It could be argued that much of your LinkedIn experience derives from your LinkedIn strategy. Do seek to connect with pretty much anyone, like a Lion? Do you only connect with those that you know very well, like a Turtle? Or do you connect with those you know and those you would like to know, like a Hound Dog?
If you read this blog on a regular basis you’ve noticed that I keep coming back to these three strategies. There’s a reason for that. I find my self changing strategies after almost three years on LinkedIn.
Here is what I used to believe. I believed that protecting the value of your network required that you know or have plans to get to know those that you were connected to. I believed that it only made sense to add new connections as I met people within my chamber or other offline networking events. Since my prospects are in Georgia I believed that there was limited value in connecting to others outside of the state.
Here is what I believe now. I believe that opportunities are not constrained by boundaries. I believe that those in my network can benefit from connections that I do not know or have never met with or spoken to. I believe that there are opportunities out there among people that I do not know. And finally, I believe that 99% of the time a larger network will provide more value than a smaller network.
It wasn’t one particular thing that changed my perspective. It was a combination of things and the change occurred fairly quick.
1. I actually started prospecting using the LinkedIn Companies search to prospect. My target was simple; companies in Atlanta with 11 to 50 employees, in creative or technology industries. In my search I identified about 150 companies that fit my profile and realized that I was connected to less than 50% of these opportunities. Clearly with more of the right connections I would have a higher percentage with employees in my network.
2. LinkedIn made significant changes to Groups. Adding the ability to have discussions and post news articles immediately expanded my reach based on the number of members in the groups I belong to. Each group represents a collection of individuals with a common interest. In essence they are a specific target.
The next logical step was to identify the groups that my target market belong to and join these groups. I can now participate in discussions and post news articles to introduce myself. And I can contact these individual and extend connection invitations without having to use InMail (which is only available on paid accounts and the number available is minimal)
Today I connected with three individuals in my target market. One was the President of one of my target companies and the other two are simply connected in the target industries. The first will allow me to have a warm approach to attempt to secure a meeting. The other two help me connect further into my targetted industries.
In my invitation to all three I simply let them know that I was looking to build my network within the creative community in Atlanta. I included the names of some common connections. And I mentioned that I wrote a LinkedIn related blog and that if I could ever help them with LinkedIn to let me know.
The worst thing that can happen is that my connection invitation is ignored. While I know that I will not have success with every connection invitation, there are a couple of things that are working in my favor.
First people want to help where possible. Second, people are looking to build their own networks. Third, the use of common connections established a baseline of credibility. Fourth, by writing a LinkedIn blog and offering to help them I’m providing value.
About a year ago I started a group based around the county that I do most of my networking. Over time this group has grown to about 300 local business professionals. This week I sent an invitation to connect to each member of the group that was not in my direct network.
In this invitation I introduced myself as a fellow member and manager of the group. I simply stated that I started the group to help people connect and in that spirit I was extending an invitation to connect. Then I added the value. I let them know that I was organizing an offline networking meeting for the group and would appreciate any suggestions for a location.
In two days I’ve added over 100 new connections, had several ask me to help them with their health insurance, and received numerous thanks for reaching out to connect. Each of these connections is in Atlanta.
Little by little I’m building a strong local network.
I had lunch with a new connection that I met in another group (I’ll post the story next week) who is an active open networker. He doesn’t post his email in his profile, but he uses groups to actively connect to folks all over. Last week he launched a blog and posted a link to it in each of his groups. He had over 300 unique visitors in the first day and his blog has grown to over 800 visitors a day.
His content is good and that keeps people coming back. But it was the membership and participation in groups that allowed him to gain exposure and the initial visits.
I used to believe that there was no right or wrong strategy on LinkedIn. Now I believe that if you’re not actively growing your network you’re missing the point. The point is that opportunities are out there and the more connections you have the more likely you are to find them. Or have them find you.
Detail your profile, join groups, and expand your connections. A simple strategy to make LinkedIn more effective.