This morning, I received an inmail on LinkedIn from a new contact. I’ll only share the beginning because it just gets worse, and you’ll get the drift after this first sentence.
“Staring at your lovely eyes for the past five minutes has been one of the most wonderful encounters I have had in quite a while.”
LinkedIn is a professional networking site, not a dating site. Shame on me because I accepted this person’s request without doing more homework. I got busy and didn’t follow my own rules. In my haste, I saw he had a photo with his profile and a real job title, so I thought I’d go ahead and accept the connection request. But this experience gives me the opportunity to share about another what-not-to-do on LinkedIn: stop using LinkedIn to network.
Within the very definition of networking lies the reason career-minded professionals shouldn’t do it.
The Webster definition of networking is ‘exchanging information with people who can help you professionally.’ What’s wrong with the picture is the sole focus on YOU. Put it into perspective; have you ever spent time with someone who incessantly talked about themselves? How much time had to pass before you came up with a reason to excuse yourself? That uncomfortable, slightly annoyed, ‘can’t-wait-to-tell-my-colleagues-about-this-guy feeling’ is precisely why you should netweave, not network, your way to small business success.
Netweaving is a relationship-building approach to networking. It’s a frame of mind and it fits well within today’s socially-focused professional environments. Social networks focus on building relationships, and this too is the basis of netweaving. It begins with holding a deeper consideration for people you meet, and then using the knowledge you gain to find ways you can help them. By establishing mutually-beneficial relationships with our contacts, we are positioning ourselves as a trusted, reliable resource, which is the basis to any successful friendship.
Netweaving requires us to exercise the most important skill in effective communicating: really listening to our audience. In the post LinkedIn but Disconnected, I covered a netweaving example. I shared how when I receive a connection request, I review the person’s profile and try to learn a little more about them. I think about my network and look for common interests or industries among my contacts. I consider ways I can build a professional relationship with this new contact. I always send a thank you message and offer to help using my network and professional experience. (I highly recommend this approach to you.) However, what I am seeing most often is the request to link and then a quick shift to disconnecting, meaning they link with me and then I never hear from them or even receive a reply to my thank you note. I call this “LinkedIn but disconnected” and this my friends is bad for business.
As you grow your network, remember you don’t know everything there is to know about your contacts. You don’t know ‘who they know’ or ‘what they know’. To get started in the right direction, try spending at least five minutes a day reaching out to three network contacts. Ask them how their business is going or what’s new? Look for ways you can help them. Even better, if you see a post or update about a contact, or from a contact, engage with them, make a comment or send a message.
Here’s a tool to help. I use a site called Newsle, to keep tabs on my contacts. When someone I’m linked with makes the news, I receive an email. It provides me with the perfect opportunity to connect with the contact.
So what’s in it for you?
Aside from becoming a more thoughtful contact and an active listener, when the opportunity arises to engage your contacts in something you need, it will be well received. The larger your social communities become, the more netweaving opportunities will arise. It’s quick and easy to put people in touch with each other.
Now it’s your turn, share your best LinkedIn experience with me in the comments.