When LinkedIn was born, about 10 years ago, many viewed this tool as a place job seekers connected with potential employers. If your boss found you on LinkedIn, it could be a red flag indicating your desire to leave your current job.
Today, job seekers and employers are still connecting on LinkedIn, but clients are also finding consultants, industry leaders are helping entrepreneurs, recruiters are scoping out their next business leaders, and journalists are courting their best leads and sources. As we have evolved and grown our understanding of reputation building, tools like LinkedIn have grown in their reach, depth, and resourcefulness.
In my last post, I showed you the many ways on how to decide to accept or ignore a request to connect on LinkedIn. I do not believe in using LinkedIn to connect with anyone and everyone. I take the approach of using LinkedIn more strategically and intentionally to build my brand and the reputations of my clients.
Who You Connect with on LinkedIn
While Facebook can feel like a popularity contest at times (what do you mean you don’t want to be my “friend?”), LinkedIn is a business tool. We should use it as a powerful self-marketing channel, connecting our vast networks of current contacts, hopeful contacts, experts, resources, and collaborators. We gain information, resources, and access to other collaboration tools on LinkedIn.
Connecting on LinkedIn should follow one simple rule: If you would invite that person to a private networking event, where all of your best clients were present, then connect on LinkedIn. If you would not invite them, then why would you give them access to your best clients online?
Identifying potential connections on LinkedIn is important to think through strategically. While the social network generously provides you with lists of “People You Might Know,” those may not be the people you want to invite to your private (and special) network.
When searching for potential contacts, consider:
Sending the LinkedIn Invitation to Connect
Now comes the tricky part. It is much easier to go down the list of “People You May Know” and just hit the “Connect” button. This sends your potential contact an email with your generic request. The email contains your photo and allows them to choose to accept or view your profile. Imagine if dating sites operated this way–would anyone meet each other? Of course not. We need more to base our decision to “learn more” on. We want to know why you think we should connect, what you do for a living, what your background looks like, what you care about, etc. This works the same way on LinkedIn.
Instead of sending the generic request to connect, personalize your invitation this way:
What Happens Next
You found your online contact, personalized and sent the invitation to connect, and waited. Some people don’t check their LinkedIn invitations or emails often. Just because they haven’t accepted your invitation does not mean they rejected your invitation.
But let’s say they accepted. You might instantly feel like you’ve been accepted into the coolest club at school, asked to sit at the seniors’ lunch table, or given the keys to the city. More likely, you simply have a new contact on LinkedIn.
Instead of leaving the relationship as is, refer back to your initial objective (why did you want to connect with them?) to continue the conversation:
LinkedIn is a rich, vibrant, and fun place to meet new contacts, personalize your reputation, and build visibility as an expert in your field. When managed strategically and intentionally, LinkedIn can be a powerful part of your reputation management tools.