There is much talk today about networks versus communities and communities versus tribes. But ultimately, to be successful you need to surround yourself with like-minded peers. Because as the saying goes “you are the company you keep.” Whether you are in the early stages of building your social army or already have a well-developed network, you undoubtedly suffer from the same pain points — how can I continuously nurture multiple mutually beneficial relationships? Social success is not built on legions of fans, followers, and connections. Social success is strongly rooted in engagement and this is especially true on LinkedIn.
I’m a LION – Hear me roar?
If you’ve spent more than a few days on LinkedIn you have most likely encountered the bold LION. A LinkedIn Open Networker aka LION is someone who will accept a connection request from anyone. They pride themselves on their connection acceptance and display a badge on their profile declaring this networking status.
While I am a firm believer in compiling a quality LinkedIn network rather than one purely seeking quantity I am not blind to the reasoning behind the LION approach. If you focus on the fact that through social networks we are all connected. And through that same logic someone you’re connected with will know someone at some time who needs your products or services – then yes, connecting with everyone can be rationally justified. The obvious downside to the LION approach is that your LinkedIn network will quickly become very cluttered making it incredibly difficult for you to actively engage with connections that matter.
There are tools in place to alert you to engagement opportunities but due to the sheer volume of connections and the mish mash of connection types…this is a very arduous task. Are you missing signals by increasing the noise?
Keep your eyes on the prize
Professional networking is very similar to chess. Stephen Covey, in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, famously said, “Begin with the end in mind.” I say connect with an end goal in mind. Think several steps ahead. Keep your eye on all important pieces and sacrifice small short term losses in order to achieve large long term wins. Did I lose you there? In simpler terms, give to get. Give, give, give, and only then get is the result in most cases.
Successful networking on LinkedIn is a very strategic activity. Unlike on Twitter, people take themselves very seriously on LinkedIn. There is less room for humor and a much greater chance of a professional faux pas when first interacting with someone. It is unlikely that someone will be impressed by the size of your network (aren’t all 500 Connections graphics the same?) so you must always highlight the what, why, and how in your initial communications.
Even name dropping is an unlikely win. Okay, so we have a connection in common. So what? Continually lead with the why and you will genuinely build rapport and effectively frame a strong foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship. Most people are on LinkedIn because they believe there will be benefits for them. Recognize that receiving value pre-disposes any prospect to further connection activity.
What I know to be true:
- You will not secure your next job or next client simply because you have a very large LinkedIn network.
- 50,000 contacts are not worth any more than 2,000 in the big sense that you can only really interact meaningfully with ~150, a phenomenon known as Dunbar’s Number.
- LinkedIn contacts should be dynamic and active — not dusty files in a back room. Every day make a point of engaging with a few of your connections to show you care.
- Keeping your profile fresh and up to date increases your chances of being found and viewed by people you want to know.
- LinkedIn is a continually evolving, extremely rich platform. Adjust to best practices with alacrity. The most dynamic of LinkedIn users are also active publishers, now, too.
- Last but not least, if you’re interested in others, you’ll be interesting to them — this is what “connection” means. LinkedIn connections are not trophies, they’re living assets.
Leverage tools to stay top of mind with important contacts
Nurturing your growing network on LinkedIn is a necessary task. As your connection count continues to increase I strongly recommend leveraging LinkedIn’s built-in alerts and also apps created to streamline your engagement workflow. My current favorite is Newsle.
Newsle enables you to stay up-to-date on your connections achievements, your competitor’s latest projects, and explore articles on your favorite thought leaders and trendsetters.
Your LinkedIn network is integral to your personal brand and professional success. It’s not at all like collecting names for a dry mailing list. Your LinkedIn connections are a vibrant resource and done right they validate and mirror your expertise. LinkedIn is your professional portrait — make it matter.
Read Part Part 1 of the series on Twitter