You are on LinkedIn, you filled out your profile and connected to your coworkers, but now your account is dormant. There are some conflicting views concerning whether you should connect with people you do not know, or only connect with users you know personally. The power of LinkedIn is in connecting with users that may be able to help you in the future, so most users are classified as #LIONS (Linked In Open Networker).
Like most other forms of networking, the most important aspect is the quality of your connections as opposed to the quantity. If you are apprehensive about openly networking, start out by asking a first level connection to introduce you to some of their connections. This will allow other connections to get to know you better, and they’ll know just who to connect you with in their circles.
As long as you investigate potential connections, there is no reason to decline a connection just on the basis of not knowing them. Here are the easiest and most efficient ways to build up your network with quality connections, quickly.
Add People You Already Know – Searching by Name
I am sure this one may be obvious to most, but before I continue I just wanted to make sure that everyone has dumped their contact lists from their email addresses into LinkedIn’s handy search tool. If you have not, select ‘Add Connections’ under your ‘Contacts’ menu, and follow the step by step instructions. This is definitely one of the best ways to make sure your regular connections are added to your network. You can also use the tool to invite connections you have outside of LinkedIn to join, if they have not already.
Searching for Companies
Next, begin searching by companies. You can search by your own company to add colleagues, but also search for companies that you admire, would like to work with, or would like to learn more about. You can not only follow the companies themselves on LinkedIn, and receive updates and information; you can also seek to connect with individuals who work there. LinkedIn values its professional atmosphere highly, and will not like it if you receive flags from people saying you are connecting them and they do not know you. Therefore, when you are inviting people you have not met personally, write an individualized invitation explaining why you would like to connect and try to get the conversation started. Not only will this increase the likelihood of them accepting the invitation, it may also help start a relationship that can help your business prospects down the road. Really, you should try to write as many personalized invitations to connect as you can whenever you are networking, but this is one instance where it is especially important.
Badge Widget on your Website
Under settings, then ‘edit public profile’ to the right, you will see an option to ‘Create a Profile Badge’. Please make sure you have done this. Advertise your profile wherever you can, such as your blog, other social media sites, company websites, personal websites, and anywhere else you can think of. These badges allow people to connect with you easily, and facility of communication can only further enhance relationships.
Starting (and Participating!) in Groups
Starting your own group is one of the quickest ways to be seen as an expert in your field. However, groups will not do you any good if you begin them, but then just allow them to gather dust. Advertise your group, send out regular updates related to the group, begin and participate in conversations, and keep people interested. You expand your network not only as you draw more people into your group, but also as you get to know members, you can connect directly.
Use New Technologies
Technology gives us a whole new edge when it comes to adding connections. Remember the days of collecting business cards and manually typing the names and information into contact lists on Outlook? That is long gone, and has been replaced by programs like Cardmunch. This free iPhone app allows you to take a picture of a business card and have it convert to a contact, and even allows you to see the person’s LinkedIn profile. Now you no longer have to worry about loosing cards or forgetting to add them: at networking events just whip out your phone, snap a picture, and send an immediate LinkedIn invitation. LinkedIn even has helpful information about using this app right in their help center.
LinkedIn networks are extremely valuable tools to succeed in the business world, and they become all the more valuable as they extend beyond our immediate business associates. In addition to these tips be sure to regularly go through your network and the ‘People You May Know’ list to update your network. These tips should help you expand your connections and grow your business.