Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Connections or Clutter? Build a Quality LinkedIn Network

“The building up, cashing in, and exchanging of social capital makes the world of business go round.  These transactions require trust, integrity and credibility to generate the social capital, facilitate exchanges, or increase value.” LinkedIn Network
– David Gowel, The Power In A Link

There are two primary philosophies held by LinkedIn users on how to grow their networks: One philosophy is to create an enormous database, a virtual rolodex, connecting with everyone as an “open networker”. The second view is to develop deliberate, reciprocal relationships, getting to know each connection. While some members focus on inviting and connecting with as many people as possible, others wish to methodically build a community of like-minded, trusted colleagues. Some users quickly invite dozens of strangers through their own efforts or via paid programs to expedite reaching a magical “500” connections, and other members take a more cautious approach in meeting new people.
Have you identified what your purpose is in building your connections? Are you creating a database or developing a network?

In David Gowel’s book, The Power In A Link, the author emphasizes the power of building LinkedIn “to map your actual network”, offering “a measurable depiction of your active relationships”. If you don’t have a clear plan or purpose for how to build reciprocal, helpful relationships critical to identifying new career opportunities or growing your business, then adding strangers to your account creates clutter, diluting the effectiveness of your network.

This is similar to keeping hundreds of disconnected puzzle pieces in a box. Without being actively placed into the proper design, you have exerted no influence on creating the masterpiece. However, the wise alternative is to carefully combine pieces to create a cohesive picture of your personal network. From clutter to connected, you’ve cultivated a powerful team.
Do meet new people, exchange introductions, take the time to determine how a relationship can become mutually beneficial, and decide if you should connect. Build a trusted network and initiate valuable conversations to reach out and ask, “How may I help you?” Without having established a foundation of familiarity, how can you exchange help, offer referrals, or recommend their services? Always focus on quality, whether or not you choose to add a large quantity of connections.

The Three I’s:
Here are three I’s to consider in developing your rich LinkedIn network of like-minded, trusted colleagues:

1. Invitation

Rather than accept every invitation received, if the stranger’s message isn’t clear, use your LinkedIn etiquette to ask what you can do to help them. Once they’ve replied with their reasons, decide if this is someone with whom you’d like to work and build a reciprocal relationship.

For instance, job hunters frequently send invitations to me requesting my assistance with rewriting and improving their resume and profile content. Recruiters request to connect because they’re aware from my profile that I work with candidates of all ages, in a variety of industries, around the world, and share their commitment to connecting talented clients with new jobs. Both of these examples illustrate a shared mission, so we create a partnership, working together to help our job searchers find new opportunities.

2. Introduction

Following the initial invitation, schedule a phone call to introduce yourself, learn more about your colleague, and discuss how you can help one another. Through LinkedIn introductions, I’ve met job searchers across the globe and speak with new clients about how I will improve their results. I call a growing number of LinkedIn colleagues each week to offer my services, accept their referrals to work with other struggling candidates, and determine whether we will connect online to grow a long-term relationship. When I invest my time in making these valuable introductions, I’ve created an opportunity to meet my neighbor and build a rapport benefiting everyone involved.

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