Hi guys. It’s Jason!
I was recently asked by James Hart with Thinking Bigger Business Media to write an article on LinkedIn networking best practices for their annual Thinking Bigger Guide. He asked me to share my advice on how to use LinkedIn to make business connections without alienating potential partners. He also asked me to focus on the correct way to send invitations to connect, and whether or not people should connect with others they don’t actually know.
Before I share my thoughts about LinkedIn networking best practices, I wanted to share this link to all of the LinkedIn blog articles we have written over the past 5 years. Most of the content is still relevant, useful, and even funny. Especially the article Mic wrote called 20 Reasons Your Business Should NOT Be On LinkedIn.
I just checked my LinkedIn profile and found that I signed up on August 25th, 2006. It’s been 8 years and LinkedIn is by far my favorite tool for strengthening relationships through social media. I’ve helped a bunch of people and made a good living… and I’ve made LinkedIn an important part of my success.
I have strong opinions about how to use LinkedIn to network effectively. Keep in mind that my goal in networking has always been to connect and stay top of mind with the people that I admire, trust and respect in Kansas City. Sure, I’m connected to people in lots of places, but we live and work primarily in Kansas City, so my networking efforts are focused where they will have the most value for Blue Gurus.
I specifically want to know and connect to the owners and decision makers of the roughly 6,000 businesses that are potential clients in the KC metro area.
I believe that you should treat your LinkedIn network like a members only club full of awesome people, and you are the owner and president that decides who gets to be in your club.
You should know and trust the people that you invite to connect. Hopefully you’ve done business together and gotten to know each other socially outside of “work”.
By hand picking these kinds of relationships, you’re narrowing your focus to the people that like you, want to be around you and want to help you succeed. They become your extended sales force and cheerleaders.
When people get referred to you or your business, they’re going to check you out on LinkedIn. Their first impression is driven by your profile being complete, your picture, your summary and your shared connections.
How much more would you trust me before you even met me if we had 20 connections in common versus zero, especially if those 20 connections were some of your most trusted business friends and peers?
This happens to me regularly, and it feels great! Just about every opportunity begins with a conversation about who referred us and the great people that we know in common.
Let’s face it. There are plenty of people in the business community that suck. You know who I’m talking about… The takers. The time wasters. The ones that don’t do what they say they’re going to do. The ones that think they are too important to return your calls.
I promise you that their reputation is well known by others. If you’re connected to anyone like this on LinkedIn, their bad reputation may hurt you because of the association.
Are you worried about hurting their feelings by not accepting their connection request? DON’T. It’s your personal club, remember? Make the right call and ignore that request from someone you just don’t care for, whatever the reason.
Now that you understand how I feel about protecting your network, you will understand why I wouldn’t recommend you sending connection requests to people you don’t know on LinkedIn. There are exceptions of course, but generally you should meet and connect with new people through your existing relationships.
Leverage your LinkedIn network to get introduced to the people you want to meet. (There are many ways to generate a list of prospects, but I will save that for another article.)
Once you know who you need to meet, search for their profile on LinkedIn. Then see who you know in common with that person. Pick up the phone and ask your best connection for an introduction. (If at all possible, give them a good reason why you want them to introduce you to their connection so it isn’t an awkward request. Do your research before asking.)
Mic touched on this last week. Begin by searching for the person you want to connect to. Once you have found their LinkedIn profile, look for the blue “Connect” button beneath their name. Clicking this button will give you a dialog like the one below.
Fill out the form and be sure to take a minute to personalize the invitation. Remember, you’re asking them to let you into THEIR personal club of awesome people. Take the time to let them know how you met and maybe include the next steps for getting together and building on your new relationship.
I would love to hear your thoughts! Drop a comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org.