By Phil Stella
How many of you are on LinkedIn? Looks like most all of you. No wonder it’s the leading social networking site for building business relationships, sharing information, and searching for jobs.
Beyond the obvious linking up with colleagues and resume postings, there are hundreds of discussion groups you can join and participate in. They range from alumni groups to shared interest groups to hobby groups and everything in between. You can ask or respond to posted questions or comment on hundreds of discussion threads. But you all know that already.
What you may not know is how easily LinkedIn allows you to make a poor first impression on people you just met or haven’t even met yet.
(Full disclosure here: I’ve been an enthusiastic networker since before we called it networking. Some colleagues even call me the “Godfather of Networking.” I like that. I prefer high touch over high tech and view social media as effective tools to enhance and expand relationships generally started by face-to-face or voice-to-voice conversations. If you consider that approach as old school or antiquated … I’m guilty as charged.)
That said, here are three simple best practices to help you Link In with style and class.
1. Don’t be a LinkedIn Loser: Do you know people who try to link in with anyone, even people they don’t know? I do. They believe that it’s more important and valuable to have a large number of superficial contacts than a smaller number of solid and meaningful contacts. I don’t. Some call them LinkedIn LIONS …but Loser works fine with me.
Be selective about whom you invite to connect with you and whom you agree to connect with. A primary use of the site is to ask others in your network to refer or recommend you and to do the same for them. Pretty hard to do that when you don’t even know the person or where the only connection you have is that you’re both in the same discussion group.
When strangers ask to link in with me, I politely tell them that I prefer to link in with people after we’ve gotten better acquainted and began discussing how we might be able to help each other. Then, I observe how they respond and follow up and take it from there.
2. Don’t be Generic: When you do invite someone to link in with you, avoid the system-generated, generic, “I’d like to add you to my professional network …” Comes off like junk mail sent to “Occupant.” Instead, take the extra minute to craft a two-line personalized note, indicating why you want to connect with them and what you hope to accomplish. When you accept invitations from others, reply with a short note thanking them and suggesting some ways you might help each other.
3. Don’t be Superficial: When you ask people for a recommendation or referral, also send a personalized note. Make sure they know your work well enough to write a specific and meaningful testimonial. Indicate in that note which of your qualities you’d like them to highlight. And, of course, offer to reciprocate. When you agree to write a recommendation, check out their existing ones first so you can give yours a different spin.
This all sounds like basic common sense and common courtesy, doesn’t it? Well, our workplace culture killed off common sense years ago and we allowed common courtesy to die off slowly from lack of use. So, if you want to Link In with style and class, do it with uncommon sense and uncommon courtesy. How’s that for old school?
Phil Stella runs Effective Training and Communication Inc. and works with business people who what to communicate confidently. He is the COSE MindSpring Networking Expert and a popular speaker on the topic. Contact Phil at HYPERLINK “mailto:email@example.com” firstname.lastname@example.org or (440) 449-0356.