Of all the social media platforms, LinkedIn is by far the best for strengthening professional relationships. It can be a great way to connect and stay top of mind with the people you admire, trust and respect.
You should treat your LinkedIn network like a members-only club full of awesome folks. As the owner and president of your network, you get to decide who gets to be in the club. By carefully handpicking the people in your LinkedIn system, you narrow your focus to those who like you, who want to be around you and who want to help you succeed. They become your extended sales force and cheerleaders.
Here are some strategies for getting even more from this great resource.
Your Connections Make an Impression
When people get referred to you or your business, they’re going to check you out on LinkedIn. Their first impression will be driven by your profile being complete, your picture, your summary—and your shared connections.
If you’d never met me before, how much more would you trust 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.
You should know and trust the people that you invite to connect. With any luck, you’ve already done business together and gotten to know each other socially outside of work.
Your Connections Can Hurt You, Too
While it’s nice to have a lot of connections, take a look at the state of your network. Do you really know the majority of these people? If not, maybe it is time for a little housecleaning. You can remove connections on LinkedIn by clicking on Connections, selecting the contact you want to remove, selecting the More button, and then choosing Remove Connection. (Note: LinkedIn doesn’t alert the person when you’ve removed them.)
And let’s face it: There are a lot of people in the business community who are not worth knowing. You know the folks I’m talking about—the takers, the time-wasters, the ones who don’t do what they say they’re going to do. They’re the ones who 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.
How to Make Connections Without Alienating People
As a rule of thumb, it’s not a good idea to send connection requests to people unless you already know them. There are exceptions, of course, but generally you should meet and connect with new people through your existing relationships. LinkedIn can help you here.
Let’s say you want to connect with John Doe. Look up John’s profile on LinkedIn—and then see if you have any connections in common. If you do, pick up the phone, and ask one of your mutual associates for an introduction. If at all possible, give your mutual friend a good reason for introducing you to John, so it isn’t an awkward request.
Give Your Invitations a Personal Touch
When you want to invite others to connect on LinkedIn, begin by searching for their profiles. Once you have found theirs, look for the blue Connect button beneath their name.
When the dialog pop ups, 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.