03 May 2011

Linked In– Is it about Large Networks, Relationships or Both?

I joined LinkedIn back in 2005 not knowing that it would be such a global networking tool.

I heard about LinkedIn through a Yahoo group and decided to join. Many of the Yahoo group members had 500+ LinkedIn connections and I wanted to get to 500 as quickly as possible. I joined all the open networker groups on Yahoo and accepted every invitation sent to me. I reached 500 connections within a few months. I sat proud in my office chair looking at my enormous network and then thought, “now what?”

I was a full-desk recruiter in the Biotech industry and I only had 40 connections within the industry I recruited in! I realized early on that building a large network is important but building a strategic network and developing relationships was the key.

My first “aha” moment was shortly after I returned from a large conference last Spring. I started working as a Talent Sourcer for 7-Eleven, Inc. I changed my title on LinkedIn and received four messages congratulating me. Those messages were from my former boss, a recruiter I networked with and only met once, someone I met at SourceCon, and a connection I had never engaged with.

That really hit home because it was such a personal touch. It was such a small but nice gesture and made me smile. I sat in my office chair and thought how I barely glance at my homepage and status updates. I hardly ever take time to send a quick message when I saw a title change or job promotion from someone in my network.

What really made me evaluate my approach to building valuable relationships on LinkedIn was when I received a message from Margo Rose (AKA @HrMargo). Her message was that she enjoyed meeting me briefly at SourceCon, but wanted to set up a time to talk by phone for 10-15 minutes and get to know each other and how we could professionally help each other out.

I realized that my first-degree network of now 5,000 was just a number and I needed to build relationships with many of my connections that I have met at conferences, within groups, and locally. Here are a few tips I recently implemented in my own network. I have built more relationships over the past five months than I did over a course of five years!
Read your homepage and send out a congrats message to someone in your network who has been promoted or recently changed jobs.
Send a message to a connection you would like to know more about and set up a time to talk 10-15 minutes once a week.
Start answering questions in LinkedIn Answers
Reply to every connection request, thanking them for the invitation.
Offer networking assistance with a short message to your new connection that lets them know if you can be of any professional help to them or their team.
Personalize each Invite or InMail by actually reading their profile prior to sending an invite.
Participate in groups you join by starting a post or replying to a group post.
Send a recommendation to someone in your network that you respect currently or was a wonderful mentor, boss, colleague, etc.
This is what optimizes your social networking and creates quality relationships with real two-way value.
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