Make the Most of LinkedIn Mutual Connections

Are you making the most of the mutual connections feature of LinkedIn profiles?

Mutual connections appear in the highlights section of profiles, right under the summary at the top.

It’s one of the first things I view, especially when I’m meeting someone new or working with someone for the first time.

This is all part of having a comprehensive social media savvy strategy in navigating your professional path in the corporate world. (Opinions in this blog are my own.)

BEFORE YOU VIEW MUTUAL CONNECTIONS’ PROFILES

Here’s a quick tip before you view the profiles of mutual connections. Set your browsing profiles option to “private.” That way, your name won’t appear as someone who’s viewed a profile.

There may be instances when you want people to know you’ve viewed your profile. Sometimes it’s a good way to indicate interest. But in most cases, it’s better to view profiles in private mode.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN MUTUAL CONNECTIONS

How many mutual connections do you have? This indicates how closely or loosely connected you are to the person. If you have many connections in common, you’re both part of a well-developed community.

If you have only a few connections in common, this person probably adds more diversity of thought to your network. He or she may be someone you want to get to know better.

Why? Cultivating a diverse network is a key leadership skill for the 21st century. Roselinde Torres shares why in her TED talk on What it takes to be a great leader.

Torres says that “great leaders understand that having a more diverse network is a source of pattern identification at greater levels and also of solutions, because you have people who are thinking differently than you are.”

How many of them did you expect to see? Assess how many are people you would have expected to see connected to this person. This will help you answer the next question . . .

Who’s NOT there who you would have expected to see? In other words, who’s missing? And why do you think that is? Most times, it could be a simple oversight.  But there could be other reasons you might want to contemplate.

What organizations and affiliations do you have in common? What are the common employers, professional associations, community organizations, schools, and so on. Again, fewer common organizations could indicate greater diversity in your network.

Which ones are unexpected wild-card connections? This is the most interesting question. Who surprised you? Who made you wonder how your connection knows this mutual connection?

These connections could be the boundary spanners among groups in your network. They’re the people who may be able to connect people and ideas across multiple networks. And they could be people you can reach out to when you’re looking for a “needle in a haystack” type of person.

Karie Willyerd, the author of The 2020 Workplace and Stretch is one of those boundary spanners. It’s a surprise and delight when her name appears as a mutual connection to someone I never would have guessed she knows. She’s role modeling her own advice about cultivating a broad and diverse network.

MAKE THE MOST OF MUTUAL CONNECTIONS

Understand the broader social network. Mutual connections tell you more about someone’s network and how it intersects with yours. This can form the basis for conversation starters about how you know each know the mutual connection, what work you’ve done together, and who you might do together in the future.

Recently I was thrilled to be invited to join the USC Alumni Association Board of Governors as the representative of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. An accompanying role is on the USC Annenberg Alumni Advisory Board.

As I’ve approached the process of meeting more than 75 fellow alums, knowing our mutual connections helps to seed conversations, find common points of interest and generate ideas about our work together to further the alumni experience.

Get to know a new leader, boss or client. When an important new person enters your professional life, see what mutual connections you have in common. Use the 5 questions above to quickly evaluate the common connections.

Then decide if there are a few trusted people you might ask for advice and insights. Here are a few starter questions you might want to know about:

  • What’s important to this person?
  • What’s their leadership style?
  • Who influences them?

See opportunities for collaboration. Work gets done in cross-functional collaborative teams, whether it’s inside your organization or outside of it in a professional or community group.

Your mutual connections could point the way to already-existing relationships that may make a new collaborative effort even stronger from the start. If you’re putting together any kind of cross-functional team, this can be one more data point to assembling a high-performing team.

What are the ways you make the most of your mutual connections?

The Art of Introducing People on LinkedIn

So often what you learned growing up will help you in the professional world.

One of my mom’s rules was if I wanted to invite a friend over, I had to ask my mom in private, without the friend being part of the conversation.

Why? In case my mom needed to say no, it wouldn’t create an awkward moment.

The same logic applies to introducing people in your network to each other. Ask each one, privately and separately, if it’s okay to make the introduction.

This is what David Burkus refers to as “permission introductions” in a great Harvard Business Review article called The Wrong Way to Introduce People Over Email. The right way is also called a “double opt-in introduction.”

As you reach out individually, give context and background for the request. Share with each person why you think they’d benefit from knowing each other. Include your thoughts on how they might be able to help one another.

Connecting people across your network is another important part of being savvy in social media as you build your professional reputation.

Here are some of the reasons I’ve introduced people recently:

For career advice for members of my team, I’ve introduced them to relevant people in my network at the company (note: opinions expressed in this blog are my own).

For information about a marketing leadership development program I lead with colleagues in HR, I introduced an employee interested in the program to a current participant in the program.

