Strategy For Linking To Others
Over the last four weeks, we explored how to set up a complete and compelling professional profile on LinkedIn. If you’ve done the work of establishing a profile that really reflects who you are as a business professional (the first step), you are now ready to start ‘using’ LinkedIn. Here is where a lot of people get stuck. Many people say “I have a Profile, but I don’t know what else I should be doing.”
Kathy Caprino, a career and executive coach, speaker and recruitment consultant, who also Blogs for Forbes at Forebeswoman, recently wrote, “I like LinkedIn so much that I often refer to it as the ‘great cocktail party in the sky.’” It is an apt analogy. She explained that she sees LinkedIn as a way to connect with like-minded people who may otherwise never have the chance to meet. As she sees it, with just a little investment of time each day, it provides a forum for her to learn a great deal of information that’s of interest and use. It also offers her a fun way to connect with people she admires or can teach her vital things. At this great cocktail party in the sky, she can, in short order, decide if a contact is worth investing more time and energy to get to know better. She can meet new people who are doing amazing and inspiring things in the world. It allows her to socialize and create a wider, richer and more powerful community of contacts – nationally or even globally – beyond her own sphere of influence.
Now that you are a guest at this ‘quintessential cocktail party in the sky,’ how do you meet the people you want to meet, become a part of the discussions that are of value to you, and ultimately leverage this tool for business? Like a real cocktail party, you have to get in there and do the work. You cannot be a loner, standing in the back of the room hoping business connections drop in your lap. Some people may approach you. But, more often than not, they won’t. You will need to approach some people. Use the same skills that you would at a real cocktail networking event to decide how to invest your time.
To Link or Not to Link: That is the Question.
In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell describes a certain kind of person that he calls a “Connector.” These are the people who “link us up with the world … people with a special gift for bringing the world together. They are “a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack [... for] making friends and acquaintances.” He characterizes these individuals as having large social networks. Gladwell attributes the social success of Connectors to “their ability to span many different worlds is a function of something intrinsic to their personality, some combination of curiosity, self-confidence, sociability, and energy.”
In a sense, LinkedIn can serve as a type of digital Connector, and it can help professionals become Connectors in their own right. But that can only happen by following the right linking strategy. Once people get on LinkedIn, they often struggle to decide their strategy for linking to others. There is no single right answer. It depends on who you are and what you want to accomplish. Here are some approaches.
The Aggressive Linker
Some people seek to arbitrarily link to every person they can. They send invitations to anyone and everyone. They send hundreds or thousands of invitations to people all over the planet, many of whom they may have absolutely nothing in common. They attempt to link to people they know and people they want to know, as well as basically anyone else that comes along. They don’t discriminate by linking only to people in their industries or areas of interest. That explains how some people gather over 500+ links within a short period of time. This strategy is effective for some, especially people in media and PR.
The High-Brow Linker
On the other extreme, some people on LinkedIn follow a strategy to only link to those who they consider their inner circle of contacts. This is an approach often followed by those who are in powerful positions who typically have gatekeepers and want to be shielded from too many random interactions. This strategy is the equivalent of going to a cocktail party and only talking to your own colleagues. What’s the point? The purpose of attending a cocktail party (a/k/a a business networking event) is to meet others within your field in order to expand your reach. The same is true of LinkedIn.
The One-Way Street Linker
Some adopt a strategy to link to the people they know, and to anyone who invites them to link. This is the equivalent of being the wallflower at the cocktail party. The wallflower stands in the corner and waits for someone to come over to talk to them. They approach no one. On LinkedIn, this strategy may prove ineffective because links are coming only from those who want to know you, and not necessarily people that you want to meet. LinkedIn’s own message encourages people to link to others. Their advice: “After accepting John Doe’s invitation, check John Doe’s connections to see who else you may know and to whom you might want an introduction. Building these connections can create opportunities in the future.”
The Discriminate Linker
The right linking strategy does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. A solid strategy is to link to everyone you know from present and past companies where you worked, vendors you currently work with or have in the past, colleagues, friends and people you know from college or graduate school. Then send invitations to link to people that you respect or want to know. See who your connections are connected to and ask for introductions to link to others you don’t know but want to know. This is how it is done at a cocktail party. It works the same way on LinkedIn.
Note that anyone on LinkedIn can send link invitations to people to link even if those people aren’t on LinkedIn. LinkedIn allows members to import a list of email addresses and send those people an invitation to join LinkedIn and link to you.
Next week, we’ll discuss LinkedIn Groups. Which Groups should you join? How many Groups should you join? How involved should you be in Groups? Should you start a Group of your own? Stay tuned.
Quote of the Week
“There was a time when social actions —connecting, liking, sharing and more —were considered the kind of cute things college kids and twenty-somethings did to pass their idle time. Then social became a Silicon Valley fad and the use of the terms and the actions grew. …Those signals have now weaved their way into the fabric of business. And they’re altering long- and even recently-held truths.”
Daniel Roth, Executive Editor, LinkedIn
© 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.