Too often, networking seems to focus on the number of contacts rather than the quality of contacts. As a person who focuses on quality communications, I implore you not to fall into the trap. Specifically, I’m talking about business networking resources like LinkedIn, and the wrong and right way to use them. I have a LinkedIn profile. I spent the time necessary to complete the profile and share my professional story. LinkedIn is a powerful tool and if you own a small business and aren’t using it, you should change that. (Here are tips for using LinkedIn as a small business owner.)
In my profile, I have over 500+ connections. Recently, I’ve received several connection requests from people I don’t know. For me, that’s OK. I welcome meeting new people; it will help me grow my business. As long as new connections are respectful of my network privacy and aren’t too sales-driven, I’m open to connect.
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 quantity over quality. It does you no good.
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. If you see a post or update about a contact, or from a contact, engage with them, make a comment or send a message.
Grab a cup of coffee and think about ways you can “truly” connect with your contacts. I also invite you to send me a connection request on LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/jolynndeal/). If you do, I promise you will hear from me.