When I go about my week, I have about 50 people that I interact with frequently.  From staff, clients, friends, and family – I am comfortable with that number.  Online, (today anyway) I have 178 connections on LinkedIn, 140 friends on Facebook, and 320 followers on Twitter.   Not huge numbers compared to some people.  I have seen users on LinkedIn with 500+ connections, Facebook friends with 500+ friends, and Tweeters with over 100,000 followers. 

linkedinconnectionsI have 178 1st level connections.  But I am connected to over 2.8 million people!  How can that be?  First level connections are those people to whom I am directly connected.  These people can see my entire profile, but also have their own connections whom I may not know.  These people would be considered second level connections.  These second level connections may also be connected a third level of people I don’t know.  The 2.8 million people includes not only my first level, but second and third level connections as well.  People that are not first, second or third level contacts are “outside of my network.” 

So, is it about Size or Quality?

Anthropologist, Robin Dunbar, did research on the cognitive power of the brain and how it limits the “size of the social network that an individual of any given species can develop.”  He suggested that this number is around 150.  This number became famous as the Dunbar number.

Sure, you can create larger networks, but the effectiveness starts to decline.  Eventually, these just become a list of acquaintances.  Not very powerful.

Add Connections.

  1. Upload your contacts from your email program or CRM (customer relationship management) software.  LinkedIn has a great tool for uploading the contacts and matching them with users that have a profile in LinkedIn.  Don’t worry, when you upload your contacts, they will not automatically be sent an invitation. This step can save you countless hours, but you can also add your contacts manually.
  2. Write personal introductions.  Don’t use the automated responses.  By default, LinkedIn writes a brief message for you when you invite someone to become part of your network.  It says, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”  If you want people to join your network, you need to personalize that message.  This may take a little more time, but it is well worth it. It improves the response of those who accept your connections, as well as improves the quality of the connection itself. 

What about other connections?

Consider adding the following people to your network if you can each benefit:

  1. People from past employment.  These are people who know you.
  2. Clients
  3. Vendors
  4. College professors
  5. Other people you are close to in your industry
  6. Fellow members of a non-profit

REMEMBER:  It is the quality, not the quantity.  Up until 2008, many people were concerned about getting huge numbers of connections.  I believe 2009 will be the year of ‘de-friending.”  The year we look for quality in our relationships; and remove those that don’t add mutual value.

The Power of Groups

Groups are also another way to developing a powerful network.  When you join a group, you are connecting with people who have similar interests.  Many times, these are people you will want in your network.

The Land of No!Do’s and Don’t

  • DO:  Create a specific email address for your LinkedIn account
  • DO:  Archive unwanted or unknown connection requests
  • DO NOT: Invite people you do not know to become part of your network.  If you get 5“I Don’t Know You” responces,  you can get in trouble with LinkedIn
  • DO NOT: Invite everyone.  LinkedIn has a maximum of “3,000” invitations allowed
  • DO:  Personalize invitations or create your own templates. LinkedIn templates are boring
  • DO: Let your connections grow slowly. A quality list doesn’t appear overnight

What if someone asks you to join your network, but you do not want to approve them?

Letting everyone in, starts to dilute the effectiveness of your network.  Let me tell you a story that happened to me.  I am passionate about Rotary International.  It is a wonderful organization that has brought a lot of good to the world.  Through one of my connections, I found a gentleman in Africa who has a lot in common with me.  I had communicated with him once about a presentation that he had done on clean drinking water,  so he really did not know me very well.  I sent him a connection email, and to my surprise he refused.  But he did it nicely.  He said, “Steve – I appreciate you asking me to be a connection.  I use LinkedIn to network with professionals in my industry.  If you would like to connect with me, please join the LinkedIn group entitled ‘xxxxx’.”  So I did.

Please remember that once you add someone as a contact, you can remove them also.  If you do remove someone, there is no notification sent.  Your information just does not show up on their connections list. 

We all want to stay top of mind.  Here are  four ways:

  1. Status Updates.  Did you know that when you update your status update, that shows up on your connections home page on LinkedIn?  I use status updates to tell my contacts what I am thinking or questions I have about a topic.  Typically, I get 2 or 3 responses a day from my status updates.  Nice to know people care!
  2. Photo updates, profile updates, or questions you answer will also show up on your contacts home page.
  3. Add some spice to your “Professional Headline” or title.  Who says you can only put your boring title from your business card on your LinkedIn profile.  Here are some of the headlines that grabbed my attention and directed me to learn more:
    • Believer in the power of relationships
    • Change agent and catalyst – committed to adding value to donors, clients and partners
    • Chief Brain Auditor
    • Systems analyst who wants to help your company reduce costs and increase revenue through better business systems
    • LinkedIn Maniac
    • Author of “121 Marketing Ideas to Grow Your Business”
    • Chief Swomi at Society for Word of Mouth
    • Chief Velocity Officer, Tornado Marketing
  4. Look at your profile.  Would you want to connect with you?  If not, rework it!

Mulheres no Rock BandMake LinkedIn Rock! 

My contact settings say:  ” I would love to connect with you! All I request is that you do not use the canned LinkedIn response. Explain why we should connect. That way we can be sure that we can help each other. I look forward to connecting with you! ” 

Let’s get connecting!

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