The core of LinkedIn revolves around connecting to other business professionals, which is primarily networking. Networking exclusively on LinkedIn, though, ignores the human element of face to face interaction. Understanding, once again that LinkedIn is a tool, how do you use it to enhance your other networking?
I do a lot of networking in my local chamber. When I first joined the chamber in the spring of 1996 I had not yet joined LinkedIn. At meetings I would try to meet as many people as possible, but in a room full of 50 people and only 30 minutes of open networking it was hard to meet everyone.
At each meeting they would photocopy all of the business cards and each attendee received a copy. From that I could call those I had not met to try to set up a meeting. Other than a name on a card, though, there was no connection. I could also try again at the next meeting if they returned.
LinkedIn changed that. I found that with LinkedIn, I could connect to those that I hadn’t had a chance to meet. Then I could review their LinkedIn profiles to determine who were the most beneficial to meet. I also found that if they were at the next chamber meeting, that the LinkedIn connection provided a great way to break the ice.
In the end it’s a two way street. LinkedIn provides a level of connectivity until I can strengthen the networking relationship through a face to face meeting. And the chamber meeting provides a fresh batch of potential LinkedIn connections.
Some of my best networking relationships have developed from simply being at the same networking event, connecting on LinkedIn, and then finally taking it offline and meeting in person.
So here’s what you should be doing. After every networking event, send a LinkedIn connection invite to those you did not get a chance to meet. (Here’s where you want to customize that LinkedIn invitation. ) Send the following invitation:
We crossed paths at the Chamber (or whatever event it was) today but did not get a chance to meet you in person. I am using LinkedIn to enhance my Chamber networking and would like to add you to my LinkedIn network.
Sean Nelson (I always add my last name since I do not know this person yet)
More often then not, this leads to a LinkedIn connection. Now it’s up to you to take it further to develop the relationship. Remember it’s not about adding just another connection; it’s about expanding and enhancing your network. Only send the invite to those that you want to get to know.
One of the benefits I have discovered in using LinkedIn is that I am expanding my network beyond my chamber. I’ve connected to others because a fellow connection recommended them. By engaging in conversations in group discussions, through news article comments, and through the Answers section I’ve met new people in Atlanta who have never attended my chamber. Without LinkedIn I would have likely never crossed paths with most of these people. It’s expanded the borders of my natural network.
Thie expansion to some degree has happened on a national and international basis. I may never personally have a need to tap into that new connection in London or Australia, but I never know if or when these new connections might be of value to those in my network.
LinkedIn has made the business community a lot smaller. It’s opened doors to new opportunities. This week I’ll be speaking at the Norvax University conference for health insurance brokers in Los Angeles. This opportunity developed because I connected to a fellow health insurance agent, Paul Kaczmarczyk who lives in Chicago. Paul recommended me to Jeremiah Desmarais who sent out a request to his connections asking if anyone knew of an insurance agent successfully utilizing LinkedIn to grow their business.
I’ve also been able to be on the giving side. I received a call from someone needing a speaker at an event next month in Los Angeles. I’m not able to make that conference but I was able to pass along the opportunity to Neal Schaffer who writes the Windmill Networking blog and lives in LA.
Expanding your network will help you and the people you are connected to. LinkedIn makes it easy to move outside ofyour natural network to discover new opportunities. How has LinkedIn helped you grow your network?Social Media Sonar provides the following four resources for FREE… 1. The Blog, 2. The Online Marketing/Social Media Blueprint, 3. Conversion Rate Optimization Guide, 4. Resource Center. If these help you implement your own online marketing program, great. We love helping people. If you decide you need some help, great. We love new clients. Contact Us if we can help you.