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by Rockford Hunt
I've been thinking a great deal about connections lately -- LinkedIn connections in general, and my personal LinkedIn connections in particular. My 3,000 connections come from various points in my career, from my education and work experience to past events and joint connections.
With these contacts, LinkedIn has been a great resource and sales tool for my various endeavors. Yet, I don't really spend too much time connecting with these LinkedIn connections -- an unfortunate waste of these valued relationships.
Most only consider LinkedIn connections to help them secure their next job or progress their career. LinkedIn is definitely useful for those reasons, its professional networks can mean so much more. These are just a few of the ways your LinkedIn network offers a wealth of value:
Of course, the key to these deeper benefits of LinkedIn is going beyond the surface level. This is where I have been focusing my attention to establish a stronger personal and professional network on LinkedIn. My mission to connect started with defining my goal: What did making a connection mean to me? A lunch? A call? A few emails back and forth? Meeting up at an event?
I defined an actual connection as something between a phone call and lunch. The next step is answering the following problem question: For busy connections with constant demands on their time, how do I bring the kind of value that will make them want to connect?
Based on my experience, I came up with the following principles to guide my pursuit of turning my LinkedIn connections into more authentic, real-life connections:
How I frame this request will set the stage for all of our future interactions. As a result, I plan to send a polite email to say that I want to build beyond the LinkedIn connection stage. I'll ask them when they have time to chat, being respectful of their time and their busy schedules.
Before any conversations begin, I want to take the time to do just a little bit of homework on my connections. Nothing too in-depth, but enough that I will be prepared to ask them relevant questions about their lives and work that go beyond the usual formalities.
Using words like "connect" or event "talk" and "chat" has been shown to increase follow-up rates. By using these terms, I define my purpose and have a better chance of building on my connections.
That initial research before reaching out gives me the opportunity to discover experiences, connections and communities that we have in common. These not only provide topics of discussion but also give me a better chance of getting a response. A LinkedIn group in common, for example, means a 21% greater likelihood of a reply.
My hope is that this post will encourage my LinkedIn contacts, as well as others who read it, to take similar steps. I would love to see some of these connections reach out and begin to form deeper relationships themselves.
There's more to each LinkedIn contact than a name, job title and potential lead for new opportunities. I hope that my efforts to connect better with my connections will encourage others to do the same.
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