In my last article, I discussed about the true meaning and ways of networking. In this I am trying to tell you how to effectively use LinkedIn for networking and making the most of this business oriented social network.
1. Sending invitation
To start your LinkedIn online relationship you need to invite people to become part of your network. As with all new relationships the only way to do it is with courtesy, politeness and good manners. When you use the default message Linkedin suggests “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”, I believe, ticks none of those boxes. It’s like attending an event and saying to someone “Hello” and leaving it at that. Hence, always include a personal note. ‘I strongly recommend you send a personal note and unless you know the person very well remind them where you have previously met’.
2. Not having an unprofessional or incomplete profile
Unless you are Richard Branson, Bill Gates or Nelson Mandelamost of us outside our small network are unknown generally. With the internet I believe even the smallest business ( 1 person is the smallest!) can become global. But you have to be visible on the net. Today we all need to be visible; in fact strategy for success is visibility. Social networking and the Internet is here to stay and if you want to ‘keep up’ you really do need to tell the world who you are, what you do and what area of expertise you have.
Networking is building relationships and every relationship we have ever built is based on 3 key stages –know; like; trust. We can’t very easily get to like and trust people online but we can get to know them. That is where an attractive and professional profile comes in. Ensure yours is complete and accurate and make it interesting and appealing. No typos, bad grammar no real names without capital letters. It’s all about first impressions. Think of it more as a mini-autobiography rather than a CV or resume so people will want to know more about you.
3. Not having bad ‘online’ manners
Whether you network online or offline you need to be polite, courteous and friendly. Linkedin offers you default messages which are generally short, sharp and unfriendly! Online and offline networking is precisely the same; it’s simply building relationships. By all means use your own standard messages (with some personal bits added) but don’t use the ones Linkedin give you.
When someone invites you to link in don’t just accept; send them an instant message which should include a thank you. After all, they are opening their book of contacts for you. Generally When someone offer me to link in with them, I try to offer them free articles about latest in the world of business and management that I have purchased from Harvard Business Review etc and are not easily available to general public. When you invite someone to link and they accept again thank them and maybe remind them what you do and how you help your existing clients. When you get an invitation from someone you don’t instantly recognize send them a message asking how they know you and if they don’t why they want to connect. Don’t be shy to ask questions.
4. Asking for introductions correctly
For me, the key reason to be an enthusiast on LinkedIn is to ask my level 1 contacts to introduce me to their level 1 contacts ( i.e. my level 2 contacts) with whom I wish to build a relationship. It would be a perfect world if every connected person actually knew their level 1 contacts but in a vast majority of cases they may have just met once or not at all. So if I ask my level 1 contact, Jack, to introduce me to his level 1 contact, Jill using the introduction system which LinkedIn offers there could be an embarrassment. Why? Because Jack for the sake of this example has never met Jill. The solution always is to email or call Jack to find out how well he knows Jill and if he does to ask him how he thinks the introduction should be made.
5. Keep updating your Status box
We all have a simple opportunity to be visible with our network and it needn’t take more than a few moments a week. If you’re on Facebook you will be telling your friends ‘What’s on your mind’. On LinkedIn you can do similar .The box is just below your name and title.
I suggest maybe 2 or 3 times a week you mention something work, business or career related and it may well be your level 1 contacts will read it on their home page when they log on to LinkedIn. Less is more, you’re writing simply to keep your name in front of your existing network.
6. Start Using the Group opportunities
There are 1.4m groups on Linkedin. If you have a target market or a special interest there will be one there for you. Join a relevant group but then get involved. Ask questions, offer opinions and meet up with like-minded people. You can only send messages to your level 1 contacts or pay a premium to write to others. The most import drawback of a free account is you can’t message people who are out of your Level 1 contacts. The way around this is to belong to a group so you can send messages free to fellow members. It’s a simple but one of the most important tricks in LinkedIn.
Even if you don’t know anyone but want to start a business relationship with them, invite them courteously to link and explain your reason. If they accept PICK THE PHONE UP and ask to meet. Yes old fashioned face-to-face networking; you never know what might happen next
You have their email address shown half way down in the right hand column of their profile. On many occasions you may have it anyway but lots of people often use their private address. When people move jobs having this address can be very useful. Very often if you look in your connections list you find their phone number ; often a direct dial or a mobile.
You can send your level 1 contacts a message. Just like an email but I have found you get a better response overall sending a message rather than an email.
The first principle of networking is helping others. You can send anyone’s profile whether or not they are in your network, to your level 1 connections with a view to maybe brokering an introduction.
You can recommend the work done by your level 1 contacts and vice-versa. Telling people how wonderful you are is meaningless but when 3rd parties write it for the world to see – that’s valuable marketing.
The more level 1 contact you have the more level 2’s there will be. Level 2’s are your prospects.
I hope this article covers the major as well as minor points about using LinkedIn. Though these points seem simple and straight, I have seen hundreds of people who fail to do these. Remember, LinkedIn is a tool to help you network, not a replacement for one on one physical networking.