LinkedIn offers a land of opportunity for making connections and generating leads, but the easy access to it lulls some people into a false sense of security. So I have two bits of advice for novices (and those who should know better!) on how to connect on LinkedIn – firstly think before you click and secondly do your homework.
I’ve been on LinkedIn for a long time and my network has grown slowly and steadily, mainly because I tend to connect only with people I know or have met. I find it useful as a channel for networking but even more useful as a research resource when I’m planning strategic comms campaigns for clients. Others find it useful to participate in group discussions. However you choose to use LinkedIn, like all digital networks, it requires a bit of thought.
Think before you connect!
Unfortunately many users who try to connect with me don’t stop to think. LinkedIn may be a facility to connect with lots of people quickly and easily but it’s still fundamentally about communication and relationships. That means you need to think about how you connect with people.
I receive lots of invitations to connect from people I have never heard of. Given my approach to using LinkedIn, 9 times out of 10 they go ignored. I might make an exception for someone I have had a meaningful conversation on the phone with, if it is obvious that our paths will cross again in future, but otherwise that’s pretty much my line.
Anyway, what bugs me most is invitations to connect from people who don’t bother to explain why they want to connect with me. Of course, anyone I don’t know who is using LinkedIn to connect with me is probably hitting on tens or hundreds of others at the same time as part of a lead generation exercise or job search, but I’m willing to bet that if they targeted a smaller number of people in a more thoughtful way, their success rate would be higher. After, all, why would I or any other busy person, click through to investigate why someone I’ve never heard of is trying to connect with me, if they can’t be bothered to give me even the smallest hint?
Do your homework on your LinkedIn prospects
If you’re connecting with someone to build your network, remember to introduce and explain yourself. If you’re on a mission to generate leads, i.e. connecting with someone you don’t know, you really need to do your homework. The tone and approach will depend on your sector, audience and what you’re selling. Subject to this you may need to guard against being too ‘salesy’ but here are a few tips and ideas. In addition to telling them why you’re reaching out to them, try to make a connection at a specific/personal level by thinking about some of the following:
- Do you know anyone who knows the person you wish to connect with? If you can say “[name] suggested I get in touch” it will help to personalise your message
- Are they speaking or exhibiting at an event you’re going to be attending? “I see you are speaking at [conference] – perhaps we could arrange a meeting?”
- Flattery is helpful:
- “I watched the video of your speech at [event] and found it really interesting”
- “I was interested to read your comments in [media]”
- “I saw your tweet…”
So, remember danger lurks in the apparent accessibility and simplicity of networks like LinkedIn. Tools only take you part of the way. Time spent in research is time well spent. And words matter. After all, content is still king.