LinkedIn is the first online social networking site that I joined and it is still my favorite. I have met a lot of great people on LinkedIn and worked on some interesting (and paying) projects because of the relationships that started on LinkedIn.
Today I thought I would share some thoughts on how I approach making new connections on LinkedIn. One quick note – I’m not trying to say that my way is the “right way”, this is just that I use. It has evolved over time and is effective for me – your mileage may vary.
I want to talk to people before I connect with them on LinkedIn. I guess I’ve always assumed that if you are on LinkedIn, you have something you would like to accomplish by being there. I’d like to know how I can help you accomplish that goal.
This has pretty much been my “policy” ever since I joined LinkedIn back in March of 2004. It used to be that in the beginning, I was an early adopter, so I was the one inviting my contacts to LinkedIn (and explaining what it was). As LinkedIn has become more popular, I have received more invitations from people I don’t know.
When someone I’ve never met invites me to connect on LinkedIn, I send them a note that looks like this:
Thank you for the invitation to connect. I make an effort to know my LinkedIn connections so I can do a better job referring them, would you be open to having a brief phone call sometime in the next 2 weeks to chat?
Afternoons typically work best, but you can see my schedule and set up a time here – https://tungle.me/billbrelsford
If you send me your number, I’ll be happy to call you.
To be clear, I like meeting “strangers” on LinkedIn. I am always open to meeting new people, I just want to know 1) how I can help them and 2) how they may be able to help other people in my network.
I want to have a conversation for a number of reasons. First, I’m not particularly good at remembering names, companies, or titles without any context. I am very good at remembering conversations and stories. If I can’t remember you, I can’t refer you or refer people to you.
On a similar note, if we have a conversation, I put notes about that conversation into my CRM system. After I think “I talked to someone about 6 months ago who I think may be able to help you” I go to my CRM to find the name. I then go to LinkedIn to see if anything has changed in that persons professional life before I make an introduction.
Again, if I don’t know much about you, I can’t help you. Not only can I not help you, I’m doing a a disservice to the people that I do know. How many times have you asked someone for an introduction to one of their LinkedIn connections only to hear “Oh, I don’t really know that person, we’re just connected on LinkedIn.”? If I have to give that answer, I feel like not only have I wasted that person’s time, but I have probably discouraged them from asking me for help again – when I would be able to help them.
Of course, I haven’t had the opportunity to do business or personally experience the service of everyone that I am connected to in LinkedIn. That’s not any different from the connections I have in “real life” – people I know from chambers of commerce and other networking groups.
But if I talk to someone, I try to learn about what they do and how they really help their customers. I get a sense of what type of a person they are – would I want to work with them? These are things I would share with you if you asked me if I knew someone or not – whether I had met them online or offline.
And if I invite you to meet and you don’t respond, or you miss our appointment and don’t follow up, well I’ve still learned something, haven’t I?
That’s what works for me when it comes to managing LinkedIn connection requests – what works for you?
P.S. – Feel free to connect with me – www.linkedin.com/in/billbrelsford