.
There are several lessons learned from this example:
- Focus on posts with a low number of comments. Authors of LinkedIn posts are anxious to receive comments early, as the algorithm will share it more widely. You are more likely to be noticed if you are writing one of the first five comments
- Favor posts with many Likes. Don’t forget that other VCs are probably reading these posts, too. Your comment will be shown to them if they interacted with the original post. Double Whammy
- Some VCs are more “social-media generous” than others. They like or reply to comments more often, therefore giving you more visibility
- Write in a high-context manner. Your comment will be shown to your networks, who may not have seen the original post you are answering to. Make sure your response can be understood on a stand-alone basis.
Adding meaningful content to posts by VCs may prove difficult because you may not understand the ins and outs of the topic discussed. Besides, many investors are often cryptic or write for specialists in their craft.
Don’t shy away from asking a question, formulating a hypothesis, or sharing doubts.
What matters is to keep an open mind, especially if you are not an expert on the issue at hand.
This comment caught the author’s eye, who is a well-known angel investor in his country, with 140,000 followers on LinkedIn.
Note how framing the comment as a question diffuses the tension on what could be a contentious argument.
As in any relationship, LinkedIn ties are built over time. Don’t expect investors to jump on your deal opportunity just because you replied meaningfully to one of their posts.
You need to show consistency and gradually demonstrate that you are a trustworthy potential business partner; that you “get them” and are aware of their investment strategy and objectives.
Business is about empathy, more than people are ready to admit. Angel investors, who invest their own money, are even more attentive to the low signals and the human touch.
However, being over-present could backfire. Just as in real life, LinkedIn interactions need to show you exist but not by pestering the other party.
It’s better to reply to the investor’s post once a week with content that matters, than answering every day with low-quality comments.
Engaging investors on LinkedIn is a subtle exercise that requires more effort than most founders are prepared to put in.
50% of the success rate lies in the initial targeting (more here).
The other 50% comes from how you appear on the platform.
Needless to say, you should also apply these recipes to your own posts. Make sure you demonstrate your expertise and engage many of your followers regularly.
We offer more tips here.
You will look better when the investor ends up checking your profile, and reads more about you. (Check your “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” page frequently to find out.)
Don’t just share articles and like other people’s posts. Become a visible expert. It will also further your startup’s message.
> A successful fundraising round is a succession of many steps, of which your LinkedIn strategy is gradually becoming a major one.