For paying it forward to current students at the USC Annenberg School, I arranged a series of informational meetings with colleagues who shared their career paths and what they do in the current jobs.

Once you have the green light from each person, you can make an introduction via email inside your company or use the share profile feature in LinkedIn for people outside the company. Using LinkedIn includes contact info, so it’s easy for people to connect.

Include a compelling, complimentary and descriptive line or two about each person. Hyperlink to anything helpful or noteworthy about each person. Add why they’d benefit from meeting each other. One of my colleagues Anthony Robbins is especially good at this.

Make the immediate next step easy and clear. The more junior person – generally the one gaining the most from the introduction – should take the next step of finding a time on the other person’s calendar, without creating extra work for that person.

Be kind to your network by not suggesting too many introductions in a short period of time. Space them out by at least a few months. If there’s more than one introduction you want to make to the same person, prioritize the most important one first.

And some introductions should never be made. You don’t want to waste the time of people in your network or take advantage of their goodwill. Your credibility and reputation will suffer as a result.

Don’t introduce:

  • A job candidate without at least a 70% match with the job description to the hiring manager
  • A salesperson you don’t know well to business decision makers in your network
  • Anyone who isn’t clear why they’re requesting to be introduced to someone in your network.

Given the importance of reciprocity, be open to introductions that people in your network suggest to you. Make sure you’re clear on how you can help. And learn from others about what does and doesn’t work well in making introductions.

What are your best practices for making great introductions?

11 Engaging Topics for LinkedIn Status Updates

If a LinkedIn status update every weekday is ideal, how do you come up with enough engaging content?

Here are 11 simple content ideas. They can be tailored to reflect your goals for LinkedIn and your professional interests, as well as be easy to integrate into your day.

When you share content using these ideas, you can add your point of view. And you can engage your network by asking questions about their perspectives.

Here goes . . .

Your company’s employee advocacy program. More companies are enabling and empowering employees to share company news in their own personal social media through an employee advocacy program. If your company offers this, it’s an easy way to provide valuable content and be a brand ambassador for your employer.

Your professional associations. What organizations do you belong to? Where do you look for training and development? You’ll often find the latest thinking in your field that you can share with your network. A few of my favorites in corporate communications are the International Association of Business Communicators, the Public Relations Society of America and the Forum-Group for communications leaders.

Your favorite industry and career news sources. What are your go-to sources for news about your field or the world of work? On the top of my list are Harvard Business Review and Fast Company.

Your alma mater. Colleges and universities are helping their alums be lifelong learners. Have you checked out yours lately? As an alumni ambassador for the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, I’ve shared information about event content and information such as the Relevance Report.

Your colleagues’ content. What are people in company and your network posting? Keep an eye out for articles posted to LinkedIn that align with your goals and share those. A few of my favorites are by Carlos Botero, Rachel Ybarra and Jennifer Van Buskirk.

Books you’re reading. What’s on your Kindle or your nightstand that has a business and professional focus? Share what you’re reading and what you’re learning. For me it’s Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. It has two daily practices that would probably benefit everyone – note 3 things you did well and 3 moments that brought joy.

Conferences and events you’re attending. What virtual or in-person development activities are you involved in? What are you learning? Share your key takeaways in a status update. Include photos of the event and people you’re meeting.

What you’re learning. What’s your development plan to learn new skills this year? Are you taking online courses, pursuing a nanodegree or listening to podcasts and TED talks? Share status updates about what you’re learning and how you’re preparing for the future. Include your perspective on why these skills will be critical to the future of work, your industry and your employer.

Speaking engagements you’re doing. Anytime you’re speaking, whether it’s a conference or a webinar, it’s a great opportunity to post an update. Share your big idea or interesting questions people asked after your talk.

Key holidays. Look at the calendar each month and identify key events. May and June, for example, are big graduation months. You could share the best career advice you got at graduation or the most important thing you’ve learned since graduation. One of my posts that got great engagement was a leadership quote and a beautiful photo from iStockPhoto on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Keep an eye out for hashtag holidays – like #NationalMentoringMonth in January #GetToKnowYourCustomers day in July – and create posts about them.

Your blog. Do you have a blog about your profession and your industry? LinkedIn is a perfect place for a status update each time you post new content. If you’ve been blogging for a while, look through the archives to see what’s still timely. Your status update could include fresh information or a new take on the original post.

For the month of May, I’m going to conduct an experiment. I’ll further test these content ideas by posting a status update to LinkedIn on every workday of the month. That’s 22 status updates.

In future posts, I’ll share what I learn in the process about creating an editorial calendar, responding to comments, evaluating analytics, increasing engagement and more.

In the meantime, what would you add to this list of content ideas?