These days, social networking is all the craze and that includes the business world. LinkedIn is a website that is designed for professionals to, “Get the most from your professional network.”
These days, social networking is all the craze and that includes the business world. LinkedIn is a website that is designed for professionals to, “Get the most from your professional network.” Oftentimes referred to as “Facebook for adults”, LinkedIn can be an incredibly valuable tool in a business setting if used properly. However, having a profile on LinkedIn isn’t enough. The power of the site comes when you build out your network. As the old adage goes, “It’s all about who you know.”
Let’s say you walk into a meeting with someone you’ve never met. You sit down across from the person to an awkward silence and gradually work your way into the flow of the meeting after some small talk about the weather, the local sports team, etc. Now contrast this with sitting down in a meeting with that same person, but being able to start the conversation with, “I see from your LinkedIn profile that we’ve got some common colleagues. Such and such and I go way back…” Instantly you’ve built rapport with the person and it’s all thanks to your network.
There are essentially three ways to go about building your LinkedIn network of friends and colleagues. There are pros and cons to each.
A Tight Knit Group - These folks essentially only accept their closest friends and colleagues. Folks in this group tend to be a little uncomfortable with the concept of “social networking” and have privacy concerns. (NOTE that LinkedIn does allow you to modify your privacy settings so you’re only putting info out there that you’re comfortable with). They tend to ignore LinkedIn requests and don’t look to expand who they’re connected to. This leads to them having a small network on LinkedIn. I’d advise against this method as it severely limits the power of the LinkedIn network essentially defeating the purpose.
“You” Incorporated – This “middle ground” is my preferred method of building a network and it’s the way I go about it. Add people to your network that you’ve worked with in the past either with the same company or on a project together. This group of people knows you (at least professionally) and can vouch for your talents. It allows you to build your network as you move through your career as we all come in contact with new people as we continue to work. In addition, I tend to accept requests from people that I share a LinkedIn Group with as we typically share quite a few connections in common and I know that we share at least a few interests (the group) in common as well. Just because we’ve worked at the same company does not necessarily mean that I’ll accept a request. As an example, if I worked for Company A 10 years ago and the person works for them now in all likelihood I don’t know them. Unless we’ve got some connections or groups in common I’ll typically decline the request.
The Collectors – Just as on Facebook, you’ll see people who look at their LinkedIn network the same way they did with their baseball card collection. They want to “get them all”. These folks will request connections with anyone and everyone whether they share any connections or not. Unless you’re in a business where there may be a specific reason to go this route (recruiting, cold sales, etc.) I’d suggest against this method of accumulation. Whether it’s fair or not you are judged by your network (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). I personally want to know (at least from business perspective) every person in my network. This way when someone calls or emails for a recommendation I can speak intelligently about the person.
In closing I’d say if you have a job, you need to be on LinkedIn. If you’re not you’re severely limiting your opportunities from a sales, networking and job opportunity perspective. As you grow your network do it with purpose. You never know when WHO you know is going to help you.
Established in 2004, Acroment Technologies (http://www.acroment.com/) provides information technology solutions, managed it solutions, and strategic it consulting to the Cleveland, Ohio small businesses community. Our staff is Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA certified with over 40 years of combined experience. We have been recognized as a Microsoft Small Business Specialist and a Certified Microsoft Business Partner demonstrating our qualifications as Networking Infrastructure Specialists.