We’ve all experienced it. The LinkedIn invite email from someone requesting to connect with you that reads: John has indicated that you are a friend.
Now flash forward and picture me deep in thought. A friend, really? I don’t remember him do I? Was he that kid from grade school that used to eat cheese and mustard sandwiches? Wait, John who?
Here’s some breaking news. Unless I played in the sandbox with you as a child, rode bicycles with you, let you read my diary, cried on your shoulder, or shared a pint with you at university (Go Wildcats)…..you aren’t my friend. Now that doesn’t mean that we can’t become friends in the future, I’m always open to new acquaintances and friends….but for now we’ll stick to the facts. Not friends.
Now, let’s not hang a cloud over the wonderful networking Mecca that is LinkedIn. I myself am a massive fan, have been an active member since 2005, and anyone who knows me will vouch for this. I start and end my professional day on the site and wouldn’t have it any other way. Note to self: get a life! But all joking aside I really do believe that having a strong professional network is key and LinkedIn plays a solid part in developing that foundation both inside and outside of your current workplace.
I’m sure by now you know the basics and have heard them all before: update your profile regularly, get involved in some specialty groups, upload your skills in the fancy boxes. Got it. Let’s uncover the next layer to look at a few additional angles you may want to keep in mind when building your LinkedIn brand. Let’s recap my main five pet peeves.
That age old adage where a protective father asks his daughter’s boyfriend “What are your intentions with my daughter?” Well this logic holds true for linking in with someone. What are your intentions with me? If I don’t see a picture attached to your profile and you have less than 5 connections, I’m getting suspicious. If you have a picture of yourself chugging from a beer can standing in front of a 12 pack, I’m even more suspicious. Connecting on LinkedIn is a two way interaction.
Here’s an example of a vague classic LinkedIn invite that I have received more than once: “Dear Taryn I think it would be mutually beneficial for us to connect.”
Perhaps it would be mutually beneficial for us to connect but unless you tell me how and give me more than that one liner…I may not have the time to find out what benefits exist. Try this: “Dear Taryn I think it would be mutually beneficial for us to connect because we are both active in the renewable energy industry and are attending the same conference next month.” Now we’re talking and you’ve got my attention. First impressions are indeed crucial and it is the way you approach your electronic interactions that make all the difference. Be relevant.
As a recruiter, you definitely want someone to contact you that has a strong interest in working for your company. But if we haven’t yet connected and you send such recruiter an email that says “Dear Recruiter, what jobs do you have for me?” that isn’t the best way to open the door. That may seem like a harmless email, and don’t get me wrong we respect the proactive approach, but what are your skills, your strengths, your goals? Are you familiar with the company, have you checked our website? I won’t know these things unless you tell me.
Remember you have sought me out in this instance, and I am passive. Work with me. Chances are I will be happy to network with you, but taking some time to research and formulate an appropriate InMail can only help us to start a dialogue the right way. Be clear.
Social networking and LinkedIn exploration in particular is more than just tasks to cross off your to do list. Think of your social network as creating a bridge that can take you to many places if you build it solidly. Pick your interactions wisely and think of the long term, not just short term gain. LinkedIn is networking goldmine that you can use to not only build your brand, but to make connections that you may not be able to make face to face due to geography, time zones etc. Have some short and long terms goals and set a strategy for yourself before you start firing off InMails and connection requests. Don’t dilute your brand. Be strategic.
This is a good motto that holds true when you add your content or respond to other people’s LinkedIn updates and messages. It may seem easier to respond electronically to someone if you disagree with their views, if you have had a bad day, or if they do not choose to connect with you. You may even develop some symptoms of “electronic courage” that you won’t be able to reverse in the morning. Please don’t take it personally if someone chooses not to connect with you or can’t respond as quickly as you may like.
Have you checked their contact settings? For example, if you check my profile contact settings you will see a note explaining that while I welcome networking and messages through LinkedIn, I do not accept all invitations to connect with people that I don’t know, and I prefer that they contact me via InMail rather than a LinkedIn invitation. This is not personal. It is simply due to the nature of my job and the volume of requests that such job generates. If someone doesn’t connect with you, or doesn’t respond to you right away, it is never wise to send a hasty response or to post any comments that may portray you in anything but a good light. Sleep on it and when in doubt… don’t. Be resilient.
I read a quote from May 2012 from Michael Johnson of Avature that sums this up nicely:
“Being social means creating value for the network before you take from it. Take the time to build relationships and understand the person and make sure they know you’ve taken the time to understand them.”
This is the key. I couldn’t have said it any better. Be ready to devote some time and commit to adding value into the LinkedIn community before you expect to take from it. Do you post updates on your profile, engage in groups, and absorb other’s profile content? If not, you should. Give a little more and expect to get a more back in return. You can’t win if you aren’t playing. Get in the game. Be a contributor.
Be relevant. Be clear. Be strategic. Be resilient. Be a contributor.
Remember, most people are after the same goal and want to build up their networks with talented individuals like you. I hold myself to these same standards and this is 100% a two way street. Keep a few of these points in mind to take your LinkedIn activity to the next level and as always…happy networking!