Be Bold in Growing Your LinkedIn Network

“In growing your network, you want it to be both diverse and concentrated,” personal branding expert William Arruda wrote recently in Forbes about how to cultivate a powerful LinkedIn network.

First, begin with why you’re on LinkedIn. What do you want to accomplish? How can growing your network help you do that?

Second, ask yourself this question: Who did you meet this week, who will you be meeting soon and who do you want to meet?

Third, take a few minutes every week to add to your LinkedIn network. Always send a personalized invitation, explaining how you know each other and why you’d like to connect.

As you build your network, make sure your profile presents you in the best light. Here are great profile tips from LinkedIn career expert Catherine Fisher and Landit CEO Lisa Skeete Tatum. They spoke this winter at the MAKERS Conference for women’s leadership.

Who did you meet this week? Did you start working with any new colleagues? How about vendors? Invite them to join your network.

What professional, civic and charitable organizations are you involved with? Invite key people from those groups to be part of your network.

Look at your email contact list, your Facebook friend list, your Twitter followers and so on. Identify the ones you want to invite to your LinkedIn network. The “grow your network” feature on LinkedIn will see who you already know based on your email address book.

At the airport recently, I ran into someone I met a few years ago at an event at my son’s school. We struck up a conversation and caught up on what was going on at our respective employers (opinions expressed in this blog are my own). To keep the connection going, I followed up with a LinkedIn invitation.

One of my professional associations, a roundtable for senior communicators, also had its quarterly meeting this week. At the end of each day, I sent personalized invitations to people I’d met. An even better strategy – one colleague sent invitations in real time during our roundtable discussion of timely issues.

Who will you be meeting soon? What’s on your calendar for the coming week or month? Will you be meeting new people? Send them an invitation in advance of the event.

When you meet in person, you’ll already be acquainted with each other’s LinkedIn profiles and you may find a great conversation starter. For example, maybe you know interesting people in common or your new connection is working on a project you want to learn more about.

Who would you like to meet? Are you working in a new area and want to learn from the luminaries in the field? Are there companies of interest you want to know more about? Are there second-level contacts you’d like to add to your network?

This is where the personalized invitation is especially important. Explain in a compelling and brief way why you’d like to connect.

Take advantage of the “people you may know” algorithm in LinkedIn. Is there anyone you’ve missed connecting with? Invite them to your network.

Lucas Buck recommends looking at alumni groups and people who have similar college degrees. He’s an area sales manager at Farmers Insurance who uses LinkedIn highly successfully to achieve his business objectives.

He spoke last fall at a networking group affiliated with my son’s school. What did I do the same day as the event? I sent personalized LinkedIn invitations to the people I met at the event, along with Lucas.

Here’s a sidenote about conference speakers. Introduce yourself and chat with the speaker briefly before they speak, if they aren’t too busy with final presentation preparation. Fewer people line up to talk with them before their presentation, as opposed to the larger group that tends to gather after the talk.

Back to LinkedIn, what strategies do you use to grow your network?

To Respond or Not to Respond

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Our incoming messages are exploding.

LinkedIn messages. Facebook and Twitter notifications. Emails. Texts. Snaps.

Just reading and responding to everything could be more than a full-time job.

You need a strategy for when you do and don’t respond.

And I don’t subscribe to the philosophy that no response is the right way to say no.

In our hyperconnected world, our humanity and good manners can too easily go by the wayside.

Sometimes it’s because we can’t help the person and we need to say no. In those cases, have a standard professional response you can copy, paste, edit and send to say you’re not interested at this time, but you’ll keep the info for future reference.

Some messages are easy not to respond to:

  • Automated sales pitches, usually via LinkedIn and Twitter
  • Connection requests immediately followed by a sales pitch, again, usually via LinkedIn and Twitter
  • Connection requests in LinkedIn from people you don’t know and that aren’t personalized to explain why they’d like to connect with you
  • Tweets that mention you as a way to draw you into an issue for which you can offer no meaningful response

Some messages deserve a response. And while it would be easy enough to ignore them, giving a response can set you apart and enhance your company’s reputation:

  • Customers of your company who need help getting an issue resolved. Respond to that customer right away.  Be a friendly, helpful, human face and voice. Connect them with your company’s customer care team for a rapid response.

Interesting stat: 78% of people who complain to a brand in Twitter expect a response within an hour. Another one: 77% of people feel more positive about a brand when their tweet has been replied to.

(This is where I remind readers that opinions expressed are my own.)

  • People from your alma maters, past and present employers and other professional groups who ask for your advice or an introduction to a colleague for networking purposes.
  • Connections, colleagues and friends who post valuable content. Read their link, give them a “like” if the content is something you want to be associated with, and leave a short and upbeat comment that adds a constructive observation to the dialogue. Social media is all about reciprocity.

And some messages fall in between.

An example? A request to connect to one of your connections, without a clearly stated reason.

Recently a LinkedIn connection asked to connect to a colleague, to invite her to an event. I suspected it was a sales pitch and didn’t want to spam my colleague. I asked the requester for more info. Never heard back. End of story.

Suppose you do decide to respond to a message to decline a request and you get a response asking for something else.

What then?

Here I take my cue from a wise colleague, Tina Morefield. She’ll send a response. One response. And after that, no more.

Unless, of course, it’s from a customer who needs your help. In that case, keep responding until the issue is resolved to the customer’s satisfaction. Because our customers are the lifeblood of our organizations.

When do you respond? When do you not respond?