The core of LinkedIn revolves around connecting to other business professionals, which is 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 I hadn’t really gotten active on 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.
For those I did not meet I could try again at the next meeting, but that depended upon whether or not they returned. At the meetings they photocopied everyone’s business card and each person got a copy. From that I could also 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.
LinkedIn change 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.