|Published: May 8, 2014
Jennifer Selby Long, Selby Group
Why Your LinkedIn Network is No Good
If you’re underwhelmed, even feeling a little anxious, by the quality and quantity of your network on LinkedIn, today’s article is for you. Even if your network is already decent, I guarantee that by following these tips, you’ll kick it into high gear. Ready? Here we go….
Stop Being So Conservative About Inviting People to Connect
I am simply floored when I talk with leaders who are aggressive in going after business, but wimpy in building their networks. Your network is not only for people with whom you worked for years and your three best friends. You have to make your own judgment call about this, but I find that most professionals are much too shy and cautious about reaching out to connect with others.
Granted, I may be more open than you want to be. I’ve invited people with whom I’ve volunteered, even briefly. I’ve invited people I met through Impact Hub Oakland, where I occasionally work, just because I found our conversations to be so fascinating that I didn’t want to lose touch. I’ve invited people who worked at the same mid-sized business unit I was in 20 years ago, even though our paths had mostly crossed at company events and during training programs we participated in together.
I’ve never regretted it. Although some of these people are not very active on LinkedIn, those who are active post interesting and useful articles and updates, my learning is enriched by their contributions, and I have an amazing group of people to ask for advice on everything from a global marketing strategy to how to get democracy into totalitarian countries. Not that I plan to do that any time soon, but I’m happy to know I’m connected to someone who’s one of the best in the world at that very task, just in case.
Sometimes I’m asked, “Yeah, but what if somebody asks you to provide an introduction to someone else in your network, but you don’t know that person well?” That’s simple. I gently say no. I’m not going to miss out on enriching my knowledge and staying in touch with interesting, helpful businesspeople just because I will sometimes have to let someone down.
Stop Sending Generic Invitations That You Don’t Write Yourself
Take the time to write a short personal note to refresh the person’s memory about where you met, how you know each other, or your mutual friends and colleagues. It’s often the difference between Accept and Ignore. For example, when contacting someone you recognize from way-back-when, try writing “I don’t know if you remember me from XYZ company. I worked for Joe Schmoe on ABC team….”
Because I’ve done so much work in groups, I will sometimes come across a person I recognize, but honestly can’t remember which of the many group activities that connected us. In that case, I just admit it, and nearly everyone accepts.
Every now and then, you’ll hit the Invite button and then realize you didn’t add a note. That’s o.k. Just don’t make a habit of it.
Set a Slightly Broader Standard for Invitations You’ll Accept From Others
I generally don’t accept invitations from people I don’t recognize, with whom I’ve never worked, who haven’t written a personal note, or with whom I have no shared groups or connections. Everyone else gets seriously considered. I may not accept them all, but I do accept many.
You need to be honest with yourself about your comfort level on this and then stretch yourself beyond that comfort zone – at least a little a bit. For example, for a long time I didn’t accept any invitations from people I didn’t know, but now I sometimes accept an invitation if the person has a particularly interesting profile, or has commented on my posts more than once. In the first case, I can learn a lot, and in the second case, the person has been building a relationship with me on line and doesn’t seem like a complete stranger anymore.
Offer up value to your network by sharing content, and while you’re at it, comment on content others share.
I don’t keep a regular schedule for sharing content. I just always keep an eye out for content my network might find interesting or helpful, and when I come across it, I share it. Sometimes I add my own comments and sometimes I don’t. You don’t have to make this a big deal at all. It doesn’t have to be burdensome. Just read stuff and share the stuff you like.
Now that I’ve really gotten into this, I track the number of views, likes, and comments for everything I post and I can tell you what my network loves, and what doesn’t interest them much at all. By knowing this, I now skip posting things that just don’t float their boats. I figured this out by posting lots of stuff that interested me, over a long period of time, so please don’t overthink it. Just do it!
For those who are curious, my network loves it when I post a link to an article on my own blog, but not to other blogs. They also love it when I share a cartoon or very simple graph that they can scan in a heartbeat.
They have no interest in some of the articles I find most important and interesting, such as an economist’s analysis of the structural problems in the labor market. I nearly fell off the sofa laughing when I saw how badly every complex, serious, systems-level article did when I posted it. Truly, for my network, those articles are dogs with fleas. I am a true nerd, I guess, even wonkier than my network. And I confess, I might still post the occasional wonky article for all 19 of you who read them, whoever you are.
Turbo-Charger: Upgrade Your Account
Let me say first of all, no, I am not being paid to write this!
When I went from a free account to the most basic of the paid accounts, I found that I could more easily find and reach out to quite a few terrific people I’d known from companies and projects several years back. We had lost touch in the “pre-LinkedIn” era. It’s been great getting back in touch with them.
I couldn’t begin to advise as to which account is right for you. Luckily, that’s what LinkedIn’s marketing team is for. To see your options, click on Upgrade in the upper right hand corner of your home page.
Super-Mega-Turbo-Charger: Write and Post Your Own Content on the Platform
Since I started posting my own writing directly to the platform, I have been tickled pink by the people who reach out to connect with me. They’re interesting people who are in challenging leadership roles all over the globe, and in a wide variety of industries. Engaging with them broadens my perspective in a way that my mostly American network alone can’t do.
Take a look on your home page, and if you see a little pencil icon next to your update balloon, you can publish now. Not all members have it at this point, and it’s going to take a while to roll it out. I applied for early admission by submitting two samples of my best work on this form: http://specialedition.linkedin.com/publishing/. Do this, and the screening team will review your best work. If they like it (and come on, you know they’ll love it), soon you’ll see a balloon pop up on your home page inviting you to publish on LinkedIn.
The publishing tool is crazy-easy to use. When you publish, also be sure to include a picture with each article. It would be a shame to put all that effort into writing your article only to find that few people read it. People open articles with pictures.
Also be sure you have the rights to use the image. I purchase pix from shutterstock.com to be on the safe side.
Your LinkedIn network can be an incredible source of knowledge, perspective, relationships, and opportunities to both help and be helped. Spend a little time this month implementing at least one of these strategies and you’ll be on your way to building a network that expands your world and blows your mind.
Is your LinkedIn network no good? What are your thoughts about expanding and improving your network on LinkedIn? Let me know at www.jenniferselbylong.com.
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